Indy 500: Series Fast Friday report

TEAM PENSKE'S BRISCOE, CASTRONEVES TOP FAST FRIDAY PRACTICE AT INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 8, 2009) - Roger Penske could be in line for his record 15th pole at the Indianapolis 500. On the final practice day before Pole Day,...

TEAM PENSKE'S BRISCOE, CASTRONEVES TOP FAST FRIDAY PRACTICE AT INDIANAPOLIS 500

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 8, 2009) - Roger Penske could be in line for his record 15th pole at the Indianapolis 500. On the final practice day before Pole Day, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves recorded the fastest laps on the 2.5-mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Briscoe was fastest with a lap at 39.8263 seconds, 225.981 mph, while Castroneves was second with a lap at 225.438 mph. Briscoe earned $10,000 from F.E. Harding Asphalt Companies for the fastest lap on Fast Friday.

The past two race winners, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dario Franchitti (2007) and Scott Dixon (2008), were third and fourth, respectively, while Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick was fifth.

The top 11 positions in the 33-car starting field will be determined Saturday. The pole winner has gone on to win two of the last three "500s." Positions 12-22 will be filled Sunday. The remainder of the field will be filled May 16, and Bump Day is scheduled for May 17.

Robert Doornbos and Scott Sharp were uninjured in the only two incidents of the day. Doornbos completed only 12 laps before his car made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. He returned to the track late in the afternoon in a back-up car. Sharp recorded 25 laps before his car spun exiting Turn 1 and slid into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2.

***

More than 300 Speedway (Ind.) High School students, accompanied by 20 teacher/chaperones, took a field trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a reward for respect, punctuality, responsibility and maintaining good grades during the school year.

Fortunately, it wasn't an arduous journey - just a few blocks.

The group walked from the high school and through a few neighborhoods that constitute the Town of Speedway Historic District. After a sack lunch at a Main Street restaurant, the group headed to the Speedway to watch part of Fast Friday practice.

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INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The Borg-Warner Trophy, one of the most recognizable trophies in all of sports, has been awarded to the winner of every Indianapolis 500 Mile Race since 1936. Crafted out of sterling silver by Spaulding-Gorham of Chicago, it was unveiled at a dinner in New York in February 1936, featuring bas-relief sculptures of every "500" winner up until that time. The new winner has been added every year since, and in 1986 (the trophy's 50th anniversary), the final space became filled. The solution for 1987 was to add a base, but this too became filled, and in 2004, an even larger version replaced it, this one with enough spaces to last through 2034. The only sculptured face not of a winning driver is that of the late Speedway owner Tony Hulman, whose likeness, in gold, was placed on the base in 1987.

***

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team members at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will track the voyage of seven astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis beginning May 11 and vice versa.

The 11-day mission incorporates five spacewalks to service NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Liftoff is scheduled for 2:01 p.m. (EDT).

The tie-in began two years ago when three STS-125 astronauts - mission commander Scott Altman and mission specialists/spacewalkers Andrew Feustel and Mike Massimino - provided a behind-the-scenes tour of the Johnson Space Center in Houston for NHLR team members. The team hosted the astronauts and their families at the Champ Car race that weekend. NHLR senior engineer Craig Hampson has remained in contact with the crew.

The tour included mission control, the neutral buoyancy facility and the flight simulator.

"We all proved miserable at landing the shuttle with the exception of our chief mechanic, who brought his young son of the video game generation," Hampson said. "He put it right down on the runway no problem."

In practice this week, the Nos. 02 and 06 cars of Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos are carrying the mission logo at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Wrote Altman in a recent e-mail to Hampson: "Hopefully, we'll be back in time to watch the race and root for your team."

"It's great that they're finally able to go up and that it corresponds with our big month of May," Hampson said. "As a team, we're following it really closely and excited for them. If they had gone up earlier, there was a hope they would be able to come to the race. Hopefully, we'll see them sometime during the year at a race."

Astronauts will install two new instruments, repair two inactive ones and perform the component replacements that will keep the telescope functioning into at least 2014.

"The mission is really complicated," Hampson said, "plus trying to do it with a space suit on and gloves on and in space where every action has an equal and opposite reaction. They had to come up with a lot of unique tools and processes to fix things that were never expected to have to be fixed in space. It's going to be a real challenge."

