IRL: Indy 500: Day five news and notes

HORNISH STILL REIGNS AT SOGGY INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 11, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts for the third consecutive day as preparations continued for the 90th running...

HORNISH STILL REIGNS AT SOGGY INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 11, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts for the third consecutive day as preparations continued for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Shortly after the track opened for practice following an hour, 54 minute rain delay, Hornish posted the month's quickest lap of 39.6844 seconds, 226.789 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

"So far it's been a dream week," Hornish said. "Everything is seeming to go right. The car is spot-on. We make changes to it every day to try to find more, and we've been able to do it. I think the big thing for us is to continue in the direction that we're heading and make sure that we don't make any mistakes. I would never have imagined this on Monday. We're just going to keep working real hard at it, and hopefully the whole month will be this way."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon was second for the second consecutive day with a lap of more than 226 mph. Wheldon, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, was second at 226.068 mph. Hornish's teammate Helio Castroneves (225.547) was third with Wheldon's teammate, Scott Dixon (225.309) and Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti (224.742) rounding out the top five. Marco Andretti (223.606) was the quickest rookie on the track.

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice was involved in the day's only incident, heavily damaging his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Honda-powered Panoz in a Turn 2 accident. Rice sustained contusions to his knees and will be re-evaluated on May 12.

Eighteen drivers completed 356 laps today.

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POST-PRACTICE NOTES:

On this date in 1996, in the Indy Racing League's first full season of competition, it is announced that a minimum qualifying speed of 220 mph has been set for the 80th Indianapolis 500. This is the first year for such a rule since 1963 when the minimum speed was 135 mph.

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In celebration of the 90th Running of the Indianapolis 500, various personalities associated with "The Greatest Spectacle of Racing" will give their favorite 500 memories. Here's today's memory.

ROBBIE BUHL (co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "(In 1997,) I made the show with A.J. Foyt. Earlier in the month, I had crashed a Sinden Racing car and the following day we blew an engine. I got into A.J.'s car on Bump Day and put in four laps, and then I qualified it right away because we knew the rain was coming. We were the last one's to get in the race that year and we started 32nd. It was weird, because a day earlier I crashed a car and then I came to the track Bump Day morning and blew an engine. We knew the rain was coming, and A.J. asked me if I needed more time in the car before qualifying. I said, 'No, let's put some new stickers on it and go.' On my last lap, it started to sprinkle between Turns 3-4 and we put it in the show."

*** Did you know?: The 90th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be the first Indianapolis 500 where the full field will be fueled by ethanol, but this is not the first time that ethanol has been used at the Speedway. At the 1927 race, a car driven by Leon Duray experimented with ethyl (grain) alcohols, but it is not known if he used the fuel in the race. Art Sparks claimed in his book that his team used ethanol in cars in 1937-39.

***

Ethanol will present $2,500 to the driver who records the fastest lap on five practice days during the Month of May. The "Ethanol Fastest Lap" will be presented on May 10, 11, 17, 18 and 26. In addition to the ethanol awards, Cholula Hot Sauce will award $7,500 to the driver who completes the Fastest Lap of the Day on May 12 and May 19.

***

As part of "Ethanol Day" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman was a special guest of the Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol operation, the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11. Among the activities involving Secretary Bodman include a press conference at the trackside media room to discuss ethanol in racing and the future of renewable fuels in this country, participating in a tour of the Team Ethanol garage area (led by team owner Bobby Rahal) as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum and a meeting with the EPIC (Ethanol Promotion and Information Council) executives.

SAMUEL BODMAN (Secretary of Energy): "It was just terrific. The driver did a great job of keeping me in one piece. It was just terrific. This is my first visit of the to the Speedway, but I am from Illinois. I've been to Indianapolis but never to the Speedway. It's fun to be here, particularly on the occasion of Ethanol Day, and working on the ethanol program." (About IndyCar Series' conversion to ethanol): "We're very proud of that in the Energy Department. We work on new processing techniques to produce more ethanol. We believe that it's our near-term solution to importing too much oil."

***

Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta each have purchased an Xbox 360 since arriving in Indianapolis. Both drivers spent the last few nights playing Fight Night Round 3, a boxing game and a Project Gotham Racing 3, a street racing game against each other.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/ Firestone: "I bought it three days ago when I got here. It's great. We play over the Internet from our buses. I think it will stay on the bus. I'd get in trouble if I brought it into the house."

***

Though rain has limited track time over the last three days, teams do not think it will affect preparations for WorldPoints Visa Pole Qualifying for the 90th Indianapolis 500. Here are the thoughts of some drivers and team managers:

STEVE DICKSON (Team manager, Rahal Letterman Racing): "I think obviously for one it's the same for everybody, and I guess for what we're going to do we look at where we were yesterday, look at where we need to be, and we're going to take whatever track time we get from here on out before qualifying. It's going to be very critical to try to say, 'OK, here's the improvements or here's the gains we need to make.' So, it certainly puts a little more pressure on the time that becomes available."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think after you've been here a few times you realize that's what May entails and just sometimes when you're anxious to go out there and make some certain changes or try some new things, the weather doesn't cooperate, but I think that everyone factors that in. You know you've got a tremendous amount of time here, and I think we all sit down at the beginning of the month and we say OK, you know there's going to be two or three days the weather's going to be an issue, and you just deal with it. It affects everyone equally so you've got to just plan around it."

