With Thursday practice cancelled due to lingering storms in the Indianapolis area, today's session truly became Fast Friday as some teams took a final opportunity to get in race trim for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 29th. For many...
With Thursday practice cancelled due to lingering storms in the Indianapolis area, today's session truly became Fast Friday as some teams took a final opportunity to get in race trim for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 29th.
For many who have already qualified for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing today was an excellent opportunity to test with their spare cars; for others still looking to make the show today served as a final opportunity to find the necessary speed for Saturday's six hours of time trials.
Although he was expected to take his Rookie Orientation test before official practice began at noon, Arie Luyendyk Jr. had only a solitary lap in the #98 Curb Records/Beck Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone machine before an engine problem necessitated a swap of power mills.
Luyendyk's team spent most of the afternoon working on their machine and he appeared on pit road shortly after 5PM EST. He was permitted, in the final 12 minutes to run with the pack of veterans and minded his P's and Q's in the process, working to build up speed.
"I was glad to [finally] get out there and get those first laps out of the way," Luyendyk sighed. "Now I can sleep on it. I was running a bit too high," and was warned of the danger by Brian Barnhart, president and COO of the Indy Racing League.
Tony Kanaan claimed the $5000 Argent Mortgage "fast lap" prize (due to Thursday's washout) with the fastest speed of 226.490mph in his #11 Team 7- Eleven Dallara/Honda, followed by teammate and point leader Dan Wheldon's #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda at 226.399mph.
Dario Franchitti, pummeled by his three teammates with as many as six cakes in honor of his 32nd birthday yesterday (it was even on the soles of his shoes, according to brother Marino) turned the third best lap of the day in his #27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda of 226.065mph. "We made changes and improved the car all afternoon and now I'm very happy with the balance. Running in packs like that is kind of scary," he explained.
Scott Sharp was fourth in the #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda with a lap at 225.786mph, as Honda-powered racers secured the top eight spots. Sharp intends to go out Saturday "and just get a feel for the condition change with a little bit warmer weather," or so he hopes. "The conditions change so easily and everyone has to make the right adjustments."
Danica Patrick left her own #16 machine in the garage this afternoon and drove the #15T Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda wrecked by Buddy Rice last week and rebuilt by the Rahal Letterman Racing team to be stand-in Kenny Brack's spare car. She was fifth best at 225.459mph.
It takes a full three hours to change the car for Patrick, who is quite a bit smaller than either Rice or Brack. According to team manager Steve Dickson, all weights must be redistributed about the chassis in addition to re-arranging the pedals, seat, belts and headrest fitting. The team will perform the same changes tonight to ready the car for Brack.
Kosuke Matsuura had a tough day in an "edgy and snappy" #55T Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda to take sixth place at 224.984mph. While it didn't rain today, the skies were mostly cloudy and the temperature never reached the 65- degree level, making it a good day to go out and run in packs, which most everyone did.
Kenny Brack turned another 139 laps today in the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda, changing between his customary blue and gold helmet and a plain white example as he tried to get comfortable in the car. His best, on lap 134 vaulted the Swede up to seventh for the day at 224.829mph, fastest of all cars not yet qualified for the race.
Adrian Fernandez took 113 trips around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval and registered 224.780mph on his 101st, good for eighth on the day. After trying many different options on his car Fernandez declared, "I think we are good."
Sam Hornish Jr. broke up the Honda monopoly with his 94th lap of 106 (224.770mph) in the #6T Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda, good for ninth.
Bryan Herta rounded out the top ten with his #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda at 224.735mph. Herta said the day was "very similar to my month." Herta's not been able to get the speed of his teammates Kanaan, Wheldon and Franchitti but "my car is very good in traffic. It just doesn't go for one lap."
Of the yet-to-be-qualified drivers rookie Ryan Briscoe was second best in the #33 Target/Pioneer Panoz/Toyota in 16th place. Patrick Carpentier took 20th with his #83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota. The Canadian's gearbox gave up the ghost with about half an hour remaining in the practice session so he had to park it early.
Marty Roth, benefiting from the track knowledge of partners PDM Racing took 22nd in his #25 Roth Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, while A.J. Foyt IV was 25th with the #14 ABC Supply Dallara/Toyota. Larry Foyt, now in a #48T Dallara/Toyota and wearing the same ABC Supply colors took 26th, while Jaques Lazier brought the #21 Playa Del Panoz/Toyota to 27th.
Ed Carpenter's #20 Vision Racing Dallara/Toyota was 28th fastest, Jimmy Kite began to come to terms with the #91 Ethanol/Hemelgarn Dallara/Toyota in 29th and Jeff Ward was 31st with his #22 Vision Racing Dallara/Toyota.
There were 32 car/driver combinations on the Indy oval this afternoon, turning a total of 2828 laps. There were no major incidents other than stoppages for mechanical difficulties and track inspections.
Luyendyk Jr. will get a half-hour of solo running tomorrow morning, beginning at 9:15AM so that he can complete his rookie test and it looks like the weather will help him out, as skies are supposed to clear and temperatures are expected to rise. But this is Indianapolis and the weather is truly fickle.
The second day of qualifications begins at noon tomorrow and is intended to fill the final 11 slots in the field of 33 cars that will contest this year's Indianapolis 500.