IRL: Birthday boy prevails at Indy

IRL: Birthday boy prevails at Indy

A fast-moving weather cell came through the Indianapolis area shortly after 1PM today, bringing a long midday pause to the second day of practice for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Lightning, thunder and a torrent of rain and wind rushed ...

A fast-moving weather cell came through the Indianapolis area shortly after 1PM today, bringing a long midday pause to the second day of practice for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Lightning, thunder and a torrent of rain and wind rushed through central Indy as teams, drivers and fans scurried for shelter.

It wasn't until nearly quarter to five in the afternoon that cars were permitted back on the track under yellow, even though the rain lasted only half an hour. Drivers received the proviso to be careful at the Turn 3 entry to the warm-up lane, which still had pockets of moisture. The green flag flew at 4:50PM, and practice began anew.

Marty Roth.
Photo by Todd Hunter - IRL.
It wasn't noisy for long, though as Canadian rookie Marty Roth performed a lazy spin in his #25 Roth Racing Dallara/Toyota in Turn 2, not touching anything but stalling his car to bring out the yellow flags once more.

The second and final driver-impacted yellow occurred with fifteen minutes remaining in the practice session, when Robby Gordon lost it in the chute between Turns 1 and 2, tried to correct but plunked his #70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Dallara/Chevrolet against the Turn 2 wall, left side first. He climbed out without injury. Any other cautions during the day were for track inspections and/or debris.

By the time 6PM rolled around, top of the order belonged to a birthday boy. Helio Castroneves celebrated his 29th birthday by turning 29 laps in his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota and running the first lap over 220mph, 220.300mph to be precise with two minutes left in the session.

"I'm extremely happy, not just for the time [and speed] but it helps. We're focused on the job," Castroneves explained. "The rain delayed everybody but we waited for a clean track and tried to be patient." He thought there was about a 2mph difference between old and new tires today, with such a green track after rain washed away the rubber.

Helio Castroneves.
Photo by Todd Hunter - IRL.
Scott Dixon held the top spot from morning until late in the day, settling for second place in his #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota at 219.569mph, turned on his 31st of 32 total laps. "It's just the second day of practice and we got a lot out of it," Dixon said. "this is the best time to take changes and try things out."

Toward the very end of the session, Tony Kanaan picked up the tempo with his lap of 219.553mph in the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda. "We're working toward qualifying and we're making progress," Kanaan noted. "It's still Monday and we can't forget that."

Sam Hornish Jr. recovered sufficiently from his upper respiratory problems over the weekend to earn the fourth quickest lap in his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota at 219.357mph. Hornish admitted, "I'm not back to 100 percent yet but definitely good enough to be in the car." He was grateful for the rain delay, which allowed Hornish to get a needed nap in the motorhome.

Adrian Fernandez' lap of 219.118mph kept him close to the top of the time sheets for much of the afternoon; he notched that tour of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on his 28th of 55 laps in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda. "I am very happy to finish in a strong position again," Fernandez noted even though, "We developed a vibration at the end of the day. We are going to check it out but, in general it was a good day."

Rookie teammate Kosuke Matsuura's #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda snagged the sixth best lap of the day, 219.034mph on his 49th of 53 laps late in the afternoon. Dario Franchitti, who was nowhere in the speed charts yesterday (25th in the T car), turned up the wick to nab seventh place for his #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda at 219.026. The Scot turned 43 laps for the day, logging his best on lap 40.

Tomas Scheckter and the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevy crew spent this Monday working on their T car all day long, to make sure they have both the primary and backup ready for action as needed. Scheckter's fast lap of 218.893mph was good for eighth place. Scheckter considered it a productive day: "We got a lot of stuff done that we needed to today."

Scott Sharp, 17th yesterday in the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota improved to ninth place today with his 55th lap (of 57) at 218.559mph. Sharp thought the rain delay presented "a nice little break to look at data and then go back out and make improvements. We made some good changes," he said.

Despite causing the second major yellow of the day with his crash - which came just after he set his personal best of 218.446mph, Robby Gordon rounded out the top ten in practice times. Gordon shrugged off the outcome: "I went down into Turn 1 and the car compressed in the corner. The rear god a little sideways," he recalled. "I tried to save it and it hooked back the other way and spun around. It is what it is," glad to walk away.

Vitor Meira, "able to test more than on Sunday," bumped the #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda of Rahal-Letterman Racing from 23rd to 11th place today in 36 laps of practice. Darren Manning logged 60 laps in his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, earning 12th place on his 25th lap of the day and working on "getting to learn the track." Dan Wheldon completed all of 17 laps in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda, earning spot #13 on his tenth tour before the rains came. "It is Saturday that matters," Wheldon said adding, "The car feels very good."

Bryan Herta.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Bryan Herta was 14th in the 37 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda after languishing in 21st with his T car yesterday. "We are making progress on the car," he said. Both Ed Carpenter (#52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy) and Alex Barron in the identical #51 machine spent much of the day working with their T cars, ending up 15th and 17th respectively. In all, seven back-up cars appeared in action this Monday afternoon.

Larry Foyt finally got on the track late this afternoon, "shaking down the brand new" orange #41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Toyota, while his nephew A.J. Foyt IV continued to learn about his #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota. "Things went pretty good for our first [full] day; the car's really comfortable right now," A.J. explained.

Thirty cars took to the track today, recording 1122 laps despite the long layover for rain. While damp weather had been expected later in the evening, middle Indiana's climate has never been known for its ability to stick with the program.

While storms have been predicted for the balance of the week, it's anyone's guess how the weather will actually turn out. Speeds are generally creeping up -- as they usually do -- making the prognostications of Dixon and Castroneves of a 225mph pole average more likely than not.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Robby Gordon , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Larry Foyt , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Marty Roth , Kosuke Matsuura , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Team Penske