ANDRETTI LEADS VETERANS' FIRST DAY OF INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - Marco Andretti was the fastest of 31 drivers who completed laps on the first day practice for the 92nd Indianapolis 500 was opened to all ...
ANDRETTI LEADS VETERANS' FIRST DAY OF INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - Marco Andretti was the fastest of 31 drivers who completed laps on the first day practice for the 92nd Indianapolis 500 was opened to all drivers.
Andretti, who finished second in the race as a rookie in 2006, lapped the historic 2.5-mile oval in 39.7177 seconds, 226.599 mph in the No. 26 Team Indiana Jones presented by Blockbuster car.
Tony Kanaan, Andretti's Andretti Green Racing teammate, was second fastest with a lap of 225.269 mph. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and 2005 winner Dan Wheldon were third and fifth, respectively, while Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and two-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves were fourth and sixth, respectively.
The veterans were on track for the first time in May, following two days of Rookie Orientation. Twenty veterans and 11 rookies combined for the most drivers to practice on the first day since 1999, when 33 drivers completed laps.
All drivers have three more days of practice before PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying on Saturday.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today as Indiana voters headed to the polls for primary elections.
Clinton visited the garage of Sarah Fisher Racing. Fisher returns to the Indianapolis 500 this season as an owner-driver for the first time in her career.
Clinton spent approximately 30 minutes in the team's garage, getting an IndyCar Series tutorial from Fisher. The senator fiddled with Fisher's steering wheel, learning about the paddle shift system, and asked Fisher about the car's aerodynamics. Fisher presented Sen. Clinton with an autographed helmet.
Clinton also greeted Mari Hulman George, the chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: "It's really exciting. This is the Month of May; it's when everything starts to happen. I was thrilled to have a chance to meet Sarah and her team. She's a trailblazer, and I hope to be a trailblazer myself. I'm excited about this incredible event, the largest single sporting event in the world. It's wonderful to see people working hard, preparing, doing what you've got to do to compete and win.
"I've been a watcher (of IndyCar Series racing), but I don't know enough about it. I'm thrilled to be here today. I've never been to the Speedway before, and to be a part of this historic event even in a minor way like today is a thrill for me. I admire people who set goals and do their best to achieve them. I admire people who come together to try and really set their sights high and create the conditions for something like this great race. There's a reason it's the largest single-day sporting event in the world. People who really value the hard work that goes into putting this together and admire the grit and mental toughness it takes to do this, we're fans, too."
SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Team ResQ/Gravity Entertainment): "It's certainly an honor and very much a privilege to have Senator Clinton here endorsing our race team and what we're doing, and we certainly endorse her and her campaign for president. She's seen the Indianapolis 500 before, and she's a supporter. She really supports initiatives for someone like myself going forward breaking ground and breaking glass ceilings. It was amazing. Just to talk to her and hear some of the advice she gave me about being true to myself and believing in who I am and what I do and making sure that's right at the end of the day and that being the most important. She's just a really impressive person."
Each IndyCar Series team receives 35 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires for the month of May to use as they determine for practice, qualifying and the race.
Two tire staggers of approximately 0.35 and 0.44 of an inch are available for Indy. Stagger, which helps Indy cars turn more smoothly on oval tracks, is created by producing the right-rear tire with a slightly larger diameter than the left rear.
Following a successful 2007 performance at Indianapolis, Firestone Racing has selected the same Firehawk tire specification for use at this year's Indy 500. The identical spec also was used at Twin Ring Motegi in 2007 and '08.
AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "The Indianapolis 500 is always highly anticipated, but with this year's open-wheel unification, the excitement and buzz is even greater. We finally have all of the top open-wheel teams back competing at Indy; that is tremendous news. The additional teams place an added burden on Firestone as the exclusive tire supplier to the Indy 500, but it is a welcome challenge for which we are well prepared with a tire specification already proven to stand up to the extreme demands of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Qualifying days should become even more dramatic this year, especially the 'Bump Day' which now includes the $50,000 Firestone Indy 500 Final Qualifier Award that goes to the last driver to successfully secure a spot in the field. It should be a sensational and most memorable month of May, and Fi restone is proud to be part of this historic year and event."
Team Penske, which has two cars entered in this month's Indianapolis 500 for #3 Helio Castroneves and #6 Ryan Briscoe, is the winningest team in Indianapolis 500 history. The team has won 14 times, dating back to Mark Donohue's victory in 1972. The entrant with the next most victories is Lou Moore, who won five times between 1938-49.
Team Penske also won 14 pole positions at Indianapolis, 10 more than any other entrant.
Overall, the team has made 76 starts in the '500' with 19 drivers. Those drivers have led 1,835 laps.
Last year, 25 drivers completed 1,218 laps in 27 cars on the first day of practice for all drivers. The last time at least 31 drivers practiced on the first day was in 1999 when 33 drivers (38 car-driver combinations) turned laps on the first day. In 1999, the month of May schedule was condensed to two weeks instead of three, with only one qualifying weekend instead of two.
Indianapolis Colts second-year defensive backs Melvin Bullitt and Brannon Condren were today's honorary starters.
MELVIN BULLITT: "This is probably the craziest thing I've ever seen. I've never seen a stadium this big. I've never heard anything that loud. It's crazy." (Your thoughts on what it would be like to attend the Indianapolis 500): "I can't imagine it. I never was a race car fan, now I have to go to a race, I really have to, because this is just my first impression and it's amazing." (On the Pace Car ride with Johnny Rutherford): "I got out of the car, and I was dizzy. We went 145 (mph), and we were 2 feet from the wall, and I had to tell him to slow down. That thing was going too fast. The fastest I had ever been was probably 80 or 90 mph, so this is really crazy."
BRANNON CONDREN: "This is my first time to the Indy 500 track. I've always watched it on TV, and this has been an awesome experience so far. I could stand out there (trackside) all day and watch cars go by." (Thoughts on the Pace Car ride with Johnny Rutherford): "I honestly want to buy a Corvette now because that thing was flying around the track. We got up to like 145 mph on the backstretch. Unreal, it was awesome." (Melvin Bullitt said he told Johnny to slow down): "I was actually telling him to go faster the whole time. I enjoy going fast, and this was nice." (Can you imagine being here on Race Day?): "Oh yeah. It's one thing to see it on TV. That's cool, but actually being here is a whole different world. I have to come now."
Medical update from Dr. Mike Olinger, senior medical director for the Indy Racing League: #34 Jaime Camara has been cleared to drive following a re-evaluation at the Clarian Emergency Medical Center. Camara's car made moderate contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1 during practice Monday. Camara was transported to Methodist Hospital as a precautionary measure after complaining of soreness in his back. X-rays were negative.
A memorial service has been planned to celebrate the life of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team member David "Davey" Evans. The service will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Pavilion at the Brickyard Crossing Inn. All who knew Evans are invited to attend and share their memories. Another service will be held at a later date in Chicago.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to one of Evans' favorite charities: St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps.
Townsend Bell debuted the latest livery of the No. 99 Dreyer & Reinbold William Rast Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone Tuesday. The car features a unique green-and-orange paint scheme. Bell devised the idea for the livery while karting with music superstar Justin Timberlake.
TOWNSEND BELL: "I was karting in Southern California with Justin Timberlake and a few of his friends for a couple of weeks. We had camouflage hats from William Rast, and everyone thought an army green look would be cool on an Indy car. So I called Dennis (Reinbold, team co-owner), and he made it happen. It is definitely a cool look. The people around the Speedway were really into the new paint scheme. The flat green makes the car look like a fighting vehicle. It's a much different scheme than seen on any other car at the track. I think the more people that see the car, the more people will like it. You can't miss the car on the track. It really stands out."
CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports is still finalizing plans about its driver for the 92nd Indianapolis 500, team owner Greg Beck said Tuesday. Beck said he so far has discussed the open seat with Indianapolis 500 veterans Roger Yasukawa, Jaques Lazier and Alex Barron, with the intent of announcing a driver by this weekend.
Yasukawa drove the team's entry in the Japan Indy 300 in April, while Barron drove for the team in the 2007 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:
E.J. VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing): "Another day of testing is complete, and I am very happy with the progress that we are making. We are developing the car each day, and I just try to learn what I can and give accurate feedback to the engineers. It's like working on a puzzle; each day is a new piece and at the end we'll put all the pieces together. We have specific goals to attain each day, and so far we are right on track with those. I don't worry too much about results at this stage; we're just focusing on our program and making progress."
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Just now after the practice, something is not right (with the car). I can't tell you too much about it. Something is not right. We have to go back into the garage to check everything because I don't know what happened."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing): "This morning we were struggling a little bit, but we came back and looked at everything and got the car back to where it's fairly decent. I still think we've got a little bit to go. We're just working away, and I'm pretty happy with it."
(About success with the car in Kansas and how that built the team's confidence heading into the month of May): "Certainly it helps a lot. I suppose if we just showed up here, we wouldn't really know where we are, but Indy's a different world; a different place. We performed decently at Kansas but coming to Indy, we've got so much to catch up. But certainly it did give everybody a little more confidence in the speed of the car."
(About the rest of the week): "Our main thing is to just try to qualify in the top 11. If we can do th at, I'll be happy."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "We were able to run both cars today, which is good for our first day of practice. We finished in the in the top six, so I'm happy with our results. All in all, we're putting the pieces together, and by the end of the week hopefully we'll be where we need to be. It's like a chess game out here, and today we started playing out our strategy and positioning our pieces. I'll tell you, it's great to be back here at Indy, and I'm hoping for a successful month."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "I've really been looking forward to coming to Indianapolis as part of Team Penske. What this organization has been able to do here is truly remarkable. Just turning my first laps this afternoon really was a special feeling for me. We tried to start with a comfortable setup on the car today and just turn some laps to see if we could learn anything new. We really haven't done a lot in terms of trimming the car out to go for pure speed, but I'm sure that will come as the week goes on. Today was really about me getting comfortable with my crew and my engineer on this track and learning how to communicate what I need from the car here. The good news is that we were in pretty good shape on the speed charts, so we're pleased with what we accomplished today."
ENRIQUE BERNOLDI (No. 36 Sangari Conquest Racing): "We continued our progression today. I didn't make as big of a jump as I did yesterday speed-wise, but we tested a lot of different things to see what works and what doesn't." (About driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "It's really nice driving here, and I'm having a lot of fun. I can't say I enjoyed ovals that much until I came here. I like this place a lot. You really start understanding what Indianapolis is all about and why people say what they say about this place. It's great."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing): "Not exactly how I envisioned Day 1 going. I'd be lying if I said I was happy right now, as it's been a bit of a struggle today. Didn't really start out as good as I have here before, and I think we lost our way throughout the day trying to make things better, so we're going to take a step back tomorrow and go back to basics maybe and hopefully come back to some good weather tomorrow."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing): "It was a tough opening day for the Vision team because we definitely didn't find the speed we wanted to, but the good thing is it's the first day of many, and we have some time to figure it out. The team has done really well all year long, so we'll figure it out. It was great to see that many cars out on pit lane today. It wasn't too bad out there because everyone needs a bit of clean air to work on their qualifying trim. Hopefully we'll get some good weather all week so we can get a little bit better."
DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 22 Hewlett-Packard/KR Vision Racing): "I didn't run a whole lot of laps in the No. 22 Hewlett-Packard/Kingdom Racing Vision Honda, but the good news is that the team ran quite a few laps. Ed (Carpenter), Anthony (Foyt IV) and I all tried different things. It's early in the week, fortunately, because we're not super-pleased with the cars at the moment. But on the other hand, it's a complete different setup than what we ran here last year, so we know we can go right back to that if we need to. But to get better, we had to try some different things. We are able to go flat out and just under the 222-mph mark, so we may be down a bit, but we aren't that far off."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Indiana Jones presented by Blockbuster): "The Indiana Jones car is on it so far, but unfortunately it's still early. But we'll take it. Obviously I had a very big tow, but I think you need the mechanical balance to be able to stay flat so you can get a (good) time. I've been very pleased with the guys so far. It was a good start, but this place changes."
