Indy 500: Series Opening Day report

ANDRETTI TOPS FIRST FULL DAY OF PRACTICE AT INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, May 7, 2009) - Marco Andretti topped the first full day of practice May 7 at the Indianapolis 500. Andretti turned a best lap of 39.9152 seconds, 225.478 mph...

ANDRETTI TOPS FIRST FULL DAY OF PRACTICE AT INDIANAPOLIS 500

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, May 7, 2009) - Marco Andretti topped the first full day of practice May 7 at the Indianapolis 500. Andretti turned a best lap of 39.9152 seconds, 225.478 mph on the 2.5-mile oval.

Thirty-one drivers combined to turn 2,199 laps in the first opportunity for all drivers to begin preparations for the race. Rookies and drivers needing a refresher at the Speedway practiced three hours May 5 but got less than an hour of practice time May 6 before rain washed out the remainder of the day. On Thursday, the track opened up more than two hours earlier than originally scheduled to make up for some of the lost practice time.

Two-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves was second-fastest Thursday with a lap at 225.237 mph. Ryan Briscoe was third, defending race winner Scott Dixon fourth and 2007 winner Dario Franchitti fifth. The top 27 drivers were separated by less than one second.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was involved in the only incident of the day when the No. 21 Vision Racing car did a half-spin exiting Turn 2 and hit the wall early in the afternoon. Hunter-Reay was uninjured.

Six hours of practice are scheduled for Friday before the fastest 11 drivers lock in starting positions on Pole Day on Saturday.

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Gladiator GarageWorks is the official garage provider of A.J. Foyt Racing during the Month of May, outfitting the team's garage area with a variety of work benches, flooring and storage solutions as well as a Chillerator Garage Refrigerator.

A.J. FOYT (Owner, A.J. Foyt Racing): "Gladiator GarageWorks has helped us create a great-looking and versatile space where we can work efficiently and make sure our Indy cars are always at their best throughout the rigorous 500 Mile Race."

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Los Angeles TV station KNBC followed the HVM Racing crew April 19 during the Grand Prix of Long Beach for the station's automotive-themed show "Whipnotic." The episode featuring the team airs at 5 p.m. (PT) May 9 and also can be seen at www.whipnotic.com.

The TV crew captured all the meticulous work that went into preparing the No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing car from the moment it was rolled off the truck to its arrival on pit road. The crew interviewed members of the team and driver E.J. Viso to paint a comprehensive picture of all that goes into getting a car ready for the green flag.

KEITH WIGGINS (Owner, HVM Racing): "I don't think the average fan knows just how much work goes into preparing a car for a race. Our crew spends long hours in the shop and long hours in the paddock at the track. And each person plays a very specific and important role in the success of the team."

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INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The Pagoda located across the start/finish line was completed in time for the 2000 Indianapolis 500. The 10-story structure houses Timing & Scoring, television broadcast booths and Race Control. It replaced the glass-and-steel Master Control Tower, which was built in the winter of 1956-57.

Prior to that time, a Japanese-style pagoda had occupied the spot. The first was built in 1913 and served through 1925. It stood fairly close to the track and was replaced in 1926 for safety reasons.

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The Vision Racing Wellness Tour will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday, May 8 for the first of three dates at the track during the month.

The Wellness Tour, a collaboration between Vision Racing and their Indianapolis-based sponsor Lilly, will provide racing fans with free diabetes screenings with A1c testing and risk factor assessment, along with cholesterol and blood pressure testing.

The Vision Racing Wellness Tour will be located in the infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, under the grandstands next to the famous Pagoda in GP garage 35 on May 8 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.), Carb Day May 22 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and Race Day May 24 (8 a.m.-1 p.m.).

Additionally during the 2009 season, the Wellness Tour will travel to IndyCar Series races at The Milwaukee Mile, Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

***

Danica Patrick is the latest celebrity to join to join the multi-faceted National Milk Mustache "got milk?" campaign created in 1995 to promote the health benefits of milk. A poster unveiled at the Speedway, with Patrick wearing the milk mustache and a black "cat suit," will be included in the ongoing advertising program.

The Body By Milk education program, part of the overall campaign, encourages milk consumption for its protein and mix of nutrients, proper eating habits and staying active for optimal health and vitality. Jeff Gordon (1997) is the only other race car driver to have appeared in the national campaign.

