IRL: Indy 500: Day ten news and notes

HORNISH MAKES IT 5-FOR-6 AT INDY 500 PRACTICE INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 18, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts for the fifth time in six practice days as preparations continued for the 90th running of...

HORNISH MAKES IT 5-FOR-6 AT INDY 500 PRACTICE

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 18, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts for the fifth time in six practice days as preparations continued for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Hornish posted the day's quickest lap of 40.0087 seconds, 224.951 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Hornish's teammate, Helio Castroneves, was second-fastest at 224.437 mph in the No. 3T Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara. Target Chip Ganassi teammates Dan Wheldon (222.616 mph) and Scott Dixon (222.461 mph) were third and fourth. Scott Sharp (222.425) rounded out the top five.

Drivers were limited to approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes of practice as rain and a pair of accidents by rookies Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Thiago Medeiros limited on-track activity. Neither driver was injured in the separate accidents.

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POST-PRACTICE NOTES:

On this date in 1968, Joe Leonard, driving the No. 60 STP Turbine established one- and four-lap track records as he grabbed the pole for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race with an average speed of 171.559 mph. Leonard broke the previous record which his teammate Graham Hill set in car No. 70 earlier in the day.

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In celebration of the 90th Running of the Indianapolis 500, various personalities associated with "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" will give their favorite "500" memories. Here's today's memory:

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Co-owner, Andretti Green Racing/No. 1 Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Most of my memorable moments of the "500" are bad. But in 1991, I had my best and worst moment at the Speedway in about one minute. I took the lead over Rick Mears late, and I thought I had won the race. But the next lap, he took it away from me. It went from a big high to a big low."

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Did you know?: Thirty-four (34) different car numbers have won the Indianapolis 500. The winningest number in the history of the Indianapolis 500 is the No. 3. Helio Castroneves, the last driver to win with the number, in 2002, will use the number again in this year's Indianapolis 500.

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Ethanol will present $2,500 to the driver who records the fastest lap on five practice days during the Month of May. The "Ethanol Fastest Lap" will be presented May 10, 11, 17, 18 and 26. In addition to the ethanol awards, Cholula Hot Sauce will award $15,000 to the driver who completes the Fastest Lap of the Day on May 19.

Date Driver Speed
May 10 Sam Hornish Jr. 226.056 mph
May 11 Sam Hornish Jr. 226.789 mph
May 17 Sam Hornish Jr. 224.381 mph

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ESPN will televise the final hour of qualifying at 5 p.m. (EDT) Saturday and has three hours of coverage beginning at 7 p.m. (EDT). Complete coverage of The Run for the WorldPoints Visa Card Pole on Coca-Cola Throwback Day will be carried on www.espn360.com from noon - 6 p.m. on Saturday. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast qualifying from noon -- 1 p.m. (EDT) and 5 -- 6 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday. The complete radio network broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com.

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Buddy Rice says the Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by the Indy Racing League is the perfect vehicle for youngsters aspiring to reach the IndyCar Series and compete in the Indianapolis 500. The 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion gave several top drivers, representing various divisions, a tour of his No. 15 Argent Mortgage Panoz/Honda/Firestone in the Rahal Letterman Racing garage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Also visiting with Spencer Pigot (Cadet class), Kyle Wiegand (Cytomax ICC), Wesley Boswell (Cytomax ICC), David Jurca (Cytomax ICC shifter), Jacob Neal (JICA), and Brett Smrz (JICA) was 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion and Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal, and Andretti Green Racing driver Bryan Herta.

The Snap-on Stars of Karting series opens the East division schedule May 19-21 at New Castle (Ind.) Motorsports Park, owned by former IndyCar Series driver Mark Dismore. A total of 185 drivers are entered in the Snap-on Grand Prix, which will be broadcast on Speed Channel at a later date.

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "The Stars of Karting program is really important to me. I think it does a good job of keeping racing here in the United States and allows these kids to have a place to run. I own a go-kart shop at home so that kids from Phoenix and the West Coast have a shop to come to. Many of them need a place to hone their skills and hopefully make it to the IRL someday."

BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Racing; Co-owner Stars of Karting): "It's important to remember two things as you progress in your racing careers. You must always be professional and always work hard no matter what it is that you're doing."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone; Co-founder, Stars of Karting): "Stars of Karting began with a four-race schedule. The sponsorship help of Snap-on and the Indy Racing League have grown this series into a huge success. I look forward to watching it continue to grow as it has been every year since it was started. Looking forward, I hope to get the communities more involved in the areas where we run our races and hopefully schedule some kind of year end celebration for these kids."

