1996 Indianapolis 500 Wednesday May 8, 1996
Chief Steward Keith Ward closed the track at 2:35 p.m. today because of rain. Today was the second day of the month washed out by rain. The last time two days of the month were entirely washed out was in 1990. The most complete days washed out by rain since 1982 is three in 1989. To date, a total of 24 hours, seven minutes of scheduled practice has been washed out.
Speedway construction for 1996:
--The new high-density, hard asphalt track surface was placed in October, 1995. The top three inches of the previous surface were milled off and replaced by three inches of new compound. The rumble strips were removed. The width of the backstretch was extended 30 feet along the inside. New concrete walls and catch fencing was installed along the inside back straightaway. The old asphalt was recycled in other areas on the grounds. A new "yard of bricks" was installed at the finish line (replaced former bricks with different original paving bricks).
--In the Northeast Vista, Stands L, L South and M were removed and the Northeast Vista was enlarged and extended beyond the existing locations into the backstretch from Turn 3.
--Stand J in Turn 4 was taken apart, refurbished and rebuilt.
--North Terrace and Fourth Turn Terrace inside Turn 4 were removed.
--A new viewing mound for general admission seating was created inside Turn 4.
Speedway President Tony George will be available for general information and question-and-answer on a national teleconference at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Trackside Conference Room.
Today is the annual USAC Promoter's Day, as the sanctioning body for the Indianapolis 500 entertains promoters from around the country. Among the promoters who attended were Bill Hopton of the Terre Haute Action Track, host of this Friday night's 26th annual Terre Haute First National Bank Tony Hulman Classic sprint-car race and Mike Lewis of Indianapolis Raceway Park, host of this Saturday night's Skoal Racing Indyana Sprint Classic, featuring both the Stoops Freightliner sprint cars and Skoal midgets.
The Bank One Rookie of the Year Committee, composed of Speedway and USAC officials and media representatives, will meet with 1996 first-year driver candidates at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Bank One's second turn suite.
Roberto Guerrero practiced in both of Pagan Racing's WavePhore/Pennzoil Reynard-Fords Tuesday with a top speed of 232.336. Alan Pagan, the team's owner, said today he plans to run Guerrero as a one-driver effort.
The Speedway started the month of May for the first time in more than 40 years without Speedway historian Bob Laycock manning the front office of the press room. Until his death last November at age 81, Mr. Laycock had attended every Indianapolis 500 since he was born with the exception of the 1995 race. His grandson, Josh, son of Bob Laycock Jr., joined the Speedway press room staff for the month of May on Opening Day and assumed some of the press room's historical and detail duties long associated with his family name.
Don Hutson, a fireman at the Speedway since 1965, died March 31 after a long illness. His most recent assignment was driving the Turn 2 safety truck. At his request, he was buried in a Speedway firesuit. "He loved the place and he lived for the place," said Larry Davidson, an equipment coordinator for the track's fire crew. A small baseball-card size magnetized photo of Hutson is mounted behind the driver's door on the 14 Speedway fire trucks for the month of May. And a sign hangs from the fence near the Turn 2 fire truck station. It reads: "In Memory of Don Hutson, Fireman & Friend. Turn 2 won't be the same without you."
A total of 45 cars are at the track, 40 have passed technical inspection and none are in the process. 33 drivers have been on the track to date. At 2:43 p.m., the temperature was 66 degrees and winds were calm.