DANICA PATRICK: (About appearing as model for Got Milk? campaign): "To be associated with a successful campaign that has been around for 14 years is a great honor. I'm very excited and honored to be a part of it. I had a great time at the shoot, and now I know all the secrets about the 'milk mustache.'"

(About her prospects of drinking milk this year as the Indy 500 winner): "I would definitely like to drink some milk in a couple of weeks. It's such a tradition and as much a part of the race as the trophy or the checkered flag."

(About her emotions as a race driver): "Not showing emotions would definitely not be me. I think there is a time and a place for getting excited, but it's not all the time. It's just a lot easier to just smile and be happy. My goal this year is just to smile a whole lot more."

(Frustration over rain delay Wednesday): "As this is my fifth time being back here now, it's probably less of a detriment to me than it is to a lot of the rookies and a lot of the people who have maybe only been here once. You just never know what you have, so it would be nice to get out there and get a feel for it and see what you have and how the car really is. I just keep thinking positive thoughts. Maybe I'll be really fast right away, and if there was more time, people would be able to catch up. That's the attitude I'm trying to take into this situation. You just start with where you thought the best spot was to start with the car setup and the downforce level. You really need to make sure the car is pretty good before you start trying to go fast and trim the car out. I have a good team behind me, and we have four (Andretti Green Racing) cars out there accumulating information. I think we'll cut to the chase pretty quickly."

***

The No. 4 Panther Racing entry driven by 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon sported a camouflage livery for the first time. The car, which is sponsored by the National Guard, will feature the camouflage look at the Indianapolis 500 as well as the IndyCar Series races at Watkins Glen held on the Fourth of July weekend and two other events this season.

In addition, Wheldon is wearing a camouflage drivers' suit, made out of the same camo Nomex fire-retardant material National Guard soldiers wear.

The style of the car's No. 4 also was changed to honor the late Lloyd Ruby, the 18-time Indianapolis 500 starter who passed away in March.

DAN WHELDON: "Obviously anytime you get to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500, which is in my opinion the biggest sporting event in the world, it's a tremendous honor. But being able to compete in that great event with the colors of the National Guard and in a camo No. 4 car is extremely special, and an important responsibility for all of us at Panther Racing."

***

Indiana Members Credit Union, a not-for-profit financial institution owned and operated by its members, will return as a sponsor with Sarah Fisher Racing. The organization sponsored the team's No. 67 entry last May. Fisher filmed a commercial for IMCU last week. It will begin airing this month. Fisher also will appear in print ads for IMCU throughout May. SARAH FISHER: "To return another sponsor to SFR is amazing for our team. Along with IUPUI and Direct Supply, IMCU joined SFR at a time when we were really hurting. Ron Collier (CEO of IMCU) was really pleased with the return IMCU saw from their involvement with SFR, and we are really happy to have them back for a second year."

***

Purex Laundry Care Brand will be the primary sponsor of the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry driven by Mike Conway. It marks a reunion of a partnership the two companies first entered into at the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Purex went on to partner with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as primary sponsor for several seasons with current team co-owner Robbie Buhl as the driver.

The sponsorship coincides with Purex's launch of Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets. Each sheet contains a load's worth of super-concentrated detergent, softener and anti-static all in one product.

GREG TIPSFORD (Vice president and general manager of U.S. Laundry Care, Henkel): "From our past experience at the Indianapolis 500, we know that this is a special stage to be involved in when talking about our products and brand. This is especially so when we launch such a revolutionary product in the world of laundry care like we are doing today with our new Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets. We know there are many, manymoms who watch the Indy 500 and who follow the IndyCar Series, and we are delighted to be involved in this great race and to partner with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing once again. It is notcoincidental that we are launching Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway where so many other innovations have been launched."

DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "For so many years we enjoyed a terrific sponsor and business relationship with the Purex brand. Throughout their involvement with us and the IndyCar Series, Purex has always used their presence and involvement with our team and the IndyCar Series strategically."

***

Purdue University men's basketball head coach Matt Painter waved the green flag to start practice for all cars.

MATT PAINTER: "It is special. I'm really grateful they asked me to come down here and spend a day at the track. You don't realize how, until you get out there and get on top of it (the honorary starter flag stand), how fast those guys are going and the adrenaline rush those guys must feel because it gives you a rush, also."

(Were you a little nervous up there?): "A little bit, more nervous about UConn (University of Connecticut), if I could figure out how to beat them."

