HORNISH TOPS INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE; J. ANDRETTI LEADS NON-QUALIFIERS INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 18, 2007 -- Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed chart as qualified teams continued preparations for the 91st Running of the...
HORNISH TOPS INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE; J. ANDRETTI LEADS NON-QUALIFIERS
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 18, 2007 -- Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed chart as qualified teams continued preparations for the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Hornish recorded the fastest lap of the day, 39.990 seconds, 225.006 mph, driving his back-up car. Scott Dixon was second fastest with a lap of 224.458 mph, also in a back-up car.
Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Marco Andretti rounded out the top five.
Another Andretti, Panther Racing's John Andretti was the fastest among drivers who have not yet qualified for the 33-car field. Andretti's top lap was 222.830 mph.
Roger Yasukawa, Marty Roth, rookie Phil Giebler, two-time "500" winner Al Unser Jr. and Jon Herb also were non-qualified drivers who turned laps faster than 220 mph.
Medical update from Dr. Mike Olinger, IRL director of medical services: "Stephan Gregoire was released from Methodist Hospital today. Though he is feeling well and is experiencing only minimal pain, Stephan will not be cleared to compete in remaining Indianapolis 500 activities this month."
Chastain Motorsports owner Tom Chastain has named Roberto Moreno to replace the injured Stephan Gregoire in his entry for the 91st Indianapolis 500. Moreno will be required to complete Indianapolis 500 refresher testing, according to IndyCar Series officials
TOM CHASTAIN (Owner, Chastain Motorsports): "We've given the ride to Roberto Moreno. He's here today to get his seat fitted. It is very unfortunate that Stephan couldn't proceed with us. I haven't known another driver other than Stephan. He's the only driver that I've ever known, but we need somebody with experience to come in here and do the job real quick, and from what I've been told, Roberto is the guy that can get the job done, so he's here." (When will we see the car on track with Roberto?): "Tomorrow, on the car. We had a backup car, and we're transferring parts from one car to the other now, so it should be ready for tomorrow."
Beck Motorsports has named Alex Barron to drive the No. 98 CURB Records entry in the 91st Indianapolis 500. Barron, the 2002 Indianapolis 500 Chase Co-Rookie of the Year, has raced two IndyCar Series events this season with the team.
GREG BECK (Owner, Beck Motorsports): "We're going to run Alex (Barron) today. Obviously, he's been in the car all year. He's the best choice for us. We got some things sorted out the last couple of days, and it will enable us to run. We're still working on sponsorship, but hopefully it will come. Alex will be running the Dallara, and we're going to go out this afternoon and run him and see where we are."
The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and Sam Schmidt Motorsports play host to 65 guests as a part of its "Day at the Races" program at 12:30 p.m. today in the Andretti Green Racing hospitality tent. Also, at 1 p.m., a special presentation will take place. The event includes a catered lunch, a speech from Sam Schmidt and the foundation's president, Ida Cahill, and a tour of the paddock area of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Similar programs are planned for the race weekends at the Milwaukee Mile, Iowa Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Kentucky Speedway, and the Chicagoland Speedway.
Former Purdue men's basketball coach Gene Keady was the honorary starter before today's session.
GENE KEADY: (About waving the flag): "It was fun, very exciting. Kind of intimidating with that car coming at you. I've always been a big race fan. I really appreciate them asking me to do this today. I got the figure-8's down (waving the flag). That's how I hit my golf ball, so I'm a natural." (How was that Pace Car ride?): "We went about 90 (mph). He (Mel Harder) probably would have gone faster had I asked him to, but it was fun."
AAA School Safety Patrollers Caleb Jarrell and Taylor Pitzer, from Kettering, Ohio, will be VIP guests of AAA on Race Day, May 27, and will hand the green flag to Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, the race's honorary starter.
Jarrell and Pitzer are being rewarded and saluted for their bravery while serving as AAA School Safety Patrollers at Southdale Elementary School in Kettering. On the morning of Nov. 8, 2006, Jarrell and Pitzer were on patrol when 7-year-old Tori Roberts attempted to cross the street. At the same time, a van ran a red light, and when they realized the van was not going to stop, Jarrell and Pitzer forced the girl back onto the sidewalk and out of harm's way.
Roberts' mother, Kathleen, states that if it were not for their actions, Tori would not be alive today.
Jarrell, age 10, and Pitzer, age 11, were honored in April with AAA's Lifesaving Award, at a special ceremony hosted by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters in Arlington, Va. The award recognizes patrollers who put themselves in harm's way in order to save the lives of others.
