IRL: All that's left for the Indy 500 is waiting

IRL: All that's left for the Indy 500 is waiting

Preludes are complete for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, now that 33 starters all completed their final checks during today's two-hour Carburetion Day practice. The exercise served as an opportunity to scrub in tires, do systems checks and,...

Preludes are complete for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, now that 33 starters all completed their final checks during today's two-hour Carburetion Day practice. The exercise served as an opportunity to scrub in tires, do systems checks and, for Kosuke Matsuura, it was another chance to lead the time sheets.

Kosuke Matsuura.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Rookie Matsuura and teammate Adrian Fernandez have dominated practice this past week and did so again. Matsuura logged 17 laps and his 11th at 219.226mph was fastest for the day. Confident of his chances in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda, the young Japanese driver noted his intent to "lead the race after 150 laps." He also thinks he can win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on his first attempt.

Is that a na?ve thought? Well, you'd have to ask Helio Castroneves, who accomplished the feat his first two tries.

Fernandez, a bit wiser and older noted, "It feels good" to be quick in final practice for his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda squad at 218.066mph. The Mexican needed only five laps to set that time, running a total of 11 early in the meet. "It means the car works well," he said. "Our worst performance this month was in qualifying and we learned some things after that. The car is consistent in any situation," Fernandez remarked.

After signing what the Target Chip Ganassi team would only announce as being "a multi-year agreement," Scott Dixon went out and turned the third- quickest lap of the day in his #1 Target Panoz G Force/Toyota at 217.391mph on his penultimate of eight total laps this morning. Dixon "pretty much sorted the car last week. We've prepared as well as we could for this race and done what we needed to do."

Scott Dixon goes out to practice.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

Vitor Meira, who said "the car feels better than I expected," was fourth for the day in his #17 Team CENTRIX Panoz G Force/Honda with a lap of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval of 217.172mph, followed by teammate Roger Yasukawa's #16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda t 217.119mph. Yasukawa agreed his "car felt great."

Tony Kanaan broke the G Force domination by turning the sixth best time of 216.171mph in the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda on his 11th of 20 laps. After announcing primary sponsorship for Sunday's race from Rent-A-Center and supportive backing from Eufora MasterCard and University Loft Co., Greg Ray went out and ran 41 needed laps in his #13 Rent-A-Center Panoz G Force/Honda with a best of 215.908mph on his 24th lap, good for seventh.

Bruno Junqueira did only 18 laps in the #36 PacifiCare Panoz G Force/Honda, his tenth tour of 215.861mph sufficient to take eighth place on the speed charts. Despite being away from the Brickyard oval for nearly two weeks, Junqueira found his car had "a little more understeer than I needed but it's hard to guess what conditions will be on race day." He did say he felt he could run 215mph all day long.

Steady Sam Hornish Jr. logged the ninth best lap today in only 12 tries. His eighth lap in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota was 215.342mph; the team decided not to put extra miles on their race car.

Rounding out the top ten, Darren Manning in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota ran 16 laps and his half-distance tour of 215.310mph was the Indy rookie's best. Pole man Buddy Rice did 14 laps of systems checks on the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda to take 11th, while Dan Wheldon put the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda 12th. Rice "did all of our leak checks and ran a few laps in traffic. The car feels great."

In other news today, Robby Gordon announced that he has asked Indy Racing League IndyCar Series veteran Jaques Lazier to spot for him on Sunday and also be prepared to drive should Gordon need to leave Indy early in order to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte. "the one thing I don't control is the weather," Gordon mused. This will be his tenth start in the Memorial Day classic.

Al Unser Jr. and his Patrick Racing team secured sponsorship for the 88th Indy 500 from Subway Restaurants, the sandwich conglomerate whose spokesman Jared Fogle is from the Indianapolis area and usually attends the 500-mile race. The #20 Subway/Stacker 2 Dallara/Chevy from the Patrick Racing stables was 20th in practice.

An oil leak cut short PJ Jones' time on the track and he didn't make it on- circuit until just over half an hour remained in the two-hour session this afternoon. Once the 35-year-old Indy rookie joined the balance of the field, he ran17 trouble-free laps with a best of 211.170mph on his 14th tour in the #98 CURB Records/Agajanian/Beck Dallara/Chevrolet.

The famous wings and wheel.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
All that's left for 33 drivers and their respective teams before Sunday is to make sure the cars have been checked, re-checked and the appropriate prayers tendered to the weather gods, who have been talking about thundershowers throughout the weekend.

With a little bit of cooperation from the fickle Indiana skies, the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race should take the green flags shortly after noon EDT on Sunday, May 30th for 200 laps of excitement.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Jaques Lazier  , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske