FRANCHITTI LEADS FINAL PRACTICE; DIXON TAKES PIT STOP CONTEST; GUERRIERI WINS FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 25, 2012 - Dario Franchitti hopes Miller Lite Carb Day is again a good indication of Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
Franchitti, who will start the 96th Indianapolis 500 from the inside of the sixth row, topped the speed chart for the final practice session, the final opportunity for teams to fine-tune their cars before Race Day.
Franchitti, driving the No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, topped the speed chart with a quick lap of 222.360 mph with his teammate Scott Dixon (222.274 mph) and Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti (221.702 mph) right behind. Franchitti led the final practice in 2010 before winning the race.
Similarly, Scott Dixon hopes that winning the IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition could be a good omen for him.
Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, defeated Oriol Servia of Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the championship round. His pit crew received the $50,000 first prize for its speed and accuracy.
The winner of the competition has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 six times, most recently with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves in 2009. It was the first-ever win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the pit stop contest.
Also on Miller Lite Carb Day, Esteban Guerrieri overtook race leader Tristan Vautier and Gustavo Yacaman in Turn 1 on Lap 38 and went on to win the Firestone Freedom 100.
A close final two laps were expected, but the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing car driven by Jorge Goncalvez made moderate contact with the Turn 2 wall on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Lap 39, bringing out the yellow flag. He was checked at the infield care center and cleared.
Guerrieri, winning for the second time this season, pumped his fist as the No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/Sam Schmidt Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian car crossed under the checkered flag. It was the fourth consecutive year that a Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver won the race.
Carlos Munoz, who got around Vautier and Yacaman before the caution finished second with Vautier settling for third place.
Lynard Skynard headlined a concert to conclude the busy day.
MILLER LITE CARB DAY NOTEBOOK:
Bob Jenkins served as the honorary starter of Miller Lite Carb Day practice today. Jenkins is a longtime Indianapolis 500 and IZOD IndyCar Series broadcaster, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network anchor and IMS Public Address announcer.
BOB JENKINS: "Well, it's the second-most thrill I've ever had at the Speedway. The first was several years ago when I was allowed to drive A.J. Foyt's 1961 winning car around the track. But this is certainly a very close second, to get to wave the green flag and be the ceremonial starter for the final day of practice is just a huge thrill for me and something I will never forget." (On his emotions as the cars were passing by him to start practice.): "It was very emotional. I must say that my eyes got a little watery, because this place has meant so much to me over the years. I'm very, very lucky to play a small part in it."
Thirty-two drivers combined to turn 1,230 laps during final practice today, increasing the total for the month of May at IMS to 13,611 laps. There was one caution today in practice for five minutes.
INDIANAPOLIS 500 POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "The car is real good. We've got a good set-up for Race Day. It would have been nice to have had that motor for qualifying." (About Race Day heat): "The forecast has been running in the high 90s. We've known that for weeks, so we know what we're going to be setting up for. It's definitely going to be slippery. We'll deal with that (heat) on Sunday, but it's going to be hard work behind the wheel in those conditions; hard for the pit crews to keep their focus in that heat. It'll be a hot day."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "It's been a good day. The car feels pretty solid. The changes we made have been positive, and that's a good thing. We're still slow, but I'm happy with the car. It's going to be a long race, but if we can keep up the momentum up, I think we'll be OK."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a good final practice for the IZOD car. We ran the entire session. We made a lot of changes and made good use of the time. This was a good session for us. We learned a bit, and this positions us nicely as we head into the race."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "We weren't quite as good this morning as we were on Sunday afternoon in the hotter conditions. But we will still be good when it is hotter this Sunday. The track surface was cooler today than last Sunday. So I feel better about our setup for Sunday. We had a couple of issues today, so I'm glad it happened today rather than Sunday. That is what Carb Day is for. But overall, I think we'll be OK. I'm looking forward to going racing now. This week always kind of drags out now, so it felt good to be back in the car today. Now it's time to get prepared for Sunday."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "There's still a lot of unknowns. Previously we knew what to expect because we knew everybody had the same stuff. I think we are expecting a lot of unknowns. I think our car seems good. I think we can expect to see a very tight race with a lot of passing." (About practice): "For us, it was just concentrating on the car and making sure it feels decent in traffic and making sure the systems work. It's nice to come out of the warm-up (Carb Day) with confidence and know that it's a car you feel happy with. The speeds are one thing, and there are big holes. I was hanging in the back of the pack quite a bit just to get in dirty air and see how the car is. I was pretty happy - a lot happier than we were in that first week."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): "Obviously, the goal today wasn't to be the fastest. I think the car is ready. I think the track was a bit green at the start, but toward the end there, I got my good race car back. It should be good." (On any engine advantage): "Well, when you're in big packs, you're just trying to get the feel of what the car is going to feel like. I mean, I was never really turned down and seeing what we can run. We'll find out Sunday." (On passing in the slipstream): "I think the leader should just have to make the first move, and if you come off of (Turn) 4 too low, you should then have to turn into the next corner low. But I guess the new Indy rule is we have to leave a car width on the inside, which they just sprung on us this morning." (On going back to single-file restarts): "I wasn't a fan of the double-file restarts at this place, in particular. You'll see, especially the way these cars tow, it's crazy enough with single-file restarts. We're always three-, four-wide anyway. If you restart two-wide, it's a recipe for disaster." (On his confidence for the race): "I think we're definitely in it. I think it's going to be our race to lose."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "It felt good to get back in the race car. It's what I love the most. It's so great to see such a big crowd today and feel the support of the Hoosier people. The biggest thing for me today is the fact we have a really good race car. I feel very comfortable with it. I can run in traffic with no problem, so we have a good baseline. It's going to be a lot hotter in the race, but we'll have some good data to start with. I feel a lot more confident for race day."
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 99 BraunAbility-Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Honda): (About not feeling well earlier this week): "I feel fine. I'm back to normal, 100 percent. It felt great to get back out there." (About car): "I think it's going to be good. We have a nice comfortable race car. I feel like I'm good in traffic. I'm maybe not as fast on my own as I'd like to be, but we can run all day comfortably. " (Does the "500" ever feel like just another race, especially as a veteran?):"No. This is what my year is all about. It's always special."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet): "I'm really happy. We put the team to the test. They've worked really hard in the last couple of days to try to put together all of the data that we got from running the whole week, and we came up with a setup a little bit different from what we've been running. Just having the time to think and go through the notes helped a lot. Usually Carb Day is a day that you just do a couple of outings to make sure that you didn't change the car much, but we actually changed the car, and it felt really good. I'm feeling very confident for the race."
JAMES JAKES (No. No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "We had a gearbox problem all morning. We didn't really run. We did nine laps, and that was nine laps slow. The guys have got to go back, take the car apart again and find out what the problem is. It was not a good morning. Before I can even think about the race, we've got to get the car running right. The gearbox was off, so the engine wasn't the right combination. We weren't even running at full power there."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Verizon car was quite good out there today. It was pretty hot out there, which is likely what we will see in the race. We ran through our check list and we garnered a lot of useful information. We are looking good for the race."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet): "We certainly made the most out of our final practice in the Shell-Pennzoil car today. We made changes, ran in traffic, and now we have a very good understanding of the car and what we will need to do on Sunday."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "It was really good to get back in the car on Carb Day and go through the one-hour practice. All credit to the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi racing crew for putting it back together in fine form. It's quick and slippery. We have a really good setup. I'm back to being confident in our race car. We just have to stay smart on Sunday, and there's no reason the NovoLog FlexPen car can't be up front at the end, which is the team's goal."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "The Service Central car feels really good, and I think we're pretty confident going into Sunday. I'm really definitely happy with the way the car feels. We have to get a little more speed and have to get the car to tow-up a little bit better behind people, but I can follow awfully close, and I think it's a good sign of things to come. We're looking forward to getting out there and start racing."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman/Dollar General Honda): "The car has changed a lot. We've had a phenomenal car the whole month, and things are starting to change. The car is accelerating with the change. It's weird to spend the whole week trying to figure out the car, and you're feeling good the whole time. Then all of a sudden, you're not feeling so comfortable anymore, and you've got no more practice time. It's time to race! You just have to hope you roll the dice right for Sunday and come up with the right calls. (About fans and heat): "I know there's going to be a ton of loyal fans out here on Sunday, and they're going to fight through the heat for us. Everyone needs to stay hydrated, just like us drivers on Sunday. Hopefully we don't have any incidents with fans overheating."