AAA started the national school safety patrol program in 1920. Today, the AAA School Safety Patrol is an organization of 550,000 boys and girls nationwide. Many famous Americans have been safety patrollers, including former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Senator John Warner of Virginia, three current members of the U.S. Supreme Court, 21 astronauts and six Olympic gold medalists.
The No. 18 PDM Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven by Jimmy Kite is carrying a decal reading "In Memory of Roxie Lott Strish."
Strish, a former Speedway, Ind., resident, died April 5 at age 45. She formerly raced in quarter-midget, Super Vee, Formula Ford and Formula 3 competition. Strish was a frequent visitor to IMS and Gasoline Alley.
A total of 47 cars are at the Speedway. Forty-three have passed technical inspection. Thirty-four drivers have been on the track to date, turning 1,768 practice laps today and 9,863 laps this month. Tony Kanaan turned 104 laps today, most of any driver. Vitor Meira has turned 446 laps this month, most of any driver. A total of 100 IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers have passed physical examinations at the Clarian Medical Center. There were nine cautions today for a total of one hour, six minutes.
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "It was a nice day out there today, and tomorrow's going to be even better. We're going to put the car away early today and come back out tomorrow to work on it a bit more. We feel pretty good with the Team Penske car thus far, but we know we have to get it exactly right before Race Day because there's no room for error at the Indy 500."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest of the day): "We were sort of average in the early afternoon in traffic. We couldn't get as close as we'd like. We had a few changes later in the day, and it was quite nice. We ran with the AGR cars, and everybody was giving each other a fair time behind. I'm pretty happy. We'll make some changes for tomorrow and see how they work."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest of the day): "We had a productive day of work today in the Team 7-Eleven car. We turned quite a few laps and definitely learned some things today. There's always work that can be done, and we'll get out tomorrow and try some things, but I'm happy with where we are right now."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest of the day): "The best way to simulate race conditions is to run with your teammates, and with five cars, it really helps a lot. We didn't have Michael (Andretti) out there because of some changes being made, but the four cars went out there and ran and even had some other cars join us. I think we got a good feeling for what we are going to need on the Canadian Club car."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest of the day): "We didn't run as much as our teammates did today, but we figured out where we stand, and that's good. The NYSE car is just about where it needs to be for the race. We'll spend some time tomorrow working in traffic with our teammates and see if we can find a bit more speed."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh fastest of the day; polesitter for 91st Indianapolis 500): "Today we were working on making the Team Penske car handle well in traffic. Early on, the car was a little inconsistent, but by the end of the day, we made decent progress. We're pretty limited on our mileage at this point, but we're hoping to get back out tomorrow to make some final adjustments before Race Day. We're really close to where we want to be, and we're going to keep fine tuning the car until we're forced to park it before Race Day."
MARTY ROTH (No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest non-qualified driver): "We're keeping our nose to the grind. We're limited on mileage right now, so we're choosing our laps. We go out for a couple of laps and then come in and make a couple changes. I'd love to be out there, pounding out the laps, but unfortunately, we can't. We do small increments, and then make changes very methodically. Things are going in the right direction. We're going to go out and run in the morning and then stick it in the show. It's the best race car I've had in a long time. Things are jelling pretty good."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 50 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest non-qualified driver): "We found a little more speed today. Our last lap had a little more on it, but then we ran into traffic coming down the backstretch. The car feels very comfortable after the changes we made this morning, so we parked it late today, and we'll get up to speed again the morning."
JON HERB (No. 19 Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest non-qualified driver): "We were able to run 46 laps, and the car felt pretty good early in the day. We were able to run several laps in the 219-220 range. The car developed a push as the track temperature increased, and we just tried to run in traffic with a Race Day setup. We will trim the car out and run some laps tomorrow morning, then qualify as earlier as possible and establish a good four-lap average."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 33 Camping World Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest non-qualified driver): "The car's just been fantastic. Panther (Racing) put it together, Vitor (Meira) drove it, the setup has been pretty consistent from where we started. We trimmed it out a little for qualifying, just been on qualifying mode and not running with any traffic. That lap is without a tow; I'm pretty happy with where the car's at. Just have a couple things I want to do for me, feel-wise. They're on it, I wish we could line up today and get it out of the way. One thing is if you're qualified, the other is if you're qualifying. I'd like to be on Ed's (Carpenter) program right now, which is race stuff, but after two days, today was awesome. Yesterday was good, but with the weather today, everything just clicked. We made three (qualifying) runs today. The first was in the 219 (mph) average, the second was in the 220s, third was probably 221 average, so I'm pretty happy with that."
