GANASSI DUO LEADS INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE; GREGOIRE FASTEST AMONG NON-QUALIFIERS, THEN CRASHES INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 17, 2007 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the top of the speed chart on a cool, blustery day as teams continued...
GANASSI DUO LEADS INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE; GREGOIRE FASTEST AMONG NON-QUALIFIERS, THEN CRASHES
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 17, 2007 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the top of the speed chart on a cool, blustery day as teams continued preparations for the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Scott Dixon recorded the fastest lap of the day, 40.9119 seconds, 219.985 mph, driving his back-up car. His teammate, IndyCar Series points leader Dan Wheldon, was second fastest with a lap of 219.773 mph, also in a back-up car.
A.J. Foyt Racing's Darren Manning was third, while Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter and Davey Hamilton rounded out the top five.
None of the five Andretti Green Racing cars practiced while Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, the pole sitter for the race, and Sam Hornish Jr. combined for only 11 laps in their back-up cars as their teams spent the day practicing pit stops.
Among drivers who have not yet qualified for the 33-car field, Stephan Gregoire was the fastest at 217.851 mph, but the Frenchman later crashed into the outside retaining wall exiting Turn 1.
Gregoire was transported to Methodist Hospital where he was diagnosed with an endplate fracture of the third thoracic vertebrae. He will be held overnight and is expected to be released on May 18. His driving status will be evaluated after his release from the hospital.
Al Unser Jr. and Roger Yasukawa also turned laps faster than 217 mph.
John Andretti, cousin of Michael Andretti, turned his first laps of the month in the No. 33 Camping World Panther entry. His best lap was 216.737 mph.
Liz Steedman of Ocean City, Md., will have the opportunity to do what no race car drivers has done since 2003: take part in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, N.C., in the same day. As winner of the "Jim Beam 1100" promotion, Steedman and three guests will receive VIP treatment for the entire race weekend, beginning with exclusive access to sponsor and celebrity events at the Indianapolis 500 on May 24-26. On May 27, the group will do "double duty," attending the Indianapolis 500 and then traveling to Charlotte for the NASCAR race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. At each track, they will enjoy the race from an exclusive VIP suite. Steedman's group also will have the opportunity to meet the drivers of the Jim Beam Indy car and Jim Beam stock car --Andretti Green Racing co-owner/driver Michael Andretti and NASCAR driver/owner Robby Gordon -- and cheer them on during the races.
BRIAN GALLAGHER (manager of motorsports, Jim Beam): "The Jim Beam 1100 demonstrates our understanding that race fans, like great drivers, have an almost unquenchable thirst for motorsports. Drivers long considered 'double duty,' competing in the Indy 500, then flying directly to Charlotte and climbing aboard a stock car for another 600 miles, to be the ultimate challenge. For fans who share an authentic love for racing, the last Sunday in May is the biggest day in motorsports. What better way for the Official Spirit of Racing to show appreciation for fans than provide this type of opportunity."
LIZ STEEDMAN (Jim Beam 1100 winner): "My husband, Trevor, was not a big racing fan until we went to a race at Dover together two years ago and I let him listen to the audio from my race scanner. Now he is starting to understand why I enjoy the sport so much. The Jim Beam 1100 is going to be an unforgettable experience, two great races at historic race tracks on the same day."
Leilani Munter passed her Indy Pro Series rookie test at Kentucky Speedway on May 14. The Indy Pro Series is the development series for the IndyCar Series, competing at the same venues in cars that reach speeds in excess of 190 mph. The next step for Munter, an ARCA stockcar series veteran is finalizing sponsorship to compete in five of the six oval events remaining on the 2007 schedule. She hopes to debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Freedom 100 on May 25.
LEILANI MÜNTER: "I didn't know what to expect because I had never driven an Indy Pro Series car before. I really enjoyed driving it. They are incredibly fun cars to drive. I am really looking forward to competing in the Indy Pro Series."
BUTCH MEYER (Indy Pro Series Technical Director): "Leilani did a great job testing the Indy Pro Series car. I was very impressed with how quickly she got up to speed and with the feedback she gave the team. She had a real good feel for the car. She will be a very tough competitor in the Indy Pro Series."
PDM Racing driver Jimmy Kite provided an update Thursday morning on the status of the team's No. 18 Panoz/Honda/Firestone after Kite crashed during practice Wednesday. Kite was unhurt in the accident in Turn 1, and the car suffered moderate damage to the left front.
JIMMY KITE: (About cause of accident): "The gearbox broke right where the left rear lower A-arm hooks into the gearbox, and what it did going in to the corner, basically, the gearbox broke and let the lower A-arm pull out. It unloaded the left-rear suspension and picked up a whole bunch of tow, and I was merely a passenger in that. The positive part was that I was already slowing down and getting ready to come in, and I was only doing about 190 when I spun, so if I was up over 200, it probably would've torn up a lot more than it did. I got lucky that we weren't running that quick." (About return to track): "We'll be back out on track the first thing in the (Friday) morning. They almost have everything apart, have it checked. We know what we need, so it's actually going back together right now. They plan on having it back together, on the pad and ready to go so that the first thing in the morning we can go out and see what we have and pick up where we left off." (About help PDM is receiving to rebuild the car): "I don't know if we're stealing body parts, but I think we're stealing some suspension parts. Some of the teams aren't running the Panoz stuff anymore, and a lot of good teams have some really good parts sitting around that we can use right now. So we've been using as many favors as we can right now."