BRYAN CLAUSON (No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman/Curb-Agajanian Honda): "It was a busy day, since it was the last day everybody gets to work on their cars. Everyone was out there putting the finishing touches on their cars. Our car was pretty good this morning. We've got a couple of things to work on before Race Day on Sunday, but we made some good changes during the session to give us a good direction before we roll out Sunday on Race Day. (About racing in Hoosier Hundred USAC race tonight): "We're going to get a little extra practice in tonight when I run the Hoosier Hundred. I'm going over to the Indiana State Fairgrounds tonight, and it will be a lot of fun. Like the Indy 500, it's another great race with a lot of tradition that I haven't won. I'd like to add my name to the list of guys who have won that."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "It didn't feel quite as good as it did on Sunday, so we may go back on a couple of little changes. I feel pretty confident going into the race. We know what we've got, so we just need to repeat that, and we should move forward." (About heat Sunday): "It's going to change things on the car, but we have enough data on the computer to figure out what we need to change, so we'll be OK."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply Honda): "We worked on traffic and full downforce; we ran more downforce than a few of the other cars. I suspect that they were trying to match their downforces from today to what they believe they will be running on Sunday in warmer temperatures. We went the other way and ran as much downforce as we thought we'd be running in the race to try to match the gears to it. We didn't put up a stunning time, but what we did is what we think where the race is going to be, and I don't think the guys in front of us will be running as little wing or running the speeds that they ran today. When you're starting 26th on the grid like me, it's probably better to be running too much downforce rather than not enough."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "We improved the car in a few areas. I was reasonably happy with the balance. We still need to improve some areas we weren't very happy with, but we improved the car from (last) Sunday. I was able to run in traffic, which was definitely good preparation for Sunday. The most important thing now is to analyze the data correctly and make the changes we think will improve the car for the Indy 500 but obviously make sure we don't misjudge it. To prepare for the race mentally, you just need to keep your focus. There is good excitement building. Tomorrow will be a good autograph session and the parade. You can feel the atmosphere coming. The Indy 500 is here!"
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda):"I think we're in good shape. I really like the Sonny's BBQ car. We've got a couple of little things to do, but generally speaking, I think we'll just put it away and bring it out Race Day. I'm really pleased with it. Race Day is going to be hot and sticky, and the track is going to be slick. We'll just try to move forward whenever we can pick our way through, be smart and be there at the end."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (No. 30 Office Depot/RLL Racing Honda): "The car wasn't as fast as we wanted. It's frustrating because I am running flat-out behind guys. and they just pull away. The balance can be a little better, but we are lacking in speed because others just pull away. In practice, we ran this wing (configuration), and I could stay with guys with less wing, but right now they just pull away. We will keep looking at the data and see what the problem is."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "I don't think we really had an expectation going into the practice. It would have probably been a little nicer as a racetrack if it had been hotter. I think our primary concern for the race is what the car is going to do and what the downforce level you're going to need to run because of the heat. We played around with some things today and did a little bit more running (46 laps) than we were expecting, so I think we're as set as we're going to be for Race Day. We were guessing on a couple changes in anticipation of the weather on Sunday, and also were trying to make sure we know what we've got. You certainly don't want to be leaving Carb Day practice with too many questions. We certainly feel good about how our car runs in traffic. I think it's just a matter of adjusting for the conditions on Sunday."
KATHERINE LEGGE (No. 6 TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "We ran a fair amount of laps out there. It was the first time I've ran in traffic. We were being very conservative, both myself with the traffic and the car having a lot of downforce in it. I think the car was good in traffic. My crew has done a great job. I think that we're going to have a great race on Sunday. My team has me drinking Pedialite today, hydrating for the heat Sunday. That's probably more of a big deal for the crew guys who are out in it all day. It's going to be really slick out there (on track), and we were hoping for similar conditions today so we could simulate it, but it was a loot cooler ambient and track temperature than what we expect Race Day."