(I'd think you had some jitters before yesterday. Does that feel like a distant memory? Does it feel like 13 years?): "I feel really good in the car. I was thinking last night, 13 years, why does it feel so unfamiliar to me, but I haven't been here for three years either, even in a Cup car. They've ground the track since then and done some other things. If somebody's really good through Turn 1, I'd like to talk to them, that's probably the most frustrating corner to get to. It's probably the most frustrating to get to because right now I'm arriving at it as quickly as I can, but I'd for it to somehow arrive a little slower so I can get my line (laughs). I'm all over the place down there, but everywhere else I feel pretty good about it. If I don't clip the grass in qualifying, I'll be OK. At least I won't have Al (Unser) Sr. and my cousin (Michael Andretti) coming down and telling me I can't do that. They told me, 'Get off the NASCAR line.' I don't do it on purpose. I turn in, I'm going too fast and I can't just stop and change where I want to be. And then when I try to do something different I mess up and not leave myself enough room on the exit. Everybody gets a push off (Turn) 1 for whatever reason, so I like to leave myself a little room, but then I get too much room clipping down there. If I can do that for four laps and do it right, that will dictate how fast I go because (Turns) 2, 3 and 4 have been really nice for me."
(What has been the biggest change from 13 years ago?): "Some of the electronics and the shift in the car. I'm still trying to understand pieces of it, so I ask a lot of questions. Normally a gearbox guy you'd never talk to, now I spend a lot of time with them and Honda going through some of the different things to learn how to use them and take advantage of them. A 500-mile race here, pit stops are critical if they're under green. I'm not a rookie, but I'm pretty much a rookie. That's how I feel when I get in the cockpit. There's things I haven't seen before. Nice thing is I don't have to adjust the boost. Every other race I had here I prayed I got a good pop-off valve and sit there and adjust the waste gates. There are some things that are easier in the car. Weight jackers, back then, used to be hydraulic, and you had to dial them and you didn't know where you were at. Now you just pull a couple paddles and it tells you up on your steering wheel. It's all gotten better, tremendously safer. The wings create more stability. I haven't been in traffic, but watching traffic, I could have never run that close in the past. And the wind yesterday, we would never run in those conditions in the past, so that's a big deal. It makes the cars more consistent, more raceable, more driveable in that regard. But they're still plenty difficult, and I've got a lot to learn. I'll be asking a lot of questions coming up to the race."
ALEX BARRON (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 10th-fastest non-qualified driver): "It was a long morning. We actually had the car together, and then we had a few things that we had to re-do on the car. We had some data problems, so it stuck us behind about two hours. We actually got about only an hour and a half of running. We were pretty methodical about what we did. We didn't quite go as quick as we wanted, but I think we have a lot that we can learn tonight. A few big things I think that will put us up to the next level. Just a matter of where that's going to be and what kind of day we're going to have tomorrow to see where we're at in qualifying."
(About competing in two races earlier this season): "It can help, but we've also had fuel pickup problems and things like that that have put us behind. I think we got all that situated. It's a different kind of race than Homestead or Kansas. It's a bigger track, flatter. We just have to wait and see, but I've got a good feeling for tomorrow. If we can get out there right away when practice starts, I think we'll be in good shape."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The race car, two days ago, we got started with it, and yesterday we just went out and tested, some miscellaneous things and didn't run much in traffic. Today we got back into traffic and did some stuff out there, and it felt really good. We went out in the middle of the day, kind of race time, and we didn't do too many laps. We're trying to save some tires for maybe some hotter weather. But it feels really good. I'm really happy with where we're at. I think we've arrived at a pretty good point where we feel that we need to be downforce-wise, and it's just matching it with conditions and verifying it with what we have the next couple of days in practice."
(About differences in team over the past year): "Well, it definitely keeps getting bigger. Every time we keep coming to Indy with more cars, but every challenge that we give the core group of guys we have, they do an excellent job and step up and continue to amaze me. They put in a lot of hard work this season and every month of May getting ready for this. It's hard to really put your finger on one particular thing. I think it's just all the hard work that they keep putting in to it, and there's obviously more sponsors on our cars than we're used to in the past and that's just a huge help and relief to our whole organization.
JAQUES LAZIER (No. 21 Indiana Ice/Venture Logistics Panoz/Honda/Firestone, seventh-fastest non-qualified driver): "In the morning, we were in race trim, and we're happy with our race trim. We got a pretty decent tow but not a great tow. More importantly, the car was good in dirty air, so that was the key, and then we went out and did about a run and a half in qualifying trim and was just really getting everything trimmed out. Then we had our left rear stay break when we were just getting ready to simulate a qualifying run, but I think we're making gains, and I think the car has got a low (2)21 (mph) in it right now. We'll fine-tune it a little bit tonight, and we'll be ready for tomorrow."
(About weekend game plan:) "Just put it in the show. Whatever we get, we get, and it's not going to be a big issue, and we'll go and start doing some more long runs and fuel runs in race trim and get the car as good as possible for Race Day."
(About putting together four good laps for qualifications): "It's a different scenario than it was last weekend. Last weekend, we started throwing stuff at it, and we were playing catch-up, and we weren't really where we should have been. I'm proud of the guys because they worked really hard."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 24 Wellman Corbier/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/ Honda/Firestone, second-fastest non-qualified driver of the day): "It's a great day for the Wellman Corbier Custom Homes car. The crew did a fantastic job overnight getting ready for the race setup, and I think we have a good race setup baseline. I went out in a little bit of traffic this morning, and I felt really comfortable. It doesn't feel like it's almost a year since I've raced. The main thing is I'm comfortable in the car. This afternoon, we had a bit of a qualifying run at the end, and I think we were showing some decent speed to easily make the field. Tomorrow we're going to try and get the car in the show, and after that, if we have a little more time to do a little more race setup, we might do that otherwise, things are going real smoothly as planned, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
(About qualifying): "It's third-day qualifiers, so the best you can do is 23rd, but I think based on the speed we're running right now, we don't see any reason why we shouldn't be any lower than 25th. I'm going to be aiming for 23rd spot, and I know a lot of guys are, but if I'm in 23rd or 24th, I'll be happy tomorrow."
PHIL GIEBLER (No. 31 Playa Del Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest non-qualified driver): "We're getting the car better to what we're looking for, for qualifying. It's kind of been a mystery the whole time, and just getting the car out there was one accomplishment and then figuring out what direction we needed to take so, it's been good. The team has been working really hard to get it so we can get out there and just pound laps and get in to a rhythm. Finally today we did, and it's feeling really good."
(About game plan for qualifying): "Really, just like any lap, I'm trying to be as focused and as smooth as I can every lap, and when it comes down to qualifying, I think that the extra smoothness is going to make a difference. As long as we keep the momentum going to where we're headed, I don't think we'll have any problem making the show. It's just make four clean laps, make no mistakes, and that's the biggest thing. No mistakes, and we'll be fine."
JIMMY KITE (No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 11th-fastets non-qualified driver): "It was more fun than Wednesday. The car stayed going in the right direction. We went out there and got flat. We haven't even started trimming it out. We just want to get comfortable, and we tried a couple of things today. Basically what we did today was what we would have liked to have done yesterday, but we lost the day. The car's handling good, but we got to trim it out."
(About being back at Indy): "It's fun. I was rusty for the first two or three laps. After that it was like 'Oh yeah, that's how you drive this place.' I was fine. We got all the Z-Line people coming to town this weekend, and hopefully they're here to watch us put this thing in the show." (About qualifying strategy): "I think the big thing is we're not going to trim it out. We're just going to try and find some mechanical speed out of it. Our big deal right now, even though we're not in it, we're trying to get a really, really good race car. For some reason, the speed is still not completely there, and then Sunday we'll pull a little more wing out and I know we'll be fine."
PJ JONES (No. 40 Direct Diversified Team Leader Special Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth-fastest non-qualified driver): "We worked on the car just trying to get some downforce off of it and get some drag off of it. We just got better and better all day long until the very end. The very last hour we just kind of went backward. We just lost the balance of the car and had a vibration."
SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8 a.m. Public Gates Open
10 a.m. Ceremonial Laps by 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones in the No. 40 Direct Diversified Team Leader Special Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven this month by his son PJ Jones.
10:15-11:15 a.m. IndyCar Series Practice
11:59 a.m. Honorary Starter: Gene Keady, former Purdue University basketball coach
Noon-6 p.m. IndyCar Series Qualifications
6 p.m. Track Closes
Note: Subject to change due to weather
The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (ET) on May 27. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's coverage of Carb Day at 4 p.m. on May 25.