IRL: Indy 500: Fast Friday news and notes

RAIN WASHES OUT 'FAST FRIDAY' AT INDIANAPOLIS INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 12, 2006 -- Persistent rain forced IRL officials to cancel "Fast Friday" practice May 12, the final day to prepare for WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Qualifying at the ...

RAIN WASHES OUT 'FAST FRIDAY' AT INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 12, 2006 -- Persistent rain forced IRL officials to cancel "Fast Friday" practice May 12, the final day to prepare for WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

All on-track activity was canceled at 2 p.m. (EDT) after rain fell on the Speedway throughout the morning, preventing any action on the historic 2.5-mile oval.

Qualifying for spots 1-11 in the field for the 90th Indianapolis 500 will start at noon Saturday and continue through 6 p.m. Practice will precede WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Qualifications from 9-11 a.m.

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POST-PRACTICE NOTES:

On this date in 1996, Arie Luyendyk set the one-lap track record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway of 237.498 mph. Luyendyk's four-lap average of 236.986 also is a track record.

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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:

A.J. FOYT (four-time Indianapolis 500 winner/owner, A.J. Foyt Racing): "My best memory of the "500" is the first time I qualified for the race in '58. When I was driving midgets and sprints, it was my dream to race at Indy. That was what I was aiming for. The race itself wasn't such a good memory, though. I remember they warned me about the race, saying this could happen and that could happen and to be alert for it. Going down the backstretch on the first lap, there was a huge accident. Cars were flipping over the wall and spinning everywhere, other cars were on fire, and I thought to myself, 'Man, they never told me about this in the rookie meeting.' I eventually dropped out when a water line broke on my car, and I spun and hit the wall. My second-best memory was when I won my first Indy 500 in '61. To win it, well that was another dream come true. Eddie Sachs and I had raced hard all day long. I thought I had it won, then they told me I was low on fuel and had to pit, and I thought I had lost it. But Eddie Sachs had to pit with a couple laps to go because he had a tire showing its cords, and I won the race. I couldn't believe it. It was a great, great feeling."

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Did you know?: The Indianapolis 500's 33-car starting field was decided upon because American Automobile Association's (AAA) felt that a safe distance between each car (equally separated around the track) would be 400 feet.

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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 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.

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Here's a look at the qualifying format used for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race:

WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Day: Positions one through 11 in the 33-car field are available to the fastest 11 qualifiers that day. Once the 11 spots are full, bumping will occur for the rest of the day to determine the WorldPoints Visa Car Pole Award and the fastest 11 qualifiers for that day.

Second Day Qualifying: Positions 12 through 22 are available. Once those spots are full, bumping will occur only in spots 12 through 22 for the rest of the day to determine the fastest 11 qualifiers for that day.

Third Day Qualifying: Positions 22 through 33 are available. Once those spots are full, bumping will occur only in spots 23-33 for the rest of the day to determine the fastest 11 qualifiers for that day.

Bump Day: Any qualifying attempt on the fourth day that is faster than a qualified entrant in the 33 positions in the starting field will bump the slowest qualifier from the field, regardless of the day of qualification. The "bumped" entrant will be removed from the field of 33, and the remaining field will move ahead one position in the starting field as the newly qualified entrant will take the 33rd position, or a higher position if faster than other fourth-day qualifiers.

Each car, primary or backup, will have three attempts per day to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. If a car is bumped on any day of qualifications, that entrant can re-enter the qualification line and attempt to re-qualify based on the number of attempts remaining for that car.

Entrants also can withdraw qualified cars from the field at their choice, but that car still will be allowed to make qualifying attempts based on the number of attempts it has remaining for the day. The car does not have to be removed from competition, as in previous formats.

The format was used for the first time in 2005. 2004 IRL IndyCar® Series champion Tony Kanaan, third in the qualifying line, won the Pole for the 89th Indianapolis 500 after recording a four-lap average of 227.566 mph (2 minutes, 38.1961 seconds).

Sam Hornish Jr., who had the 10th-best speed through the initial round of qualifiers, withdrew his qualified car per the qualifying rules and made a second run at 4:30 p.m. (EDT). Hornish improved to second after a four-lap average of 227.273 mph. That bumped Scott Sharp, who kicked off qualifying with a four-lap average of 227.126 mph, to third.

Hornish's teammate, Helio Castroneves, also took advantage of the new rules and re-qualified. Castroneves had posted the fourth-best time earlier in the session, but Marlboro Team Penske owner Roger Penske withdrew the time at 5:50 p.m. for Castroneves to make a run at the pole. Driving the No. 3 Toyota-powered Dallara, Castroneves started strong with a lap of 227.330 mph. But he fell off the pace and fell one spot to fifth on the grid.

In all, twenty-two cars qualified under the new procedure, with the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone driven by Alex Barron checking in at No. 22. Barron's time had been bumped by Dario Franchitti's time, but he returned for an attempt with 35 minutes remaining. He posted a four-lap average of 221.053 mph.

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The 181st Fighter Wing located at Hulman Field in Terre Haute, Ind., will share a "Racer" experience with JPMorgan Chase Rookie of the Year candidate P.J. Chesson at 1 p.m. on May 15. Chesson will fly in the backseat of the "Racer" F-16D Fighting Falcon.

The ride is part of the ongoing relationship shared between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 181st Fighter Wing.

Chesson's visit will include a brief tour of base operations and an insider's look at how the approximately 1,000 Wing members combine professionalism and teamwork to keep jets flying. Prior to takeoff, Chesson will receive extensive safety and emergency procedures training.

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Those with a penchant for numerology might examine the number four in regards to Scott Dixon:

Heading towards the Indianapolis 500 Dixon is fourth in the IndyCar championship

The Indianapolis 500 will be the fourth race of the 2006 IndyCar season.

Dixon will line up on the grid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the fourth time in his career.

For the 2003 Indianapolis 500, on his way to the IndyCar Series title, Dixon qualified fourth as a rookie.

In 2002, Dixon drove the No. 44 Target car.

Fellow New Zealander Denis Hulme won Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis in 1967 with a fourth-place finish. The following year he finished fourth, yet again.

Only four other New Zealanders have participated in the Indianapolis 500; Hulme, Graham McRae, Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren, but only the first two raced in the "500."

Dixon has been fourth fastest in practice twice.

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Medical update from Dr. Henry Bock, IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior director of medical services: Buddy Rice has been cleared to drive following his accident on May 11.

RAINOUT QUOTES:

JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, Panther Racing): (About what the rain this week has done to Panther Racing's preparation): "I think if this had not been the third year for this chassis design, it would have been a problem, but we've had these cars long enough (and) Firestone's built a little bit different tire for here this year, which changes things a little bit. But with everybody having the same motor package and the third year on the chassis, we feel very comfortable with it." (You're a student and fan of this place, how does all this bad weather affect you, personally?): "It's frustrating for me because the fans can't come out and have a great interaction with us. As far as us running or not being able to run, it doesn't really bother me either way." (How do you feel about your chances for getting in the top 11?): "I feel very good. I think that without a tow yesterday we were eighth overall, so we're comfortable."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We're a second-weekend program. This week for me has been just watching and learning. As far as track time, we're not missing any so this could be good, it kind of levels the playing field for me. I'm still hoping the first 11 get in and then next week I go for 12th and on instead of 22nd and on. As far as my take on it, I'll let it rain for a few more days. Our Honda lease requires us only to run the second week so our track time begins Wednesday. I'm hoping Wednesday and on next week are nice and clear and I get as many laps as possible." (Clearly you're probably one of the few guys that's happy it has rained all week): "Yeah, for me there's an upside and a downside. The upside is if it rains all weekend then possibly we can improve our starting position, but the downside is it's going to be very busy on the racetrack and hard to get some clean laps."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's a little frustrating. That's one of my favorite parts about the month of May, is that we can go out and run everyday, and we haven't been able to do that this May. It kind of reminds me of my first '500' when I was here with Cheever. It rained the two days leading into Pole Day and it kind of feels like dejà vu. Our cars have been good; I feel pretty comfortable. It seems like some people have been struggling a little bit, but we're all pretty confident. I think we need to get a little bit more speed to feel safe about that top 11. I think it's going to be a fight between Andretti Green, our team, Fernandez. Penske and Ganassi look pretty strong so the fight for the rest of the top 11 is going to be pretty exciting. I think it's more frustrating not being able to run, but I don't think it makes a big difference because I'm confident with what we've got."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I'm OK today. The doctors cleared me this morning. The rain is hard for our team because we wanted to run the backup car after Thursday's crash, but we are in the same position as everyone else. We hope to get some more laps in for the morning practice and make a qualifying run. With the new qualifying procedure, we are all in for a new experience with the waving off of our runs. With the weather being so unpredictable, we don't know if we will get in any practice or qualifying on the weekend. I think everyone would like to see some clear weather so we could get an idea how the cars will run in qualifying trim. Now we just have to wait and see."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It is no fun sitting around in the rain. I think everyone is anxious to get out there and run some laps. It has been a tough mentally for a lot of guys this week just because we haven't had a lot of time on the track. Once we get some more time, I think everyone will feel better about their cars. I know we aren't the only team that would like more track time, but we have no control over the weather. The conditions always change so much here at Indy. We have to be prepared for any kind of weather this weekend."

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Public Gates Open
9-11 a.m. IndyCar Series Practice
Noon-6 p.m. WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Qualifications
6 p.m. WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Winner Ceremony (Victory Podium)
Note: Subject to change due to weather.

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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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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bruce McLaren , Chris Amon , Buddy Rice , P.J. Chesson , Roger Penske , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske