Practice for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 resumed on Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the sixth day of preparations for the May 30th race. The field continued to demonstrate a strong international flavor with competitors from no fewer than six different countries and five continents placing high on the scoring pylon at day's end.
Fastest among them was Brazilian Tony Kanaan with a best lap at 226.775 mph; followed by Canadian Paul Tracy at 226.322 mph and young Japanese driver Hideki Mutoh on 226.230 mph.
American-born Marco Andretti was fourth quick at 226.108 mph and an Englishman, 2005 Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon, took fifth on the day with the last lap in the 226 range (226.080 mph).
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (Brazil) was sixth, followed by Australia's Will Power, Alex Tagliani of Quebec, and Dublin, Ohio's Graham Rahal. Idaho's Davey Hamilton picked up the tenth spot.
"The car felt good," Kanaan said afterwards. "We worked on qualifying today, as a lot of others did. We're looking forward to seeing what happens on Saturday (Pole Day)."
Final rules regarding Saturday qualifying for the race were made public today. The "Fast Nine" competitors in the new format for pole position have the option of passing another car already on-track during their qualifying attempt during the final ninety minutes. In addition, a previously posted time may remain on the board despite an attempt to better it. Finally, the times posted prior to the "Pole Shootout" segment will determine pit location on race day.
The fastest lap of the month continues to be the one posted by Helio Castroneves on Sunday, May 16, of 227.046 mph. Teams have had little track-time since Sunday to improve upon Castroneves' time with dicey weather wreaking havoc on the best-laid plans. Kanaan acknowledged as much in his remarks, venturing his personal opinion that a Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske car and driver will take the pole for this year's race. Both teams are amongst those who campaign in the season long IndyCar Series.
"Mentally it (the new qualifying format) is going to be very stressful," Kanaan said. "The people who have a good car will still have a good car. Those who are already on the edge will feel it even more."
The Indy intrigue machine moved into a higher gear on Thursday when Bruno Junqueira moved onto the track for a "shakedown run" in the Bryan Herta Autosport car designated for rookie Sebastian Saavedra. Junqueira's tour of the 2.5-mile oval at 222.278 mph bested Saavedra's 221.849 mph, which was thirty-fifth of thirty-seven cars who recorded miles on the Brickyard surface. E.J. Viso returned from his crash of Wednesday to post 25 laps, the best one at 220.617 mph.
There are 44 cars approved by tech inspection so far to compete on the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thirty-seven drivers have seen track time this month of May with a total of 3562 laps turned. Alex Lloyd ran 81 laps on Thursday, the most of any competitor. A total of 1590 laps were made on Thursday during the two hours and 35 minutes of green flag conditions.
Windy conditions prevailed on Thursday with gusts from east to west crossing the main straightaway at the "yard of bricks" start/finish line. The ambient temperature read 68 degrees Fahrenheit at the opening, with a coolish 76 degree Fahrenheit track temperature. Rain once again played a part in the day's action, reducing the planned six-hour. The track closed early at 5:13 PM EDT.
Fast Friday promises to bring the best speeds of the month to the Brickyard while today some of teams appeared to be running qualifying set-ups. On-track activity commences at Noon EDT and continues to 6 PM EDT. Speedway gates open to the public at 9 AM EDT. Patrons are urged to bring their umbrellas, however, as the forecast calls for rain.