***

Entry list update: The car name for the #99 entry driven by Alex Lloyd has been changed to HER CGR/SSM Racing.

***

Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will sport new helmet designs this weekend in support of Target House's 10th anniversary. Funded by Target and its vendor and celebrity partners, Target House is a unique long-term housing facility, a home away from home, for families with children receiving lifesaving treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. As an extension of St. Jude's promise that no child is ever denied treatment because of a family's inability to pay, Target House provides fully furnished apartments, free of charge. St. Jude is one of the world's premier pediatric cancer research centers and has developed protocols that have helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to more than 70 percent. Each driver had the opportunity to select a helmet designed by St. Jude patients who reside at Target House. The drivers will showcase their choices this weekend. Since 1997, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has raised more than $750,000 for St. Jude and Target House and continues its efforts by donating $5,000 per victory, $1,000 per pole position and $25 for each lap led.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: "I'm excited to be wearing the Target House helmet designed for Pole Day in Indianapolis. It's been a long time certainly, over 10 years, since I haven't worn my traditional colors while driving the car, but what a great cause. Target House is something that I'm very proud to be a part of."

SCOTT DIXON: "I wore a Target House helmet in 2005, which was pretty cool. This year as the defending winner of the Indianapolis 500 it will mean a lot to have the special paint scheme representing the St. Jude patients from Target House. I hope we can make their day a little bit more special by putting the No. 9 Target car up front for the biggest race of the season."

***

Sarah Fisher Racing is benefitting from two students from the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Casey O'Gara and Caitlin Elizabeth are interns this month and are helping the team at the Speedway to prepare the No. 67 Dollar General entry driven by Fisher.

"We're keeping our eyes open and learning as much as we can from team engineers," O'Gara said. "We're helping them keep everything 'clean' on the cars."

While he talked, O'Gara was working on two different nose pods on the No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing entry.

O'Gara is a nephew of Sarah Fisher Racing team manager Johnny O' Gara.

***

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves received another rousing welcome from the Alley Cats, an enthusiastic band of fans who are located just outside the entrance to Gasoline Alley.

"They're incredible," Castroneves said. "They help keep me strong - they give me chills. Hopefully on Pole Day, I'll give them something to celebrate."

One of the Alley Cats, Shane Wilson of Crawfordsville, Ind., is at the Speedway for the 25th year. He had praise for Castroneves, who occasionally has climbed a short fence to join the group for one-on-one photo opps.

"He (Castroneves) is a jubilant guy and just makes you happy to be around him," Wilson said. "He celebrated with us after his first win - we're always glad to see him."

***

International karting competitor Michele Bumgarner of The Philippines was in Gasoline Alley with high hopes of landing a ride in the Firestone Indy Lights race, the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 22 at the Speedway. Bumgarner is making her second visit to the Speedway. She was here as a spectator in 2007.

Bumgarner, 19, is a nine-year veteran of karting. She has raced throughout Asia, Italy and France in the Open Masters class. She was born in Manila and moved to nearby Avon, Ind., in October 2008.

MICHELLE BUMGARNER: "The whole Danica Patrick thing is opening up doors. She gives me hope that someday I will race here."

***

Five-time Indianapolis 500 starter Bruno Junqueira is in the garage area meeting with teams in hopes of landing a ride for the race. Junqueira won the pole for the race in 2002 and recorded fifth-place finishes in 2001 and 2004. Last year, he finished 20th.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: "This year is a little bit different. I should be in a car trying to get the pole like I did in previous years, but this year I'm trying to get a car to race. I'm talking to pretty much every single team in the paddock. I hope I can get something for the second week. My experience here; I think I can win starting from the back."

(About feedback he's getting from the teams): "People want to get their drivers qualified in the first week then they're going to think about doing a second car."

(How many teams have you received positive signs from that may be thinking about a second-week program?): "Maybe three teams. Let's wait and see."

***

DePauw University head football coach Matt Walker served as the honorary starter today. He took a Pace Car ride around the oval with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford before waving the green flag to open practice.

MATT WALKER: "It was unbelievable. It's hard to put into words because of the appreciation I have for the history and tradition of this place, and it's hard to put into words what it was like to get to meet Johnny Rutherford, go around the track with him, and get to see the cars right there that close. It's something I'll never forget."

(You're part of a great tradition with the Monon Bell football game, so you get to be part of a couple of great sporting events each year.): "It's something I'm really into, and I feel I get to be part of the two greatest traditions in sports. I'm a little biased with the one I'm involved with in football, but very unique. Such a long history and such a deep passion for the people involved in it. To get to be a part of the Monon Bell and the Indianapolis 500, it's a dream come true for me."

***

Roger McCluskey Jr., son of 18-time Indianapolis 500 starter Roger McCluskey, is working this month with KV Racing Technology.

ROGER McCLUSKEY JR.: I started spotting a year ago for Oriol Servia and KV Racing. Oriol moved on, but I stayed with KV and I'm working with Mario Moraes."

(What translates from your background in midget racing and Indy-car racing): "More than you think, actually. A line is a line, no matter what racetrack you are at and whether you turn right or left. This place has Mario a little bound up right now, but we will be OK."

(About his memories of IMS): "I have a picture of me when I was 4, and there are a group of guys sitting around and I'm pushing a little race car, and I remember that. That's 41 years ago. This is my playground. It used to be me and Billy Vukovich and Little Al (Unser Jr.), and in the summer we romped around this place. I helped team manager David Brzozowski, get him involved in Indy car racing when he got his first job in 1986. He also helped me get my midget program together. In fact, he taught me how to start a race car because I didn't have a clue. So now I go to all the races except the road courses, but I also do all the graphics for the car, the transporter and the pit equipment. I'm really busy, but I'm loving it."

***

Andy Vertrees, former general manager at Kentucky Speedway and Iowa Speedway, visited the track today.

ANDY VERTREES: "I'm helping start Blue Grass Motorsports Park, a road course just 5 miles up the road from Kentucky Speedway. We're going to run full-blown races - you never know who you hear will be there. I owned Kentucky Motor Speedway. I bought it in 1979 and here were all these kids Mike Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield, even Jeremy's mom raced there, the Greed boys, just a big melting pot, and nobody told these guys they couldn't go anywhere, and they all made it big and I'm proud of them. Then I built Louisville Speedway, and then went to Kentucky Speedway and was there for 8 1/2 years, and went to Iowa Speedway, help built Lake Erie and even helped re-do the dirt track in Lawrenceburg (Ind.). We are here for the fumes and really enjoy it. I have some great pictures of Iowa Speedway, the first (IndyCar Series) race when the fog was coming off the wings. It was cool. It is going to prove to be a great track for the Indy cars. I just love it here, and I remember once (Indy Racing League executive) John Lewis took me to the front straightaway and we got to go in the moat and watch the cars go by, and it was a great thrill."

***

Howdy Holmes, who made six Indianapolis 500 starts between 1979-88, visited the track today.

HOWDY HOLMES: "It is great to be back. It is a pleasure to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always try to come back for Fast Friday, some on Saturday and then I come back for the race and bring some customers or employees and sit in Turn 1. But that is a bit of being a host. This is for me, and I enjoy talking with people I haven't seen in a while."

(Do you still get the urge?): "Urge to go to the bathroom, urge to drive? At my age, there are lots of urges, but you really can't do much about them. No. I started thinking about leaving in 1983, but I didn't leave until 1988. I put together a business plan to leave because really, how can you leave something like this? You are doing something you love. So I had to make absolutely certain that my head and heart were separate from one another, and I am glad that I did because there is no unfinished business and the cars change, and my day has come and gone. But I still enjoy the tradition that is all around here, and the tradition, it is just wonderful."

***

1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti spent a few minutes today talking about the IMS Centennial Era and his affection for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

MARIO ANDRETTI: (About the Centennial Era of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "Well, it's a wonderful celebration for all of us who have been touched by this great place. Obviously, it's a reason to look back and see why this place is so important because of that rich tradition. One hundred years; it's been around since pretty much the beginning of our sport. We're just blessed to be here."

(About his feelings each time he walks into the Speedway): "It's got that special feeling. You can see that fans and drivers alike share a lot of that. That's why we love being here, and we always look forward to an exciting May, and this is shaping up to be another one."

(Besides your 1969 Indy 500 victory, what are your favorite memories of the Speedway?): "My memories of just leading this race, and I had plenty of opportunities. I only show one win, but I'm one of the top two all-time lap leaders, so I've had a good time here. I've been close to winning it and dominating this thing many times, so my memories are all positive. The fact that I know I did my job and some of the failures were beyond my control; that's what gives you peace, I suppose. Even with just one victory in so many tries, I've still had a lot of positive moments here."

***

Four-time Indianapolis 500 starter Jeff Simmons was in Gasoline Alley today, checking on prospects for a ride in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Simmons started the race in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

JEFF SIMMONS: "Yeah, I'm looking for a ride. It's a tough year. There are quite a few guys and good drivers that are doing the same thing I'm doing. Hopefully something will come along. It's hard to say. I've had things come along at the very last minute or almost the last day. I'm trying to enjoy the day and watch the guys run. Hopefully I'll put something together to continue my streak of 500s. I've got a few leads, but I would say they're kind of long shots at this point. Anything is better than nothing right now. I would love to be in a car. If it doesn't work out this year, then I'll just get a head start on next year."

***

Bill Simpson has a long history in racing, developing safety products for drivers, from helmets and racing suits to gloves and shoes. His contributions to the sport are numerous and his company, Impact Racing, has a storefront in Gasoline Alley, located in the garage area. Impact Racing meets the needs of many drivers and team crew members during the month, as well as the interests of the casual fan.

BILL SIMPSON: "Well, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to me, is the queen mother of motorsports. There is not a more revered facility, in my opinion, in the whole world. When you come here, it's a pretty big thrill. It's pretty flattering (to have drivers wearing our products). We do make a good product, and it's all made in America; actually, in Speedway, Ind."

***

Seven-time Indianapolis 500 starter Tomas Scheckter was in Gasoline Alley today. Scheckter never qualified lower than 12th in his seven starts (2002-08) and finished as high as fourth in 2003.

TOMAS SCHECKTER: "Indianapolis is home for my heart, and just coming here in the Month of May and not being in a car and watching the cars go around; it's been extremely tough. But I've had some good runs here, and I'm definitely pushing hard to get back in a car. We're just looking at everything at the moment and just seeing what's out there."

(About what he's hearing from prospective teams): "To be honest, we were very close to getting something done for the whole year; it was 95 percent done. But we've just been put in a situation where we're looking at a second-week program. There's a couple options. We almost had something done, and it didn't happen. I'm holding my thumbs and looking for something."

(About unfinished business in the Indy 500): "We've led a lot of laps here; been Chase Rookie of the Year. I think I've led the second or third most laps of all the drivers that are here now, so I love the place. I had a good showing here last year - ran top three the whole race. I just definitely want to get back and put a car in Victory Lane."

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, fastest): "It's hard to tell on the test days, because there's lot of traffic on the circuit. We just have to wait until qualifying when you are the only car on the track. I'm feeling good, though. I think the car is running very solid. We've done some non-drafting laps, and the car's been fast. Tomorrow is another day, and everyone is going to be going for it. Hopefully, there won't be any surprises and we can stay at the top."

(What do you think the pole speed will be?): "I'm not sure. It depends on conditions. Around this track, with just some humidity or wind change you can lose or gain 2 mph. We've gotten in the high 225's. That will be a good target for tomorrow."

(About winning the pole): "You get a point this year, which is awesome. It's a big one here at Indianapolis. I was on the front row last year, and I feel like my car is better than last year, so we're definitely going for it."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): "It was a great day today. Team Penske is looking really strong, but tomorrow is what counts. It's all about getting those four consistent laps together - the four most important laps in motorsports. Hopefully we'll get a good starting position and we can begin to work on our race car."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third): "I think today was overall a pretty solid day. We worked on the mechanical side of the car this morning and dialed that in, so we have a good direction of where we needed to be aero-wise. We tried a couple things, and at the end of the day the Target car was in a place we liked. On to qualifying tomorrow."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth): "Yeah, I think tomorrow will be a whole other unique set of conditions for us, really. The weather here in Indianapolis has been quite unpredictable, but we think we have a strong shot at the pole for tomorrow. The Penske cars have been pretty fast, as well, though. Dario has been strong, as well, so we're optimistic about getting solidly into the race."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, fifth): "It turned out to be a day we could use again just like yesterday. Thank goodness, because yesterday afternoon we weren't bad, we just weren't perfectly happy with the balance, and we didn't feel like we were getting the most out of the car, so we just kept our cool last night and didn't make big changes. We really just went back to basics and back to what we started with when we were happy. The problem with Indy is that sometimes there's time and you can confuse yourself just by thinking, 'I've got to make changes because we have another run; let's make a change.' But really it's just a matter of staying cool and keeping up with the conditions a little bit. We got a couple good laps in, and I think that we're faster than we were yesterday. Penske is pretty fast, though. Ganassi is always going to pose a problem, but Penske looks quickest right now."

(About who she thinks will win the pole): "I would be surprised if one of the Penske's wasn't on the pole. They seem to really be quick right now. But anything can happen around here. You can be one small change or two or three small changes away from having a really great car or a really bad car or at least a car that's not in the ballpark for the front spot. Anything can happen."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, sixth): "I'm pleased with Team Venom Energy's performance today and glad the rain held off. It would have been nice to take home the Fast Friday check, but we got the track time we needed, and I think we have a good set up for qualifying. Tomorrow is going to be stressful, for sure, but I think the No. 26 car will be a pole contender."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, eighth): "We worked hard on the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car. It was one of those days where you perhaps didn't accomplish as much as you had liked because of the intermittent interruptions with rain. I think at this point you've got what you've got. It depends on what you're looking for tomorrow. Obviously, I would like to be pretty aggressive. At the same token, you have to remember the race is the thing that counts. Certainly, the Team Penske cars look incredibly strong. But I feel we're definitely a contender. We just have to get everything absolutely right. We'll see the development stuff that we have in store for tonight and how that performs tomorrow. It's great to be at the Speedway, and I'm certainly enjoying it. It would nice to be on the front row. I'd love the pole. I've never been on the pole here. I've sat on the front row a lot. By the same token, I think if you're on the pole or on the front row people remember you for a couple of weeks. I'd much rather win the race."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, ninth): "The Formula Dream car had a good day. My goal was to reach 225 mph today. I got to 224 mph, which is close, so that's OK. During the last hour, we tried a new setup but didn't get much speed from the change, so we have a better idea of what to do for tomorrow. The morning practice session tomorrow should be helpful, and the No. 27 car will be ready for qualifying."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 99 HER CGR/SSM Racing, 10th): "We planned on doing short runs today, because we're trying to prepare for qualifying. We did a lot of small runs and kept trimming out the downforce, getting the car ready for qualifying, and we improved the car a lot balance-wise overnight. I think we're in the window where we're pretty happy. We're pleased with the speed of the car, and I think we can go a little bit quicker if we take off a little more downforce. Obviously, the aim is to try and get qualified tomorrow, and I think we've got a car that's capable of doing that. I'm happy with the balance now, but the wind could pick up tomorrow and change everything in terms of setup. Going into tomorrow though, I'm pretty happy and confident."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "Going into Turn 1, I felt something really light on the front of the car, and then I brushed the wall. Then I went into the Turn 2 wall. Hopefully, it was just driver error and nothing went wrong on the car and we are able to fix it and come back strong tomorrow."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 16 Tequila Patron Panther Racing): (About the accident): "We were on a sticker run. It was the second lap, pretty easy. I rolled down in there, and it just snapped on me. I'm not exactly sure what's up."

(About how this affects Pole Day): "I have to go back and figure all of that out with the Panther team. We've been struggling a little bit to gain more speed and didn't really need this to happen right now. We'll see what the plan is and find a way to rebound."

***

A total of 39 cars are currently at the Speedway and 31 have passed technical inspection. Thirty-one drivers have been on the track to date and turned 1,301 laps today and 3,902 laps this month. Raphael Matos turned 73 laps today and has turned 285 laps this month, most of any driver. There were seven cautions today for a total of 1 hour, 34 minutes.

***

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local): 6 a.m. Garages open
9-10 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)
10-11 a.m. IndyCar Series practice
Noon-6 p.m. PEAK Performance Pole Qualifying presented by AutoZone

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).

-credit: irl

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