***

POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest driver of the day): "So far it's been a dream week. Everything is seeming to go right. The car is spot-on. We make changes to it every day to try to find more and we've been able to do it. I think the big thing for us is to continue in the direction that we're heading and make sure that we don't make any mistakes. I would never have imagined this on Monday. We're just going to keep working real hard at it, and hopefully the whole month will be this way. Today, we went out there first thing right when it was about as windy as it was all day, felt really comfortable with the car. When things are going the way they are, you want to make sure that you don't go out there and make a big mistake. It's not easy driving with the wind out there today. It moves the car around quite a bit. It can get a bit scary at times. The wind will actually pick the car up a bit and move it around, but on the other hand we need to know what the car is going to do in all different conditions so we can adjust for it, because we are a little bit different that we were yesterday." (About Dan Wheldon being second) "I knew that those guys were going to be quick. We knew going into the season, everybody was asking me, 'Who's your biggest competition going to be?' 'Outside of Helio, it'll be the Ganassi guys.' Helio's really had a dream beginning of the season like I've had a dream beginning of the month of May. We've worked so hard over the past two years. We could also see Ganassi doing the same thing. They've been working hard at it. They picked up Dan (Wheldon) in the offseason along with my engineer from Panther, Andy Brown, so I know how good he is. They switched to Dallaras as well. They're out there working just as hard as we are. Right now we're holding a bit of an advantage. We're making sure the car is good for four laps, because we know that's the one thing that's really different from what we have at any other racetrack that we run. This is 10 miles of qua lifying. It's quite difficult to keep the car handling the same way for that run especially when you've got it right on the edge." (About whether the fast lap came in a four-lap qualifying simulation) "That's what we've really been doing the past two days is making sure the we've got the car good for more than just one lap. If we go out there and it's not good, we'll bring it back in and fix it and try and make it better. Actually with the weather that we had today, it was about the best that the car has handled all month so far. We were pretty excited about that."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest driver): "It was very windy today, so it was tough to see if the changes we made were an improvement from yesterday. Fortunately, we were able to put up a good time early on, so we decided not to run too much in these conditions. We tried to go back out late in the day, but the rain came and ended practice. Overall, we're very happy with the Marlboro Team Penske car right now, but we're going to continue to work on the small details tomorrow in hopes that we can make a run for the pole this weekend."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh-fastest driver): "It was a short day for everybody, but I think we found a little more speed in the Team 7-Eleven car. Then again, so did everyone else; we made progress but so did everyone else."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest driver): "It was definitely a positive day for the Klein Tools/Canadian Club team. I would say we've gained some strides toward the front and we've gained some pace. We're still not where we need to be and I think I can speak for all five cars when I say that. But we've got to still keep pushing, working hard and get the car up front."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest driver): "It's difficult to say if we made any progress today because there were difficult conditions out there. We still seem to be behind the same four cars but ahead of the rest. We want to solidify that position, but try to attack and move forward by Saturday. I don't know how much is going to be possible but we'll do the best we can. If this (weather) turns out to be how it is on race day or Saturday (pole day), at least we have a little bit of data to go back to and know what we've got to deal with. We improved the speed of the XM Satellite Radio car and really, all five Andretti Green Racing cars are the same speed, and that's a credit to the team."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth-fastest driver): "The NYSE car picked up some speed today but it appears that everyone else improved as well. It's hard to tell if it's the track, the wind, or what, but it's not easy to drive right now."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 1 Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth-fastest driver): ""I was really happy we got to run today in the Jim Beam/Vonage car. We made some changes overnight. Now, I'm quick enough that I can go play with my teammates out there. We were about a mile an hour off and now we're within striking distance of them. Tony [Cicale] and I are really working well together. Next, we just need to work on our pit stops and get that part of our program ready for race day, but me and Tony -- we're definitely on the same page."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 10th-fastest driver): "We tried a couple of different things on the car today, and we were still pretty quick so I'm pleased with how things are progressing. Even with the difficult conditions, we still performed well and learned a lot. This weekend will be fun, and we have our work cut out for us, but we are up to the challenge and are really looking forward to it. It will be fun to really turn it loose and see what we can do."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, 15th-fastest driver): "It's weird. It just took off. We weren't even into the turn yet when I lost it. This is somewhat like last year, but we'll be OK. We just need to come back tomorrow and get cleared by Dr. Bock. We'll get the backup out and start going to work. We have some work to do, but this team is tough, and we'll be back."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second-fastest driver): "I think we made some improvements again, certainly, for the car's overall balance and handling. I think, still, (Sam) Hornish is comfortably the quickest right now, certainly over a four-lap qualifying average. So we've still got some work to do but the good thing is each day we've making some gains and everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing's going to work hard towards closing that gap and trying to beat it, possibly. The important thing is we've improved our car each day, and that's important because you want to kind of peak just before Race Day, that's what we'd certainly like to do. We'd love to contend for the pole and I think we will, but we're a little off that right now."

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will broadcast the race live beginning at noon (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at noon (EDT). The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 at 12:30 p.m. on May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at 12:15 p.m. (EDT).

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing