Indy 500: Series Friday practice report

DIXON TOPS INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE; BELL LEADS NON-QUALIFIERS INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 15, 2009 - Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon topped the speed chart as qualified teams continued preparations for the 2009 Indianapolis ...

DIXON TOPS INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE; BELL LEADS NON-QUALIFIERS

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 15, 2009 - Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon topped the speed chart as qualified teams continued preparations for the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

Dixon recorded the fastest lap of the day, 40.3951 seconds, 222.799 mph, on his fifth lap of the day driving his qualified car. Mario Moraes, who was fastest May 14, was second fastest with a lap of 222.530 mph, also in a qualified car.

The non-qualified car of Townsend Bell and Team Penske front-row teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top five.

Bell, running a second-week sister program to Moraes' car, was the fastest among the drivers who have not yet qualified for the 33-car field. Bell's top lap was 222.139 mph.

Oriol Servia, Robert Doornbos, Alex Tagliani and Tomas Scheckter, making his debut for Dale Coyne Racing, also were non-qualified drivers who turned laps faster than 220 mph on a day that ended 17 minutes early due to loose bricks on the famed Yard of Bricks on the start-finish line.

The final 11 spots in the field of 33 cars (positions 22-33), will be available during Third-Day Qualifying on May 16. Bump Day is scheduled for May 17.

***

Medical update from Geoffrey Billows, medical director for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: #24 Mike Conway was re-evaluated this morning at the Clarian Emergency Medical Center. He is cleared to drive.

MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "I wanted to get in (May 14), because you feel ready when you're ready. I feel good and will trim out the car today and see where we go. (Davey Hamilton) shook down the car (May 14) and made sure everything's OK. He said it felt the same as his, so that's the main thing."

***

Tomas Scheckter will attempt to make his eighth consecutive start in the Indianapolis 500. The veteran driver, who finished fourth in the race in 2003, will drive the No. 19 MONA-VIE entry for Dale Coyne Racing. Scheckter will be reunited with engineer Bill Pappas, with whom he worked while driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2003.

TOMAS SCHECKTER: "I'm happy to be here and looking forward to it. I had a great run at Indy with (engineer) Bill (Pappas), and I like what Dale (Coyne) has done with the team and Justin (Wilson) has done in the car. I'm confident (Pappas) can give me a good car, and what's also good is that we don't have to build a relationship. We understand each other. Hopefully we can get up to speed quickly and start moving the program forward."

DALE COYNE: "We were working on several things in the offseason and talking to him for a while. This kind of came together late, but we have a good second car, and Tomas knows how to get around this place, so we should be fine. Tomas and Justin (Wilson) will be a nice combination."

***

INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE:

At noon, the ambient temperature was 73 degrees with a relative humidity of 56 percent and winds from the east-southeast at 8 mph. Skies were cloudy. The track temperature was 97 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

Noon - GREEN.
12:13 p.m. - YELLOW. Debris on the frontstretch.
12:15 p.m. - GREEN.
12:32 p.m. - YELLOW. Debris in Turn 4.
12:35 p.m. - GREEN.
12:36 p.m. - #17 Servia has light white wall exiting Turn 3.
1:29 p.m. - #19 Scheckter on track for the first time.

***

#2 Raphael Matos and #02 Graham Rahal advanced from the Pit Stop Time Trials yesterday to join eight other entrants in the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge that will be contested Friday, May 22. They join #3 Helio Castroneves, #6 Ryan Briscoe, #7 Danica Patrick, #9 Scott Dixon, #10 Dario Franchitti, #11 Tony Kanaan, #21 Ryan Hunter-Reay and #26 Marco Andretti.

The entrants will compete in four rounds to determine the winner of a $40,000 prize.

***

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series and Wintergreen won the Kentucky Derby. Other notable facts from 1909:

* The cost of a postage stamp was 2 cents.
* A bottle of Coca-Cola cost 5 cents.
* A gallon of gas cost 6 cents.

***

Travis Iles, the 2009 winner of the Purdue Grand Prix, was the honorary starter for race practice today.

TRAVIS ILES: (On starting practice): "It felt awesome. Seeing these races and practices from all around the circle but never from the frontstretch like that, it was unbelievable."

(On getting the call to participate): "I was really, really excited. I flew back from New Orleans just last night to do this today. So I was very excited."

(On just what exactly goes into the Purdue Grand Prix): "The go-karts we use can't be purchased. There's a lot of fabrication, things that are involved that wouldn't go into other go-kart racing. They offer a lot of mechanical challenges. It's also hard to get everything together when you're a full-time college student. There's a lot of long hours, a lot of late nights. But it's worth every second."

***

2:20 p.m. - YELLOW. Tow-in for #8 Bell, who is out of fuel on the backstretch.
2:26 p.m. - GREEN.
3 p.m. - YELLOW. Track inspection.
3:13 p.m. - GREEN.

***

Five-time Indianapolis 500 starter Roger Yasukawa is still holding out hope for a ride this weekend.

ROGER YASUKAWA: "We're working on it. There's not many opportunities out there, so we're not so sure. I've got some funds put together; maybe it's only about 30 to 40 percent. I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of options. You never know what could happen on Sunday, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and just being ready."

***

Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes spoke to a group of more than 400 current and former bariatric patients today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Barnes had the surgery at Clarian Bariatrics in Carmel, Ind., in early 2008 when he weighed approximately 350 pounds and battled diabetes, injecting himself with insulin six times per day.

JOHN BARNES: (On his situation just before surgery and its effect on his work): "I was a slug at that point in time. I had everything in the world going on with me. In this business, if you don't think it can get hectic or that it can get a little challenging, you should try it some time."

(On finding the Clarian program): "I was blown away. I'm in a business where we really have to rely on each other. It's about the support. If we have an issue like we did here Saturday, where we have a crash during Qualifying Day and burn the car pretty bad, three hours later we were on the racetrack totally rebuilt and in business because of the group that we had. I felt the same feeling the first time I met Dr. (Samer) Mattar and his crew. I walked away, and I e-mailed my friend and surgeon buddy, and I said, 'I'm in. This is perfect.'"

(On how he feels now): "I went from a size 46 pant to a size 34. I can say I'm really proud of that."

(On his appearance): "We travel all over the country and all over the world and have a pretty big fan base. If somebody walks past me, it could be a friend of 45 years, and they'll walk past me and turn around and they'll say, 'John, is that you?' And I say, 'Yeah, it's me.'"

***

4:36 p.m. - YELLOW. Debris.
4:38 p.m. - GREEN.

***

Hoyt "Doc" Kerr, 92, is working on the Hemelgarn Johnson team for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, handling "deadman" valve duties during fueling. The deadman valve is a lever that starts and ends the flow of fuel from the tank into the hose during a pit stop.

Kerr also rode in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater car at Chicagoland Speedway and drove the Indy Racing Experience car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hemelgarn Johnson fields the No. 91 entry for 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier.

DOC KERR: (About working the dead man during the race): "A long time ago it used to be a dangerous job. Now it is not. It's almost routine. I am going to claim something this year - I'm going to claim to be the oldest living deadman."

(On riding in the two-seater in Chicago): "Two years ago, I was the oldest person ever to ride in the two-seater. Davey Hamilton drove us in Chicago. It wasn't as strenuous as I thought it would be, and it was fun. We did about 175 (mph)."

(On driving the one-seater at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "It was interesting. I did it two years ago in June. It was a lot of fun. It wasn't as scary as I thought it might be. I gave it all it was worth. I didn't let up; I didn't lift at all. I just put the throttle on the floor and went as fast as the motor would take it. Some people tell me it probably got up to 120 or 125 (mph)."

(About his age): "Officially, I don't carry my birth certificate with me. But I'm 92 and going on 93 after the 8th of June. People ask me how old I am, and I say my age is the same as the number of 500s that have been run."

***

5:33 p.m. - YELLOW. Debris on the frontstretch.

***

5:43 p.m. - Indy Racing League officials have closed the track for the day due to loose bricks on the famed Yard of Bricks on the front straightaway. They are expected to be repaired in time for track activity on Saturday.

***

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to a dozen members of the Indiana Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association today at the first ISSA Day at the Speedway. The group of writers and broadcasters toured the pit, garage and media areas and talked with IMS President and Chief Operating Officer Joie Chitwood and Senior Vice President of Communications Fred Nation over lunch.

***

BRIAN BARNHART (Indy Racing League President of Competition and Racing Operations):

(About loose bricks closing the track): "There's four or five bricks that have come loose, the mortar has come loose on it. It's just something that's going to take too long to fix tonight (before the end of practice). We need to make sure it's right for tomorrow's qualifying. I think that's a first for us around here. We're awfully proud of the Yard of Bricks around here, and I think that's the first time it's caused a delay in practice."

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES (Drivers who have yet to qualify):

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 17 The Rahal Letterman DAFCA Special): "Interesting day. Yesterday was definitely a relief after all those months trying to put a wheel together and feeling so good and so at home. I think even if the car had been terrible, I would have been happy. Today, the driver's mood was back in it, and you start to feel a little more issues here and there. The driver is never happy with the car. I guess I'm getting back that way. I think the track was a little hotter, and it made it a little bit slicker out there. But it was good. It gave us a chance to work on the car and how I think race conditions are going to be. It was definitely a very good day and everything went according to plan and 100 percent. A very methodical day, and we tried everything we wanted to try. I think we are in very good shape for tomorrow."

(About what he must do to qualify): "We just want to have a car in the race, and that's what we've been trying to do. There's so many trying to be the fastest car each day. We will try to be that car. There's at least Townsend (Bell) and (Robert) Doornbos that are going to be up there, and there's always another surprise. It won't be easy. The Rahal Letterman car was great from the beginning. There's no reason why tomorrow we shouldn't be fighting for that top spot"

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "It was our plan to forget about tomorrow (qualifying) and work on the race car, but to be honest, it (qualifying) was always in the back of my mind because we are in a strange situation. We have a fast car, but we are not qualified. You just want to make sure you are in the show and then you start working on the race car. I am quite happy; we found a good car. We ran in traffic and did some good lap times and were in the top 10 at the end of the day, so that's not bad. Obviously, tomorrow morning we have to go back a little bit to qualifying mode. Maybe not as much as we would have done running in the top 11, but yes, you do have to change the mindset a bit. I am comfortable, though."

NELSON PHILIPPE (No. 00 i drive green HVM Racing): "We had a great day just getting back up to speed. Like last week, it's pretty hard to tell who is doing real lap times because everybody was getting tows and running race trim and simulations. So it's very difficult to know where we stand, but we were in race trim ourselves. We ran every time by ourselves and around 3 o'clock, it was really hot. I think the track was 105 (degrees), and we ran almost a 218 flat all on our own. I'm disappointed we finished early because we were going to put some new tires and go for some qualifying sims for tomorrow. But I guess I've got close to 11 hours of testing in, and we got some more practice to get everything sorted. We've been consistent with our times. It's just hard to know where we stand. I'm looking forward to trying to get in the show tomorrow."

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 8 Herbalife-KV Racing Technology): "It was a great day for the Herbalife car. We went pretty quick in the race setup - ran the tires out a couple of times. The car felt really good. I've had the chance to run a couple of times here before, and it's nice. Each time you come a little bit smarter in terms of what you need to have a good run on (race day). I'm pretty happy with where we are. We had a chance to sort of inch our way toward more of qualifying setup on the last run. The car's obviously quick, and I'm really excited about getting it into the field tomorrow."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 19 MONA-VIE): (About returning to the car): "When you're in a car and you're at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's a good day. I'm just so happy to have Mona Vie on board and to put this together at the last minute with the great people at Dale Coyne Racing. Once again, I'm with Bill Pappas. I'm just happy right now."