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NHRA Funny Car drivers Jim Head and Gary Scelzi visited the track today. The drivers spent time visiting with IRL officials, including Head's son, Chad, who serves as director of operations for the IRL, and in the Target Chip Ganassi garage.

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Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser is at the track today.

BOBBY UNSER (Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner): "Obviously, my number-one favorite has to be winning it in '68, and of course, winning it three times, that would be my second. But there's never one to equal your first, that's for sure. That being said, you have to know that I've got thousands of memories from around here, I mean thousands. I don't know how you'd say which one's the best. I used to live back here all summer even, keeping a house. I used to keep a house back here year round, even though I live in Albuquerque (N.M.). Indianapolis was a home to me. That's the best way to word it. And it was because of the racetrack. I did practically all of my racing right out of here during the years." (What will this year's rain do to qualification attempts and the race?): "There's been a little bit of practice, but not enough. The track has been clean all of the time because of the rain, and ironically that's a good thing. It has been cool because of the rain, so I think the track is going to be real fast. If we get a qualification day in without rain, I think you're going to see a real fast track. You may not see all the cars go screaming fast, but you're going to see the top ones, the ones that are ready anyway, they're going to be really fast." (Have you ever seen anything like this with the rain?): "Not during the month. This is the worst that I can remember during the month. We've had rain or big problems when it comes up to the Race Day, and the race has been postponed. That's terrible for a driver to go through. And the mechanics, the whole team. But right now, it's early in the month. Just imagine if you're a team right now and you've got changes in the car you'd like to go try it out. Even if you've only got five laps, they have things they'd like to try so they can say yes or no to that particular item and go on to another item to try, and they just can't do that now because of the rain. And that really hurts them bad. When you get too much rain like this, it starts tapping into their heads. And the d rivers start getting nervous because they can't get out and try what they're supposed to be doing. And again the mechanics can't try the things they want. So it's a mess, it's generally a mess on everybody." (If you could offer one tip for this year's drivers, what would it be?) "Well, there wouldn't be one tip. That would be unfair. There isn't one thing that will ever make this race. It's the biggest, hardest race on earth. There's not any one tip that could help anyone."

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POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was our first lap out. We came out of the pits, went through Turn 3 and 4, everything felt great. By the time I got to Turn 1, I wasn't even up to speed yet. I don't feel like I drove it into (Turn) 1 very hard. I couldn't have been going faster than 180. I tried to save it and stay out of the wall, but we made contact. It's a shame. We need the laps more than anyone else out there."

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I saw Kosuke (Matsuura) behind me, and I was waiting for him to overtake me. I thought there was enough room below me, but I guess there wasn't, so I moved up a little bit and lost it. I'm just disappointed. It's over."

SAM HORNISH (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest driver of the day): "We worked on the race setup of the Marlboro Team Penske car today, and I think things went well. We wanted the chance to run in traffic this afternoon, which we were able to do, and I'm happy with the way the car is handling in the pack. I was hoping to get a little more time on the track, but the rain cut our day short. Tomorrow we'll work on the race setup, and we'll spend the last part of the day preparing for qualifying on Saturday."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second-fastest driver of the day): "Today was kind of a roller coaster with all of the changes in the weather. I had my fire suit on ready to go at noon, so I was itching to get out and run when the track finally dried out. Once we got out there, we were able to get in a lot of good laps in traffic. Early in the session, we struggled a bit because the track was so green. By the end of the day, the track conditions improved, and we were able to post a solid time. It's always nice to be near the top of the speed charts, but we were really concentrating on the race setup of the Marlboro Team Penske car today. All in all, we were pleased with how today went, and we're looking forward to getting back out tomorrow."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest driver): "It was good for us to get out today. Like everyone, we just carried on with working on race setup. We made some more moves and continued on with our plan. I think we learned some more things, and were just carrying along. That's really what you need to do -- just run laps, make changes and get the car perfected as much as possible. The wind blew around a lot. Everyone had to deal with it but it was pretty consistent, which was good. It is worse when it's gusty. Certainly, you felt it the most going down the back straightaway. It would just move the car side to side."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 10th-fastest driver): "Honestly, the month started for us yesterday. We had very few laps before then. I was actually amazed by the car today. There was tons of grip, and we were still working on race setup and trying to improve the car a little bit in traffic. I was pretty happy with it. That's why we went back to the garage early. It's been a good month, so far. The rain sucks a little bit, but it's the same for everybody." (About his month): "Last year, everyone asked me about being the dark horse and how nobody mentioned me. This year, it has been the same. That's how we approach the 500. We do our thing and don't try to put up any big numbers. We just do our job and know what's best for us. The outcome is going to be good because you know what you have. It's not about the numbers."

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 90 Rock & Republic Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth-fastest driver): "I think it went pretty good. The conditions were a little touch-and-go there with the gusting wind, but it's good to run and figure out what the car's going to do in those conditions in case that's what we race with. I think we ended up pretty decent. I was pretty happy with everything today."

MAX PAPIS (No. 52 Cheever Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 19th-fastest driver): "The best thing today was getting the Sport Clip car up to speed, going fast early, getting acquainted again with open-wheel and Indianapolis. I was pretty pleased because I worked my speed slowly but not too slowly. Everything went according to plan. I did an installation lap the first run just to see if I had to turn right and left, and I found out I have to turn left only. In my head, I said I was going to go flat out on Lap 15, and I found out that I did it on Lap 12. So I was three laps ahead of schedule in my brain. I feel confident that we are on the right track. Everyone at Cheever Racing has been giving me the opportunity to show that I can drive fast in an open-wheel car. I have a steep learning curve, of course. Nineteenth is not where you want to be, but I think it's not a bad start. At Indianapolis, you should never say that you are comfortable, because it's a track that can bite every second. I felt confident about what I was doing, but I'm still 80 percent of what I can do and just taking it easy. I told my engineer, Iain Watt, 'I am controlling my emotion at the moment.' I need to do it slowly, because it takes less than a second to make a massive mistake. My goal is first to qualify the car and being realistic with what you can do." (About how the deal with Cheever Racing came together): "It's pretty simple. Me and Eddie (Cheever Jr.) have a long-standing relationship. He's Italian like I am - of course an American born in Italy, and I'm an Italian born in America. We always kept in contact. We talk about the Grand Am car this year. He told me that he really wanted to give me an opportunity to sit in his second car in the Indy 500 because we both felt that the only time I was here in Indy, it was not what we wanted. We had mechanical problems. When Sport Clips came on board, everything was a lot easier, and here we are."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 21 VIDEOPOKER.COM Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 21st-fastest driver): "I try to be frustrated, but at the same time I also smile too darn much. It's fun being here; it's fun to watch the conditions change and fight with the track, not to mention there were about 30 other people out there at the same time. It was pretty chaotic out there. It was fun to go around and kind of get into some traffic. We are still pretty much in our race trim. We haven't really had a chance to go out and really see what the car has. We're still in our infant stage just trying to get some laps and get the car to balance where we want it. We had an electrical gremlin. We had something between the throttle pedal and the cable, somewhere in-between there there was some slack, or something just wasn't quite right. The throttle sensor on the engine and the throttle pedal didn't quite equal up, and it went into fail-safe mode so I had to shut it down. It started to go a little lean, so I just shut it down. But I still think we had a pretty good day. We never quite got a good, clean lap. We were just kind of playing around and seeing how it felt in traffic. We ran with Michael (Andretti) for a couple of laps, and the car felt good. I could move around a little bit. When I got too close, the car had a tendency to want to wash out a little bit. So that was something we needed to learn. We'll take the knowledge that we gained today, apply it tomorrow and keep moving."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 13th-fastest): "We had two full tanks, and I think we're fairly happy. We just need to do a little bit more massaging, and I think we're going to be OK. I'm a little optimistic right now. We're going to have to wait and see. Obviously, we won't know until the end of the month, but right now we're definitely making some headway and getting close. Every time it rains it washes everything off, but at least you've got one thing happening. Every morning you come and run here, it's a green track, so you know what to expect and kind of how to handle it. Hopefully we can get the No. 15 Argent car a good finish at the end of the month. I think all that's left is qualifying and the race right now.

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest): "I think we're on a little different program than the rest of the team. Buddy's car looked real good, and I know he's fairly happy with it. I'm fairly happy with where we are, as well. We still have work to do. Once again, we just need some time on the track. We got some of that and we learned some more today. My quick lap was a tow. For the most part, I was trying to avoid tows, but sometimes when they're there and you're on a run, you don't want to waste the whole run because you have to back off and then you waste the tires some more. But we were looking decent even without tows out there. I'm fairly happy with the car. We've got some more work to do, but we made some small gains."

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The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will broadcast the race live beginning at noon (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at noon (EDT). The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 at 12:30 p.m. on May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at 12:15 p.m. (EDT).

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jim Head , Gary Scelzi , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Helio Castroneves , Bobby Rahal , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Rick Mears , Bobby Unser , Joe Leonard , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Kyle Wiegand , Graham Hill , Brett Smrz , Spencer Pigot , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske