Open testing for the Futaba Freedom 100 set to take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 22nd went off with nary a hitch today. Despite starting at 10:10AM due to cold temperatures, rather than the set 9AM kickoff time, 16 Menards Infiniti...
Open testing for the Futaba Freedom 100 set to take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 22nd went off with nary a hitch today. Despite starting at 10:10AM due to cold temperatures, rather than the set 9AM kickoff time, 16 Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars and drivers took laps around the famed 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.
The Indy Racing League's official ladder series prepares drivers for the premier IndyCar Series, using spec Dallara chassis, Infiniti V8 engines and Firestone tires. This marks the third season for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, which launched the careers of A.J. Foyt IV, Mark Taylor and Ed Carpenter, all whom graduated to the Indy cars.
In the morning session, which lasted from 10:10 to noon, there was a sole track inspection caution and Thiago Medeiros, who won race #2 at Phoenix International Raceway by a full lap over his competition, was the fastest driver on the track at 47.1910 seconds (190.714mph).
Fourteen drivers took a total of 433 laps in the morning session without any problems, but not everyone was on the oval during the first go-round. A full complement of 16 drivers were on-circuit in the afternoon, for 620 uneventful laps.
In the afternoon session, held under warmer, low-70s conditions with only partly cloudy skies and minimal winds, Medeiros kicked it up another notch and was, again the fastest driver on the Brickyard oval. On his 32nd of 37 total laps this afternoon, Thiago put in a 46.9928-second lap (191.519mph) to take the top slot for the full day.
"It was wonderful," the Brazilian explained. "We were quick in the morning and then quickest in the afternoon too. The track will, of course, be very different in May because there will be 10 days of IndyCar Series rubber" before Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice begins. "We're just trying to find the baseline setup to start the race weekend since we won't have much time to work" at that point.
Second for the afternoon and for the meeting, Medeiros' teammate at Sam Schmidt Motorsports Arie Luyendyk Jr. posted a tour of 47.0527 seconds (191.275mph), set on his 20th of 21 total laps this afternoon.
After being third in the morning session Arie was "really happy with the car. On the lunch break we made a lot of changes, and I really didn't like the car this afternoon, even though we went quicker because we got a draft. On our own," he alluded, "it's fast." Looking ahead, "It's a different day coming up in May and the track can be a lot different."
Canadian Marty Roth, who will attempt to qualify and race in both the Futaba Freedom 100 and 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race this May logged the third quickest time of the day, his 47.1077-second, 191.052mph lap set mid-afternoon on his 65th of 83 laps. Roth ran more than anyone with 113 laps around the Brickyard preparing him for Monday's IndyCar Series Rookie Orientation Program.
The 45-year-old's big advantage this afternoon after lying seventh in the morning was spotter Pancho Carter, who was "spotting for me in the corners and helping us. Our game plan was to bang off as many laps as we could before the big rookie test on Monday and we did over 300 miles. I feel very comfortable and I can't wait to get out there Monday," Roth crowed.
Paul Dana, driving Hemelgarn Racing's #91 Ethanol machine relied on his morning lap of 47.2227 seconds (190.586mph) on lap 17 of 20 to garner fourth position on the day. The one-time journalist, first out of the pits in afternoon practice is working through his confidence level in the car.
"Last year I was new to the series and this year is a little more normal. Experience counts. Going into Turn 1 flat out," Dana gestured, "it's one of the most intimidating corners in motorsports. Your brain has to match your heart."
This was Phil Giebler's first trip around Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the #2 Western Union Speed Team driver finds it, "A unique place. Each corner has its own unique characteristics and setup-wise, it's really difficult to settle on a direction.
"As soon as you gain one thing," Giebler discovered, "you have to compensate. Let's just say I learned what not to do," en route to fifth for the day with an afternoon lap 47.6498 seconds (188.878mph). "All in all I'm pretty happy. The track is completely different from what I imagined."
Gary Peterson was amazed by the Brickyard's 2.5-mile oval after turning the sixth best lap in his #27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers-sponsored Dallara. "The track is so intense," he said after running an afternoon lap of 47.7080 seconds (188.648mph), one of 110 the Californian would complete. "You've got to hit your mark on every corner; it's amazing how accurate you need to be."
Brad Pollard, first on the circuit eight minutes after the track went green was seventh for the day. His 47.7580-second, 188.450mph lap came on his 27th of 41 morning laps. "I was surprised at how slow it felt, amazingly in slow motion and that's a testament to Kenn Hardley and the crew. I'm excited about this year," in the #24 XBOX/Team ISI Dallara, "and we have some things working to move up to the IRL next year."
Eighth today, Billy Roe has driven at IMS in an Indy car, so his afternoon lap of 47.7732 seconds (188.390mph) felt like loafing. "I've you've been around here at 220mph, this feels like show motion, but this is a great stepping stone. They have the same driving style as an Indy Car but they're just a hair smaller," Roe explained.
At the last moment, Jeff Simmons jumped into A.J. Foyt's #14 Delphi/Futaba car for what he termed a "shakedown." With a total of only 43 laps for the day, the two-timer (two wins last year and two Barber Dodge Pro Series championships) Simmons was ninth for the day at 47.8094 seconds (188.247mph).
"It's great that A.J. Foyt and Delphi are giving me a chance to get back into a car and I'm really thankful. It didn't take long to get back up to speed and we didn't change much. We know the car is good from last year," when it won here with Ed Carpenter up.
Rookie Leo Maia, who finished third in his first Menards Infiniti Pro Series race at Phoenix in the #33 Brian Stewart Racing entry sponsored by his Barber Dodge Pro Series scholarship as last year's champion, well, he finished tenth today. Maia caused a wee bit of clean-up on pit road when he had an oil leak and needed to be towed in.
Of his first time at the Brickyard, "It was pretty scary, heading over to Turn 1 at 180mph, looking at a concrete wall right in front of you. It's pretty intimidating. But once you get used to it, you build up speed slowly, gradually and get comfortable," Maia advised.
Rolando Quintanilla was 11th in the #10 Roquin Motorsports Dallara, followed by Jesse Mason's #3 Segway Human Transportation car from Brian Stewart Racing. Matt Beardsley took 13th in his #12 Jugular/Landtitle car, while Jon Herb was 14th in the #6 Racing Professionals Dallara.
Absolute rookie Taylor Fletcher took 15th in the third #99 Sam Schmidt entry, while midget standout Jay Drake just did a shakedown in his #25 Automatic Fire Sprinklers machine. He got to spend "only an hour learning the tricks of this place. I think I need a couple hours more," he grinned after his first time around the historic 2.5-mile oval.
"Gary [Peterson, team owner] gave me an opportunity to come out and run his second car. To run this type of race car is something I've always wanted to do; it's been a dream of mine." After trying to get a clear track and make his own laps Drake admitted, "This is a lot different than the racing I normally do. It's very exciting. I can't wait to come back and race in May."
At the mid-day break, Menards Infiniti Pro Series director Roger Bailey and series driving advisor Rick Mears were a bit apprehensive about the speeds they were seeing. By the end of the afternoon, they seemed a bit less concerned. "I'm not worried about the high speeds," Mears said at the close of the day. "We're factoring in the draft and these perfect conditions. It'll be totally different come May."