(Have you ever been to the race?): "You know, I wasn't a huge race fan. People always talked about it, but as a basketball player, you're playing year-round, always going to tournaments and things, so it was always difficult. I came to the race in '97 when it got rained out both days. Didn't make it that third day when the race happened, but I would love to get to the race and experience it."

***

Two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Townsend Bell will drive the third KV Racing Technology entry, the team announced. Bell will drive the No. 8 Herbalife-KV Racing Technology entry beginning the second week. He joins Mario Moraes and Paul Tracy as drivers for the team that is co-owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser.

Bell, a 34-year-old California native, finished 10th in last year's Indianapolis 500, driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. He finished 22nd in 2006 with Vision Racing. He has made 19 career starts in the IndyCar Series

TOWNSEND BELL: "This is a race that I can't miss; I have to be here, which makes it really exciting. If you look at the progression KV made last year coming in as a new team, post-Speedway their oval program really started to improve, and it has carried through this year. I've been watching that. To me, it's just an incredible opportunity to come in and have no concerns about the competitiveness of the program and the quality of the equipment and people, and put what I know and what I've learned and put that to good use. I'm looking forward to having a fast race car and making the most of it."

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: "Townsend is a proven talent who will provide valuable experience and knowledge to the team during the month of May. I also want to welcome and thank Herbalife for joining our effort. Herbalife is an outstanding company, and we appreciate their support of Townsend and KVRT."

***

One of the places Estonian jet ski racer Tonis Krwsmaa wanted to see on his trip to the United States was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Krwsmaa, 31, was suitably impressed with the course but doubted he could ever compete in the Indianapolis 500.

"I am still in the stock class and already I am too old to race here," he said. "But I know Indianapolis well; I have 'raced' on my computer for years. For a long time, we had no computers, but now I can race on the computer now that Estonia is a free nation."

Krwsmaa said Estonia has a wealth of motorsports, but most is either motocross or jet ski racing.

"We don't have many racetracks, but we have much water," said Krwsmaa, who competes on a stand-up Kawasaki 850cc jet ski.

Krwsmaa is touring the U.S. with his girlfriend, Kaie Kubri. The couple will be in Indianapolis long enough to see both qualifying weekends but won't be able to stay for the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.

***

IndyCar Series veteran E.J. Viso talked about his prospects this month as he attempts to make his second start in the Indianapolis 500 with HVM Racing in the No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing entry.

E.J. VISO: "We had a difficult morning. We are just finishing up the car and will have everything ready soon, and we will be able to put some laps on the track. It is quite early in the month, and things like this always happen. It is good to have them early, and hopefully we will have a clean and quick month. It is pretty exciting to come back to such a nice race and such a nice event. Obviously, it is another race in the championship, but this is a special event, and I am just real excited. It is an important race to me. I have my bicycle and unicycle in the garage, and if it starts raining, we will bring them out tomorrow. Hopefully the weather stays like this, and it doesn't start raining. Obviously, the faster you go, the more risk you are taking, and everything gets more difficult. Everything has to be more precise, everything has to be perfect. It is all about respecting the track and respecting the other drivers, so it takes a lot of concentration because this is the fastest race we run on during the year, so it takes the effort and concentration of everyone."

***

Jacob Cash and Eric Anderson of the Indiana National Guard were at the Speedway Thursday, rehearsing rituals to take place prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500, as well as proudly supporting Dan Wheldon and the No. 4 National Guard car.

JACOB CASH: "We're out here supporting the National Guard car, and we're really excited to have Panther Racing as our car owners and running such a fine establishment. We really like the look of the National Guard car because it matches our uniforms. It has the universal camouflage pattern on it, and it really shows what the National Guard uniforms look like."

(On Dan Wheldon being involved with the National Guard): "I think he's a great person to be driving our car. He has good, strong values. Even though he's not an American, he lives the American values that the National Guard loves to defend."

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, fastest): "It's definitely a good start. It definitely shows that we have the speed. On our own, we're still not quite sure. We got a lot of tows today, which is a good thing, but a lot of times we don't know where we truly stack up. But I'm really happy with the car balance. And I think that's the key - getting the balance right and being able to take a trim. That's the name of the game. We'll have to see if we can keep up with it, if not get a little better."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): "Just to be here again in Indianapolis, it's a dream come true. It's much more special this year, everything that happened the last six months. Just to be here, I appreciate it so more, the fans, especially. I feel welcome, as always. The Team Penske boys did a super job. The car is just superb out of the truck, just super good. We wanted to take advantage of the day; it was just awesome. It started a little cooler, progressively warming up, and we decided to keep going. Right now we feel very solid, and it's going to be very tight every day the next few days, especially qualifying. It's four laps, not only about one lap, so you're going to see a lot of pole positions, but on the last lap it might not be the pole position, so Saturday's going to be very exciting."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, third): "I'm happy with how today went. We got a ton of laps in, and I think we're in good shape. We were able to do quite a bit of setup work during the session, which gave us the opportunity to really pick away at it. I felt good coming into the month of May, and after today I'm definitely satisfied with how the Team Penske car is handling."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth): "It's good to be back out there. It was definitely a lot of fun. The weather was kind to everybody today. It was good to get some laps in, and I think a lot of people got a lot of laps in considering the short schedule. Tomorrow is already 'Fast Friday.' We had a lot of stuff to get through, and I think we got through a majority of our major changes. Tonight is going to be a lot of work, trying to sit down and going through it all. The No. 9 and No. 10 Target cars are both pretty consistent speed-wise. We didn't trim out as much as some of the others. Maybe that can help us tomorrow. All in all, it was a pretty comfortable day."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth): "It was a long day, especially since we started early this morning. I think everyone expected it to rain, and the weather just improved as the day went on. The Target car definitely has the speed. We just need to make it a little more consistent. It's good to be back at Indianapolis. I was worried that I wouldn't be up to speed, but my second lap was above 220 (mph), so I was pretty happy."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, sixth): "It was reasonably productive. I think the National Guard Panther Racing No. 4 car has got some good speed. We got a couple of inherent little things that we need to fix certainly if we're going to be up front for qualifying. I think the team is capable of doing that. It's great to have Scott Sharp on the team, too. He's got a lot of valuable input. And I think, as we've seen before, he's very good around here."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, seventh): "I'm so happy to be here at the Indy 500. I was here before for the Formula One races in 2005 and 2006, but to be here for the Indy 500, you know you are part of something special. You feel the vibe when you see the row of bricks and feel part of the history. I really like driving on the ovals. Rookie Orientation went well, and I was able to get up to speed quickly, so I was looking forward to getting back on track. Arie Luyendyk has been coaching me and helping me make some changes to the car, and we have run well. It has been fun today. We stayed inside the top four for most of the day, and it is looking good. It was nice to be P1 for a while even though it's just testing. It's a good motivator for everybody, including the driver. I'm feeling comfortable, and I really enjoy driving here. I liked the qualifying format in Kansas, and I am looking forward to doing it here where it has always been done this way."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, eighth): "I have to say I was really happy with the Boost Mobile car this morning, but as the afternoon went on I was unable to find more speed. We are working hard to find what we need to be ready for Saturday's qualifying run. But overall I can't complain about today's session."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, ninth): "The new McDonald's car seems pretty quick. It feels really good; it's very comfortable to drive. We made one change that we ended up going back on because it wasn't as good as what we had before, but we're making steady progress, and we were looking good there at the end. It's just unfortunate that we didn't get to do any tire runs because we had a gearbox issue. We had done a 223 (mph) on an out lap, which wasn't flat, which says a lot. The speed is definitely there. Helio (Castroneves) seems to be really fast on his own, but I think we're close behind. I feel pretty good about our day, and I can't wait to get back out there again tomorrow to see how the car is. The McDonald's car, handling-wise, is pretty comfortable, it's really nice to drive. I think we have made a lot of gains since we ran here last year. I'm definitely looking forward to qualifying because I think we have a shot at being on the first couple of rows."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless, 10th): "It was a good day for Team Verizon Wireless. We worked away it, and I think we found a good balance with the car. We were patient with how we approached things today, and I know I'll be able to push it when I need to for qualifying. We know what we need to work on, and we're looking forward to getting back out on track on Friday."

***

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 2,199 laps today and 2,601 laps this month. Raphael Matos turned 132 laps today and has turned 212 laps this month, most of any driver. There were five cautions for a total of 45 minutes today.

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FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8 a.m. Garages open
Noon-6 p.m. IndyCar Series practice

***

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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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Kevin Kalkhoven , Mario Moraes , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing