IRL: Indy 500: Day nine news and notes

HORNISH STILL QUICK AS CARS, RAIN RETURN TO INDY INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 17, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts again as preparations continued for the 90th running of the Indianapolis...

HORNISH STILL QUICK AS CARS, RAIN RETURN TO INDY

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 17, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts again as preparations continued for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Hornish, who didn't arrive at the Speedway until mid-afternoon after attending his grandmonther's funeral, posted the day's quickest lap of 40.1104 seconds, 224.381 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Hornish's lap was slightly faster than his teammate, Helio Castroneves, who was second-fastest at 223.392 mph in his backup car. Scott Sharp (223.293 mph) was third with the last two Indianapolis 500 winners, Buddy Rice (222.895) and Dan Wheldon (222.615 mph), rounding out the top five.

It was the busiest day of the month as 31 drivers completed 1,496 laps before a brief afternoon thunderstorm ended the session 90 minutes early.

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POST-PRACTICE NOTES:

On this date in 1976, Janet Guthrie passed her Indianapolis 500 rookie test. On this day in 1992, 10 former 500 winners qualified for the field for the 76th Running of the Indianapolis 500, the most in the history of the 500 Mile Race.

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

TIM CINDRIC (President, Penske Performance, Inc./native of Indianapolis): "My father tried to win the race all his life, and after 2001 I felt like I left there a made man. The thing that made it even more unique was that it was the first time Roger was back since missing the race in '95. There was the pressure of that, and then to do something at Indianapolis that Roger had never done before which was finishing 1-2. For me to be part of that was something cool."

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Did you know?: In 1935, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway became the first track in the world to install safety warning lights and the 1935 race was the first event to make helmets mandatory in motor racing.

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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 May 10, 11, 17, 18 and 26. In addition to the ethanol awards, Cholula Hot Sauce will award $15,000 to the driver who completes the Fastest Lap of the Day on May 19.

Date Driver Speed
May 10 Sam Hornish Jr. 226.056 mph
May 11 Sam Hornish Jr. 226.789 mph

*** Larry Foyt, who will attempt to make his third start in the Indianapolis 500, will be testing a Dallara chassis today.

Foyt began his month May 8 when he took his refresher test in the A.J. Foyt Racing Honda-powered Panoz. Team owner A.J. Foyt said he will determine which car his son will drive in the 500 by Friday.

LARRY FOYT (No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The Panoz is a great car and I felt very comfortable in it, but it appears the Dallaras are faster this year."

***

Cody Unser wants everyone to stand on the gas. The daughter of two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and granddaughter of four-time winner Al Unser gave that message to approximately 250 people who attended the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary's first annual Spring Luncheon Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. Cody's father and grandfather were in attendance at the luncheon, where she received a key to the city from emcee Bob Jenkins on behalf of Mayor Bart Peterson. Unser, 19, hasn't let being paralyzed since the age of 12 stop her from living an active and successful life. She suffers from transverse myelitis, a neurological syndrome caused by spinal cord inflammation. She has not let this get in the way of her achieving her goals such as scuba diving, attending college, and helping not-for-profit groups like her own Cody Unser First Step Foundation and the Salvation Army.

CODY UNSER: "Humor is the best medicine. In racing they have a saying that you should 'Stand on the gas!' We should all stand on the gas in life too and live it to the fullest every day. Even though my body is paralyzed, my voice is not. Remind yourself that it's all good."

***

Indiana Pacers guard Eddie Gill, who will serve as today's honorary starter, rode in the Indy Racing Experience 2-seater today.

EDDIE GILL (Indiana Pacers): "It was amazing, simply amazing. The corners are what really get you. Going into those corners, as close as you are to the wall, I can't imagine being out there with 20 other cars, they're all on top of you, it must be crazy." (Do you think you're going to give up basketball for driving?): "No, not at all. I'll stick to (Interstate) 465."

***

To celebrate the month of May, Best Buddies Indiana is teaming up with two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing on May 25 for an exclusive pre-Carb Day event on May 25 that will benefit Best Buddies Indiana. The exclusive event, scheduled from 6-8 p.m., will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the 35,000 square-foot Panther Racing facility, silent auction items, door prizes, entertainment, hors d'oeuvres and a dessert buffet. Racing exhibitors, include Honda, Firestone and Delphi. Panther's driver, Vitor Meira, who looks to improve upon last season's second place finish in the Indianapolis 500, along with the Panther Pack and team owners will be available for meet and greets. Each guest will also receive an exclusive duffel gift bag. Adult tickets are $50 and child tickets are $20. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Sarah Baldini at (317) 920-8683 or sarahbaldini@bestbuddies.org.

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Rahal Letterman Racing announced May 16 that it has entered into a multi-year partnership with Roper Whitney of Rockford, Ill. as the team's Official Supplier of Sheet Metal Fabricating tools.

BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Racing): "We are pleased to begin this partnership with Roper Whitney. Roper Whitney has been an industry leader in sheet metal fabrication for nearly a century. These are the kind of like-minded partners that we seek here at Rahal Letterman Racing."

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Today is the Lance Armstrong Foundation's LIVESTRONG Day. Thousands of people are taking part in LIVESTRONG Day events across the country to raise awareness of and bring attention to an issue that impacts all Americans - cancer. Armstrong will drive the Pace Car for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. Several drivers wear LIVESTRONG bracelets to support their support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

AIRTON DARE (No. 88 OCTANE Motors/Sanitec/SSM Panoz/Honda/Firestone) : "I think it's great that Lance will be driving the Pace Car this year. I wear the yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet most of the time. I am a big fan of his and hopefully I will get the chance to meet him while he is here for the race."

P.J. CHESSON (No. 91 Carmelo Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Is Lance going to wear his bike shorts while he drives the pace car? I love Lance. I watch every single Tour de France and root him on. I used to wear the yellow (Livestrong) wrist band, but then everyone else started doing it so I quit. My brother James (Chesson) is an even bigger fan than I am. He has all kinds of Lance Armstrong stuff. Anything you can think of that is Lance related, he has it. Hopefully when he comes to town I will meet him."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's going to be really good to have him at Indy. I can't wait to meet him." (About getting the chance to maybe ride with him): "Do you think I could? That would be a dream."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think it's great that Lance is going to be out here on race day. I'm really excited to have him. I just hope he's not as good at driving a car as he is on a bicycle because if he is, we could have some competition to deal with."

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Indy Pro Series driver Mishael Abbott is moving up -- up to the spotter's stand. For the second consecutive season, the 24-year-old will spot for Playa Del Racing's Jaques Lazier during the Indianapolis 500. Last year, Abbott was stationed in Turn 3. This year, she'll be the lead spotter for Lazier, based in Turn 1. Abbott will drive the No. 8 Michael Crawford Motorsports entry May 26 in the Freedom 100.

MISHAEL ABBOTT (Indy Pro Series driver/Spotter, Playa Del Racing): "I'm really excited about spotting for Jaques again this year. It was a thrill last year, and I learned a lot watching Jaques and past champions. That experience helped me hone my skills and become a better driver. Being a spotter is pretty easy. I've heard it so much in my ears over the years that it came pretty naturally to me last year. Jaques likes to hear the same stuff as me. We both don't like a lot of chatter, just the important stuff."

***

A special Limited Edition Danica Patrick T-Touch watch from Tissot will be among the many items that will be up for auction and raffle in this year's Silver Anniversary CARA Charities Indy 500 Fashion Show on Thursday, May 25 at the downtown Westin Hotel.

The auction will offer the number 25-issued Tissot Danica Patrick T-Touch Limited Edition watch, out of a series of 500 watches being produced worldwide, paying homage to the 25th anniversary of CARA Charities.

The Danica Limited Edition Tissot Watch is one of many prizes up for grabs in one of the biggest social events of the month of May. Other items that will be available in the Indy 500 Fashion Show will include a 50-inch Panasonic Plasma TV and home theater system paired with a hand-crocheted afghan with 500 black and white squares, made and donated by CARA member Chris Spannuth. One of Indianapolis' top restaurants, 14 West, has donated a special lunch for 25 people with CARA founder and this year's honorary chairperson Betty Rutherford.

Portions of the CARA Indy 500 Fashion Show go to the CARA/Shirley Bettenhausen Children's Fund at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. The 25th annual fashion affair will open with a social hour at 11 a.m., followed by a noon luncheon. The unique fashion show is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

VICKI FAIVRE (president, CARA Charities): "We are thrilled with the variety of items that will be available to our attendees for the Silver Anniversary CARA Charities Indy 500 Fashion Show. We want to thank Tissot, Panasonic, 14 West Restaurant, Kirles Jewelers and many others for their kind contributions for this year's show. Each year, we have nearly 1,000 attendees who come to view the great fashions displayed by the Indy 500 drivers, their families and many celebrities. And the prizes always make for exciting bids."

***

POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth-fastest driver): "It was time to go to a race setup for the Klein Tools/Canadian Club boys, and it was probably a good idea since the weather came in pretty quickly. If we get a couple more hours of this (rain), we're going to be in trouble. Every chance we get, we've got to focus on the race and work on our setup. I don't think we've got the time to make any inroads in the qualifying setup."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 16th-fastest driver): "The XM Satellite Radio team was working on race setup today, and judging by the speeds, I'd say that almost everybody was doing the same. I'd have to say right now that we've got a little more work to do. We're going to have to get this part right before we go and think about the qualifying setup. Hopefully, we learned some things that we can carry over into the qualifying setup, but the key right now is to get a comfortable car that we feel can do the job for 500 miles."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest driver of the day): "It's a pretty neat feeling going out there and being quick again today. I didn't get a whole lot of practice time today, so we're really thankful for what we got. We're working on the car, making it consistent for the race. We feel pretty comfortable right now, and hopefully it will continue that way. We were working on race setup today. We're pretty happy with where we're at as far as that goes. The big thing for us is to continue working on the consistency a little bit more than speed. Making the car handle well over 30 laps is the next chore for us."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 20th-fastest driver): "It was a tough day in the Argent Mortgage Honda. My engineer Ray (Leto) and I looked at all aspects of the car and put it all back together. With the advances my teammates made, I feel like we are headed in the right direction."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest driver): "We've just been carrying on, working on our race setup, pretty much like we've done since we got here. I think most everybody is doing that. It's nice to get back out on the track. For us, every amount of laps that we can get is a big advantage just to learn more about the Dallara chassis. These guys, whether it's Penske or Andretti Green, they've been running Dallara for quite a while. For us, it's just being able to try new things and find new things. Today was pretty good for us, finding a few things that worked really well, and it seems like we moved our race setup along, got to run a little bit in traffic. No real big deal, just continuing along our plan."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest): "We worked on race setup today. It's the first time this month that we've run our Target cars on full fuel and with race downforce. It's not quite where I'd like it yet. The Target team got enough work in today for a reasonable place to start before we were interrupted by the rain, but we got enough data that we'll look through it tonight, and by the time we hit the track again tomorrow I'm sure we'll have made significant improvements."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second-fastest driver of the day): "We worked on our race setup all day, and I think everything went according to plan. The most challenging part of the afternoon was that the track was really green because of all of the rain during the past few days, so we really had to make sure that everything was in order with the car. We were able to get out and run a lot of laps with other drivers to find out how the Marlboro Team Penske car handles in traffic. I'm happy that we had good weather for a change, and if it's like this on race day, I think we're going to be in good shape."

BUDDY RICE (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest driver): "It felt good to get back out on the track. We learned some things on Sunday afternoon, and we used them today. I think the car feels better with a little heat on the track, but overall, I believe we have a very good race car. I think we can make the first three rows and be ready to race up front. There is no doubt that we have been a little slower than we would like early on this month. But today we showed more speed, and I think we can do that each day leading up to qualifying. I have been in the pole before, and that is a great feeling. But I am here to win the race. That is the No. 15 Argent Honda team's goal."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 11th-fastest driver): "It was nice to be back in the car. I think there were a lot of drivers getting a little anxious to drive on the track. I know that it has been nearly a week since we had more than 30 minutes in the car. So today we went back to the team's plan of setting up the car. It was good to be out there with other cars and learn how the traffic will set for the race. With a few more days on the track, our Team Ethanol crew will be able to get more information on the various track conditions. We want to be as prepared as possible."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh-fastest of the day): "After all the bad weather we've had, we got to run until 5 p.m. today, so I'd call it a 'longer' day. I think the Team 7-Eleven car is still a little behind, and we have some work yet to do. But I'm a little happier now than I was at the beginning of the day, and I think we're moving in the right direction."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth-fastest): "It was a bit of a rough start this morning, but we improved the race setup of the Target car quite a bit throughout the day. We had a good long run with Dan (Wheldon) at the end there and things were looking pretty good. We just need to get in more runs tomorrow, because Friday we'll be going back to concentrating on getting the pole."

AIRTON DARE (No. 88 OCTANE Motors/Sanitec/SSM Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It feels good. The car is pretty good. It handles pretty good. I wish we could have done more laps today and all the way through Sunday. I need those laps, since I've been out since 2003. And in 2003 I only ran Indy, so basically I've been out since the end of 2002. I need some laps to get my confidence back. We had a really big problem today, it was a little problem, but it actually caused a big problem. In the beginning of the session, when the IRL allowed the guys who had never run to run for half an hour, we had a problem with the car, and we couldn't go out on the track. We fixed it quick and then we got out, but once we got out on the track, everybody was out. Once, I got out on the track, I was running 180 (mph) and everyone else was running 220. We wasted 25-30 laps just letting people by because we didn't want to be in anybody's way. We ran 41 laps, which is a lot, but really we ran 15, 20 good laps. Really, if we had those 41 laps, we'd be in a lot better shape right now."

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It felt pretty good. We went out twice, the first time we were trying to get comfortable. When I got comfortable in the car, we made some changes and came back out, and then everything was good. The car handled well. We brought the car back in, made some changes, and we tried to go back out but it began to rain. We are comfortable the way it is right now, we know where we're going and where we can find some speed."

JEFF BUCKNUM (No. 92 Life Fitness Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Our goal today was to take this car out. It's brand new. The guys just finished building it over the last week. They finished it today. Our run was more of an installation run, but it felt so good we just started to push it a little bit. We found some little imbalances, but that's the only issues. The car's perfect, a testament to the guys here at Hemelgarn. The car is rock solid, and now we have a base line to go off of."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 21 VIDEOPOKER.COM Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Overall, it was a successful practice for the Playa Del Racing team. We were just out there today to get a baseline on the car and to figure out how close it was to last year's car. I think we've got a strong package and team for this year's race. I would have loved to have gone out for one more session of practice today, but unfortunately the rain came. It was a good first day and a good 21 laps although only 10 were at speed. I'm happy with our progress today. I think we'll be right where we need to be. The car had a slight imbalance, but we made some changes in the garage, and I was looking forward to the next session to see how they affected the car. Overall, though, the car is balanced and is easily drivable."

JON HERB (No. 12 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I only ran 204 (mph) just trying to be comfortable with the car, but I'm not to the point of comfort yet as the car was pushing a bit. The way I was driving the track put us right at 202-204 (mph), rather than 206-208, which is what we were trying for today. The gears were a little off, so we went back into the garage to change them and only got one lap in before the rain. The car was moving around a bit in the wind, and had a push off of the corner, so we added some wing to balance it out a bit. I was trying to be conscious of the other drivers in traffic yet get up to speed myself. We'll take a fresh approach to the next practice and hope to get up to speed then."

STEPHAN GREGOIRE (No. 97 Effen Vodka Team Leader Special Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was a very special day for me. To be back at the Speedway, I was very nervous to come back at that level when you haven't been there for five years. But really, I knew I had a good car because it comes from Fernandez Racing. I have a good person taking care of it, Greg Beck, but still it's a lot of pressure. It's not easy to go fast. Really the first day went very well. The car was responsive, and we were able to communicate on the setup. I can say it was a good day today. We did 215. We still have some speed left. Probably like 218, and I knew that 218 would have made me extremely happy for the first day. I think we had it in the car, but it was raining, so we couldn't try. I don't want to be too greedy. It's perfect. I'm really happy for the first day."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was nice to be in the car after such a long break since the rookie test. It was good to get going, and we made a lot of improvements on the car. I think the biggest thing for me today was learning how to cope with the wind out there. At the end there, it got really windy, and that really affects the car, especially when you've got a lot of downforce. We went over that hurdle, and hopefully tomorrow, we will be a little bit better as far as the conditions are concerned." (About last week's weather helping the team): "If we get track time tomorrow and Friday, then it kind of levels the playing field more, but as far as the disadvantages, there are a lot of cars on the track, so when you come out, some guys are leaving the pits. Some guys are coming in so you have to constantly be checking your mirrors, and that's a little bit distracting, but hopefully, we'll get another couple of days of running in here and get the car up to speed for Saturday."

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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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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Larry Foyt , Dan Wheldon , Mishael Abbott , Buddy Rice , Janet Guthrie , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Al Unser , Jaques Lazier , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing