IRL: Indy 500: Opening Day news and notes

ANDRETTIS POSTS TOP SPEED AS ROP OPENS PREPARATIONS AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 7, 2006 -- Marco Andretti and P.J. Chesson each passed through the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on the Opening Day of...

ANDRETTIS POSTS TOP SPEED AS ROP OPENS PREPARATIONS AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 7, 2006 -- Marco Andretti and P.J. Chesson each passed through the four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on the Opening Day of preparations for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Andretti, driving the No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, lapped the 2.5-mile oval in 40.8122 seconds, 220.522 mph.

"I think it started out pretty good," Andretti said. "It was easier than I thought to get up to speed. At some points, I was quicker than they wanted. But things definitely went well. I was certainly happy when I found out I passed my rookie test. I wanted to pass it early so we could spend the day working on the car and the set-up. I was comfortable with different lines all around the track. We stayed pretty consistent with the downforce on the car and were working on car comfort. I think we ended up pretty comfortable." Several veteran drivers turned laps as part of refresher tests, including Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Townsend Bell and Arie Luyendyk Jr. Michael Andretti led all drivers with a fast lap of 40.7241, 220.999 mph.

"It was really a special day for sure," the elder Andretti said. "It started out special as we kicked off the ceremonies. To have my dad on the right side and my son on the left was neat for sure. I'm happy with the car. We got up so speed right away. I'm really happy with the way I felt in the car. Marco also got some speed out of his car, too. It was a good day for both us. So far so good."

Rookie Orientation and driver refresher tests continue May 8. The first practice open to all veterans of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 9.

PRACTICE NOTES:

On this date in 1990, Rick Mears led Day 3 of practice for the second consecutive year. Mears recorded a lap of 224.389 mph in his Team Penske machine.

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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.

TOM ANDERSON (co-owner and managing director, Fernandez Racing): "I was there with Team McLaren. We brought three cars. We had two cars and a backup car. The drivers were going to be Chris Amon and Denny Hulme. The first day the track opened, which back then was May 1, we brought all three cars out for the morning warm up and Bruce McLaren drove the third car. All three cars went out on the racetrack together and there were several experienced Indy-people behind them. They all said, 'Oh my God, they brought three cars and they all run on the first day.'"

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Did you know?: If both Michael and Marco Andretti make the field for the 90th Indianapolis 500, it will mark only the fourth time in Indianapolis 500 history that a father/son combination has competed against each other. (Mario and Michael Andretti, Mario and Jeff Andretti and Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser, Jr.)

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PDM Racing announced that 2004 Indy Pro Series^Ù champion Thiago Medeiros will drive the No. 18 PDM Racing Honda-powered Panoz at the Indianapolis 500.

Medeiros, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, currently drives for PDM in the USAC Silver Crown Series. The PDM effort is being supported by STP and Royal Spa, with more sponsorship announcements coming soon.

PAUL DIATLOVICH (President, PDM Racing): "We have been building a great relationship with Thiago over the past several months through our Silver Crown program, and we couldn't be happier to have him drive for PDM this month at Indy. We have been working on Thiago's program for some time without his knowledge of it, which was very difficult to do considering the amount of time that he likes to spend in the shop. Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised."

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "This is unbelievable. I knew that the guys were working on something for the '500,' but never thought it was for me. I am very thankful to everyone involved in putting this together." (About racing at Indianapolis): "I plan to work my way up to speed, and not rush into getting fast right away. Even though we won't be out until the second week of practice, that will still be enough time to get comfortable."

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Marco Andretti, driver of the #26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, took the honor of being the first driver on track for Opening Day at the 90th Indianapolis 500, an honor that sometimes has been hard-fought over the years. The best start by the driver first on track over the last 25 years has been by Raul Boesel, who started second in 1994. The best finish is shared by Eliseo Salazar, who finished fourth in 1995 and Danica Patrick, who finished fourth in 2005.

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Scott Sharp may be the biggest beneficiary of Barbaro's win in the 132nd Kentucky Derby on May 6. In two of the last three years, the winners of the Indianapolis 500 and Kentucky Derby have shared the same number. Funny Cide and Gil de Ferran shared the No. 6 in 2003, and Smarty Jones and Buddy Rice shared 15 in 2005. Barbaro wore No. 8, the same number as Sharp's Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Overall, the Derby and Indianapolis 500 winners have shared the same number eight times.

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Veteran Indianapolis 500 entrants Kent Baker and Greg Beck have formed Team Leader Motorsports in collaboration with Bob Hillis, Mike Curb, Cary Agajanian and Turner Woodard and have officially entered the 2006 Indianapolis 500- Mile Race. Team Leader/Curb/Agajanian-Beck Motorsports will field the #97 Team Leader Special for Indianpolis 500 veteran Stephan Gregoire of France. Both Baker and Beck are long-time participants in the Indianapolis 500. Baker fielded cars in the late 1980s and early 1990s with his own team, R. Kent Baker Racing, while Beck has fielded cars for more than 20 years.

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Clarification on entry of #97: The team met the entry deadline but asked that the IRL hold the release because the team had not acquired a chassis. Since then, the team has formalized the chassis purchase and secured Stephan Gregoire as its driver.

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Andretti Green Racing driver and 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan participated in the Runner's High Tri-Miami Triathlon Sunday, May 7. As a member of the Kanaan Racing team which was entered in the Male Relay category, Kanaan competed in the cycling portion of the event, completing the 40k (24 mile) course in 1:10:23.

Kanaan Racing won the Relay category, which consisted of a 40K Bicycle leg and 10K Run -- 10k and a 1,500-meter Swim with an overall time of 2:22:23.

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a good workout. Today is my last day to be at home, so this was a good way to see my friends and compete at the same time. I would have liked to have done the entire distance, but I have a long month ahead of me, and I didn't want to wear myself completely down. Hopefully, my month at the Speedway will get off to as good as start as the triathlon was for me."

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Selected quotes from Mario Andretti following his ceremonial lap with his son, Michael, and grandson, Marco.

MARIO ANDRETTI (1969 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The car just ran beautiful, and as you (Tom Carnegie) said, it didn't stop so we could have just kept right on going, so that's a good omen." (How was it driving around the Speedway with three generations of your family?): "Very emotional for us in a very positive way. It's something you can never plan for but it's happening, and it just happened that I was able to share this day with both Michael and Marco, and this is a beginning for something very exciting for them this month." (Is it difficult to draw the line between being a coach and a father?): "I've never really been a coach, except that I'm a bouncing board. If there's a question there that maybe I can answer, I will, like parents usually will." (So Michael and Marco are battling on the last lap, who do you pull for?): "I think whoever has got it is going to go for it. We talked it, even when I was driving with Mike and Jeff (Mario's sons), if the situation comes down (to us), there's no favors. We all go for it." (How does it feel to have three generations at the track together?): It's special because it's something you can never plan, but a year ago we could have never even thought about this thing, and the fact that Indianapolis is honoring us with this opportunity, it's something that I cherish very much." (Is it important for you to see someone in your family continuing the racing tradition?): "It's important if they want to do it. That's the bottom line, the most important part: that the desire comes from within. Marco wants to do this, he's happy about doing this, and that makes me happy, of course. To me, as far as pride, there's nothing that a father or grandfather can be more proud of than his own son and grandson following in his so-called family business." (On his debut here in 1965): "It was a great beginning for me here at Indianapolis with that Dean Van Lines team, and to come here actually was pretty cold turkey because the car didn't arrive until late, but the car worked immediately, it w as all about timing and I was very fortunate of that. Clint Brawner and Jim McGee really gave me a good car, and here we go, we finished third and we continued with this car because in present trim we put this thing on pole in 1967, so this car had a three-year life here at Indianapolis. I had a wonderful time here over the years, I can tell you that a lot of people think we've been unlucky because we didn't win more than once but I'd say we've been very lucky because I've been up front and led this race for many, many times and that's what brought satisfaction to me. So I have nothing but positive memories of my driving here at Indianapolis."

POST PRACTICE QUOTES:

P.J. CHESSON (No. 91 Carmelo Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It went really well today. We nailed our rookie test pretty much right away, incident free. The car felt really good. We've come in and put the car down to go over some stuff, make some changes so we can go back out there and hammer it. I never ran a Pro Series car here, so these are my first laps here, other than that school bus over at the museum, and that old bastard, he knows the line man. He's doing all right, and you hear the same story. We're going to go out again tomorrow and just keep doing what we're doing and hopefully we'll get to where we need to be. I'm very excited. This is a great place."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We got out late, like 3:45 p.m., we only had about an hour. It well, I'm a little disappointed in the speed but we basically are chasing a big push so they did that for me just to get used to the car. We'll get there tomorrow, we've got a full day of running and we've got all the bugs worked out so we're pretty happy with everything. At least this month we've got more time to practice before we get down to business." (Compare your mindset between last year's last-minute qualifying attempt to this year): "It feels great, obviously last year was a rush deal and this year we can prepare more and sit down. Tonight I can think about today, and tomorrow I can think about things instead of having everything crammed into two days. It's a lot better this year and hopefully our results show that." (Are you just as nervous as last year, or with more time are you more at ease?): "I'm just as nervous but at least now we have more time to prepare; better crew and better equipment around me so hopefully we can get this thing going."

ARIE LUYENDYK (Owner, Luyendyk Racing): "It was like a shakedown, really, we have a couple of bugs to work out in the car, so he's not really comfortable in the car yet with his arms. He's kind of tight in there and doesn't have enough space. He's quite tall for this sport, actually. They've got to work tonight on the seat and the steering column." (After all your years here how does it feel to see your son do this?): "Well, I think it's kind of a nerve-wracking deal but at the same time I do enjoy the way we're doing it now over last year. Now I was able to assemble a team of guys that I worked with in the past like Skip Faul, crew chief of ours at Treadway Racing in '97, and past that, and Tim Wardrop, the engineer I worked with at Treadway and Menards, and Hemelgarn years ago. I've worked with Tim for so many years. To see those guys on our team, it's a lot of fun to have them around." (Are you acting as coach for him, or are you standing back?): "I like him to get more advice from other guys rather than myself, I don't like to be in his ear the whole time. Skip's always been a good motivator for myself back then and he can do the same for Junior, so I try to let him do as much as he can for the other guys on the team. If I need to step in and give my two cents then I will, but I'm not constantly trying to give him advice because you can overdo that too."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 A1 TEAM USA Geico Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "It was great to get back in the car and run down the strait a ways of Indianapolis. It felt really good. The guys have really worked super hard to get this car out on the track today. Three days ago this car was in a million pieces. I'm really proud of all the guys at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at putting a great car together for me. What can I say, we're back." (About racing with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "The team knows an awful lot, it ain't their first time here, and it isn't my first time here. With all the data acquisition equipment on the cars these days, what normally happens is the teams tell the driver what to do, instead of the driver telling the team what to do. We'll take what the car is going to give us and go from there." (How long do you think it will take to get back at the top of your game?) "It's going to dictate on how this car works. We're going to do everything we can to get the car working and go from there. We're ready. We got out here with 45 minutes to go. Now's not the time to go out and try to run any lap times, go wide open on our first day, or try any trick stuff." (What is the biggest difference in car feel from when you ran here last?) "Nothing. We did not run enough to get a good feel. The only thing I can say is that there is definitely a difference in the power of the engine that I've had in the past. Hands down, the Honda engine I ran today is the strongest IRL engine I've ever run around here."

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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 Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Stephan Gregoire , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Raul Boesel , Tony Kanaan , Townsend Bell , Mario Andretti , Denny Hulme , Bruce McLaren , Chris Amon , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Jeff Andretti , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , P.J. Chesson , Turner Woodard , Danica Patrick , Al Unser , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing