HUNTER-REAY FINDS SPEED, LLOYD FINDS WALL IN INDY 500 PRACTICE
INDIANAPOLIS - Fast Friday is the final chance for the IndyCar Series teams to get their cars dialed in for tomorrow's PEAK Motor Oil Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and for a while, things were going exceedingly well for the two-car Rahal Letterman Racing team as it continued preparing for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
But a cloudy, windy Friday went from fast to anything but that in the space of two hours Friday afternoon.
Just after Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had turned his fastest laps of the month and with Alex Lloyd (#16 Rahal Letterman Chip Ganassi Dallara/Honda/Firestone) threatening to do the same, Lloyd crashed heavily in the South end of the track. Then Mother Nature took care of the rest of the day, as the rains that had threatened all day finally hit the 2.5-mile oval, stealing the final three hours of practice from the teams.
Lloyd went hard into the Turn 1 fence just after logging his best lap of the day (223.549mph/40.2596 seconds), inflicting heavy damage to the #16 car. Lloyd was awake and alert at the IMS infield care center, but went to Methodist Hospital for precautionary tests - which came back negative- after complaining of neck pain as well as a headache. Rahal Letterman Racing will issue updates as conditions warrant.
Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay had his best day of the week as teams began to focus intently on tomorrow's qualifying runs. The Floridian ran a best lap of 224.125 mph (40.1561 seconds), and did so without the aid of the aerodynamic tow that boosted many of the frontrunners. It was Hunter-Reay's best lap of the week and the first time that either of the RLR cars had broken the 224-mph barrier.
"It was a step forward that we really needed today," said Hunter-Reay. "We made some big strides and really helped our confidence heading into tomorrow. We went back to basics and used some of our data from Homestead and it made a big difference. It was a pretty impressive time on our own, but we still have some work to do if we want to challenge for a front row spot."
The rains afforded the Rahal Letterman Chip Ganassi teams the extra opportunity to work on their cars, since the track was officially closed by rain two hours ahead of the scheduled end of practice. This marks the third consecutive day that Indy practice has given up time due to the rain. The team has no problems with backup cars or parts to repair the #16 machine, and may be ready to go tomorrow, pending final medical clearance for Alex Lloyd.
"I'm disappointed for Alex and his team and crew," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "He'd been doing such a good job and was going well, but we'll fix the car and get ready for tomorrow. I thought Ryan had a particularly strong day today and there's a lot of confidence growing there. We've been playing it fairly conservatively so far, but I think we'll have a strong chance to be in the top eleven tomorrow."