(About today's practice): "We played around a little bit in the morning. I heard some comments from Justin (Wilson) yesterday, and we worked on a different line of setup, so the car seems great. I think everyone with the team is pretty excited and so am I. The car feels very comfortable, and we had no problems trimming it out. It's a good car; smooth straight out of the pits and flat out."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 91 Hemelgarn Johnson): "Yes, we did find a little more speed. We're just trying to put all the data together. We really needed that last run (before the track was closed 15 minutes early for repairs). I'm really glad the track errs on the side of caution."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 34 Rexall Edmonton Indy): "The team did a fantastic job with the car. We finally had two days back to back where the car was very similar to where we left it last night. After a day of kind of scratching our heads and wondering what's wrong (yesterday), this was a very good day. It was unfortunate during the afternoon we started feeling some vibration and some noise in the back. That's the only little glitch that kept us from trying more things we wanted to try. So, the car feels really good and we are ready for qualifying tomorrow. You can never take anything for granted here in Indianapolis, but we believe that we have a good car and we can put it in the show."

E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing): "I think we had a smooth and consistent day. I'm pretty happy with how it went. We tried some new parts for the race and had a good result. We also know what we're going to improve on the car before qualifying tomorrow so that we have a more consistent run than we did the first qualifying run. The PDVSA HVM Team is confident that we will get into the race in qualifying tomorrow."

MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "The car was much better today. We are headed in the right direction. The balance of the car was better and we made some changes and the conditions were good for the car. We will see for tomorrow."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Today was good. Our first run was just getting back into it again and feeling comfortable with the car. For the second run we went flat around the circuit and made some setup changes. I wasn't really comfortable with the setup we had and we were able to make it back out and made some good changes for tomorrow, so I'm ready for qualifying. I just want to thank the guys for getting the car ready for me. They have done a great job."

JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Window World): "I felt that the day started out pretty good. We have been trying different things. We ran on older tires to try to get a balance so that we can prepare for the race a little bit, but also to help us be ready for qualifying, as well. We'll see what happens. We came out here with a big change that we weren't able to try out, so we will find out tomorrow morning. Hopefully we can get qualified right away, if the weather permits, and get this anguish over with."

STANTON BARRETT (No. 98 CURB/Agajanian/Team 3G Racing): "Not too bad. We get the car feeling better here and there. We keep trying things so we know if mess up on stuff. The most comfortable and the best cars win. We're just trying to piece it all together from gearing to shifting and what I'm doing. We haven't had a lot of runs on sticker tires, back-to-back things. All and all, that got us here, and Team 3G did a good job and everybody's been working really hard on aero stuff and fine-tuning the setup so we can get to where it drives right, steers right. We're making headway on it. Today was a good day. Hopefully we can go out and back that up again even more, fix some of our mistakes. Hopefully the setup is as good as it was this morning and when we went out in the first half an hour of practice. Hopefully we can go out tomorrow and do the same thing as good from a steering standpoint. Hopefully we can get some speed, enough to make the race."

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES (Drivers who have already qualified):

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "Any day you can be quick is a good day. It doesn't mean much because it was a practice day. It will mean more on Race Day. We had a three-or-four-car tow. The car was feeling pretty good. It (speed increase) could be a range of different things. We just have to look at it. It's important to be among the top six or seven for the whole month; that's what we've been trying to do. More importantly, we just want to make sure we have a consistent car.

We're working pretty much the same as everybody - get the most out of the race car, making the car consistent and working in traffic. We've been trying our setups all around from lunch time through this afternoon. The car seemed pretty good, but we're still looking for a little more consistency in traffic.

Any day you can get on the track is very important, with the condensed schedule and with the weather we have here in May is always very tough. Hopefully we can get some more laps in this weekend. I'm sure everyone is going to be out here running as many laps as possible."

MARIO MORAES (No. 5 KV Racing Technology/Votorantim): "Today was another very productive day for the KV Racing Technology - Votorantim team. We worked on different race setups again today and the car felt solid. Only once did we have a problem with the rear. Unfortunately, on my last lap, I went across the start/finish line and sucked up a brick, which damaged my car and ended my day. I feel bad for the crew because they are going to have to do some extra work tonight."

***

A total of 48 cars are currently at the Speedway and have passed technical inspection. Forty-three drivers have been on the track to date and turned 2,036 laps today and 9,809 laps this month. Helio Castroneves turned 105 laps, the most laps today, while Raphael Matos has turned 435 laps this month, most of any driver. There were six cautions today for a total of 36 minutes.

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Garages open
10:15-11:15 a.m. IndyCar Series practice
Noon-6 p.m. Third Day Qualifying

***

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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