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia): "It was a good day considering we started off with pretty bad balance in the KV Racing Technology Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia car. We were able to come back at the end of the day with very nice balance, very neutral. The KVRT team has just got to work on the little bits now & help to try and find little bits of speed everywhere, because I want to get up there and try and qualify in that top 11 on Saturday."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology): "We started today extremely happy with the KV Racing Technology car and made some changes which didn't really work out. But we are still learning. We tried something that maybe didn't work as well as we hoped, but the other KVRT car seems to be running really well. The two cars are different now, so it's good to see that one is going well. At least the team will be able to learn from both setups. It was still a good day. We obviously wanted to end on a high, but we started the day well, and hopefully tomorrow will be better."
SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Team ResQ/Gravity Entertainment): "Today was more of a shakedown than anything else. We didn't get on track as early as we would have liked, but it's a start. For me, I haven't used the paddle shifters, so that is something I'm going to have to get used to. What they mean. What it wants. What it doesn't want. But it was a good start, and we'll go from there tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol): "This team, Rahal Letterman, has a great history here. Obviously we'll build on that as we go. We're just trying to get some grip in the car. I'm happy to be at Indy; it's great, I love it. I'd be having a much better time if I was in the top five, but we are where we are. It's a long month, and we're doing what we can do. It's my first race with a teammate, sort of a teammate since it's a Chip Ganassi car not a Rahal car. It's a work in progress. It's my first time out here in many years. I never got to come to the Speedway because of the split. I always drove by here and thought of it as a place I would love to race but never could for some reason. We've been waiting to race here forever, or what feels like forever. I don't have much (speed) right now. We have a lot of work to do before we get to qualify ing and everything else. We need to really get some speed in the car, but I think we will. We've gone to a lot of racetracks this year and haven't been great in the first couple days of practice, and then during the race we've been right up there somewhere, top five, top eight (finish)."
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 99 Dreyer & Reinbold William Rast Racing): "We went out to get a reading on the car's initial setup. With a couple of laps, I was flat on the throttle, and the car's handling was outstanding. We have found a good starting point of the month of May. That is always difficult here at Indy. The conditions and wind change constantly. So you need to have a solid start with the car."
MAX PAPIS (No. 44 Rubicon Race Team/Lifelock): "We are making progress. Every day we are running more consistently, with today being in the 219s and 220s (mph), while we are still very much in the safe margin with the downforce on the car. We are making really good progress, and with a little more time, the speeds will go up quickly."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): "We were able to test many setups today, so it was a very productive testing day for the Formula Dream team. I wish we were able to set a better time, but we learned a lot from all the changes we made, so we hope we will be able to set a faster time as we get closer to the qualifying day."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): "It was a very productive day for 7-Eleven team. It seems like we will get some rain tomorrow, so we tried to run as many laps as possible. There are a few improvements we need to make on the car, but I am pretty pleased with it. I was glad Marco (Andretti) did a good job out there. It was a good day for AGR today."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola): (Has the win at Motegi reduced pressure on you?): "I don't feel any different. I still get nervous. I feel just as much pressure to do well every time I get on the track. It's nice to have that win. It's nice to answer new questions now. That's kind of what that does. Really, it's just good championship points. We, unfortunately, fell out with a mechanical problem at Kansas, so we've got some ground to make up. I'm excited about this month. I love coming here. It's like a second home to me. We had a decent day today. We got out with a couple of minutes to go and turned our quickest lap of the day on our own. We're pleased, and we've got a little bit more work to do. It's Tuesday, the first day of the entire month. I don't want to read too much into it."
(About unification): "The difficulty is going to be more - there are more cars, and some great drivers who've come over from Champ Car. I'm excited there's unification for the growth of open-wheel racing in America. That's what I've hoped for and what I'm excited for. I hope the excitement comes from the fans. Those are the people who fuel everything we do. When there's fans, there's demand, and where's there's demand, there's sponsors, and there's money and there's growth. It's a big chain reaction. Hopefully the fans get more involved."
(About the traffic during the day): "I ran into one car doing a sticker (tire) run on my second flying lap. He was really slow through (Turns) 3 and 4. If I see a car coming, I try to either speed up or slow down, but he pretty much stayed on line. I think I slowed down 15 mph on that lap."
(About having added weight to the car): "Do I look that heavy? Shoot, I have been riding the golf cart instead of walking today. As I've said in the past, it's not that big of a deal. Of course, it's disappointing. They don't do that in other sports. It is what it is. Peak speed, yeah, there could be a little! there, but at the end of the day, when it comes to the race and what actually makes a difference, is pit stops, it's out laps and in laps and how you get by traffic. It's the balance of your car. Those things mean a heck of a lot more. On the day that matters, it's not going to be an issue."
(About going for pole): "I think absolutely (I can make a run for the pole.) I think there's going to be a lot of us thinking about that. But we came out this morning, and for a while we were one of the quickest cars on track. We came out in the afternoon, because our lap was done alone this morning, very alone. I thought that was really good, so we just waited it out and let the track grip come in and try to be smart. Then we went out, and the balance was all off. The car was very difficult to drive, so thanks to Marco's (Andretti) good work, we went and stole a few ideas from him and went back out at the very end and found a car that was much closer to what it needed to be. It wasn't per fect and still had some tendencies that it did earlier, but it was closer. At this place, you can stumble, well you don't totally stumble into things, but you can find things that unlock speed here. I have no doubt that a lot of us will do that over the next few days. A pole run is not out of the question at all."
(About last hour of qualifying): "With more cars and with a deeper field, we're going to see a lot of cars that think they can go for the pole. You're going to see some people risking it and going out and trying for pole or another run, especially if it rains and there's a lot more tires that we can use. Then for sure, you're going to see a lot more people going again. It's going to be the same as last year, where you had everyone in line waiting to go at the end. It was the same today, but that's why it's Happy Hour."
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (No. 96 Visit Mexico City/Pacific Coast Motorsports): "Today we really spent the afternoon building up speed and finding the limits, step by step. Every lap I turn, I learn something. Yesterday we had to get out there and pass our three phases, so we didn't have time to really focus on anything but that. So today was our first day finding limits and seeing what the car needs. We are fighting a loose condition, but we are working through it. This racetrack is just phenomenal; it is completely different than any track I have ever run on. I am grateful I have so much oval experience because it helps considerably, but at the same time, this track is different than any other."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps): "Today started off rough; the car was not very good. We kept coming back to the pad to try to figure out what it was and were working on several little issues, and at the end of the day I think we were pretty good. We could run low 222s (mph's), low 222.3s by ourselves, and at the end we ran mid 222s on old tires, and that was with a little bit of a tow, so we're pretty happy with that actually, because I don't know what everybody else stacks up. I think we're competitive with Justin (Wilson) because his quickest was with a tow also. We still need a couple of miles an hour, but I think we are getting closer and closer. I think I had the save of the month. I came out of Turn 1, and the car had understeered there every single lap except for this one and the thing snapped on me. It was close. Th ey showed it on the screens all over the track. The car snapped, and I had a full lock on it (steering wheel), and it just came back to me."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "The day was OK to start with. I felt like we made a little bit of progress on the McDonald's car early in the session. I felt a little confused by the end of the day and was thinking we hadn't actually learned anything. I was hoping for more and hoping to get the car a bit more stable and more comfortable to drive, but we didn't manage to fix anything. I guess we'll think about it tonight and have another go tomorrow."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Our first day was extremely good. We are definitely pleased how things started out for the Speedway. Even though the result wasn't good at Kansas, we were able to take the handling settings that we had there and move them to here. The car was pretty good at Kansas, and we can see that momentum shaping up here. It's always great to come to Indy and feels good to get the car handling so well so quickly. With the weather changing all of the time, we need a good point to start."
A total of 35 cars are currently at the Speedway and have passed technical inspection. Thirty-four drivers have been on the track to date and turned 1,385 laps today and 2,701 laps this month. Will Power turned 50 laps today and has turned 204 laps this month, most of any driver. There were three cautions for a total of seven minutes. A total of 96 IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers have passed physicals at the Clarian Emergency Medical Center.
WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9 a.m.Public Gates Open
Noon-6 p.m. IndyCar Series practice
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23 at Indianapolis. It will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on May 23 on ESPN2.