Team Penske spent part of today's practice session practicing pit stops and in and out laps. Helio Castroneves was timing the crew of Sam Hornish Jr., from the trench between the track and the pit lane before practicing with his crew.
Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's "Racing to Recovery" Gala raised nearly $300,000 on May 14 at Eddie Merlot's in Indianapolis.
Al Speyer of Bridgestone/Firestone received the "Partner for a Cure" award for his generosity and support towards the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's Legendary Driver Award was given to four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser.
Other Indianapolis 500 personalities attending the event included: Al Unser Jr., Danica Patrick, Buddy Lazier, Jaques Lazier, Jimmy Kite, Kim Green, the Hulman-George family, Roger Bailey, Brian Barnhart, Logan Gomez, Alex Lloyd, Jonathan Klein, Chris Festa, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Jon Herb, Robbie Buhl and Marty Roth.
IDA CAHILL (President, Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation): "This event would not have been possible without the many volunteers that helped us out. I know it was a long night, and by the end, a lot of people had sore feet from running around. Still, each year this seems to be the premier social event in May surrounding the race. I think the amount of people that showed up is such a tribute to Sam and the support they show him and the foundation."
SAM SCHMIDT (Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and founder, Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation): "Each year, I'm apprehensive that the motorsports community will keep coming and continue supporting the event, but they surprise me every year. It really means a lot to me personally that everyone supports our foundation in such a way. I know I'm definitely biased, but I think this is a great event and a great cause."
AL SPEYER: (Executive Director, Firestone Racing and Partner for a Cure Award honoree): "It's incredibly humbling for Bridgestone/Firestone to be honored for doing something we so strongly believe in -- supporting the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. Sam has been a tremendous friend of our company and myself for many years, and his foundation does so much to promote spinal-cord injury research. As I said at the gala, it's extremely gratifying to be singled out for our role in supporting the foundation, but the greatest gift we're all waiting for is the day when Sam and others with spinal-cord injuries can walk again."
AL UNSER (Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Legendary Driver honoree): "I've admired Sam for many years. The work his foundation is doing to help people with paralysis is very important to me and my granddaughter Cody (Unser), who has transverse myelitis and paralysis. Sam is a true role model for all of us and provides inspiration and hope for many people."
WIBC-AM morning show personality Terri Stacy served as the honorary starter for today's practice session.
TERRI STACY: "This has been an incredible experience. Never in my wildest days. I'm 45 years old; I've grown up with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This has just been a great morning for me, nothing like I've ever experienced in my life. I'm not kidding you. One time I did catch a fairly good-sized bass on the south side of town, that was a pretty great experience. This, on the other hand, I'll never forget it."
Andretti Green Racing and its drivers Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick have chosen not to practice today due to the conditions at the Speedway.
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We looked at the weather forecast, and obviously with it being so cold, it wasn't going to be beneficial to run today. The temperature and weather looks much better (Friday), Saturday and Sunday, and we expect it will be closer to the weather on Race Day. So we decided not to run today."
ESPN on ABC IndyCar Series reporters Jamie Little and Brienne Pedigo shared their thoughts about covering the 91st Indianapolis 500 on ABC on Sunday, May 27. The Race Day broadcast starts at noon (ET), with live race coverage at 1 p.m.
Little is covering her fourth Indianapolis 500 for ABC. Pedigo, an Indianapolis native, is covering her first "500" for the network. Pedigo's first Indy 500 came at age 10, when she and her cousins packed a bag lunch of fried chicken and sat in Turn 1.
JAMIE LITTLE: (About two women working as pit reporters for ABC): "Having two women in the pits and hopefully three women in the field is just an example -- it's a sport that everyone pays attention to, male or female, young and old. It's showing what's happening in auto racing." (About interviewing Marco Andretti after last year's thrilling finish): "I'll never forget, I got in there and I had the first interview with him after the race, and he said, 'Second place is the first loser.' I stood next to his mom, next to Mario Andretti, and I got to be the first one to get on the car. And those moments are what I do this job for; that is everything." (About prospects for a similar finish in 2007 to that of 2006): "I could see the same thing happening. With this parity, there's not just one driver dominating. Danica (Patrick) was fastest in practice (Wednesday). With her experience now, I think she's got a heck of a chance at winning this year. This is going to be her best chance." (Her advice to Pedigo): "Take it all in. Absorb everything. Walk out through Gasoline Alley. Look at the fans, and watch the marching bands go by. It's hard because you're so focused on your job, but just appreciate it because there's something magical about Indy that I've just never experienced anywhere else."
BRIENNE PEDIGO: (About her excitement): "I think anytime you go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there's such a high level of anticipation that surrounds that track. It's really hard not to get caught up in that. Having grown up around that track, it helps me to kind of stay calm in what could be a very stressful situation, especially on Race Day. More than nerves or any sort of fear, I'm just very, very excited. Just working this past weekend for qualifications was just magical; it was really neat to be at the track and working, doing what I love." (About ESPN on ABC analyst Scott Goodyear, a longtime family friend): "You're immediately taken with how intelligent he is, how much he knows about race cars. We've had three other races together so far; he's been really helpful. Any time I have a question, I feel completely comfortable going to him and getting advice."
Willie Ator, a member of the crew for the No. 19 Racing Professionals Dallara driven by Jon Herb, is recovering at Methodist Hospital after being seriously injured in a traffic accident on May 13 near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ator, a native of Jacksonville, Ill., had just departed the Speedway after Second-Day Qualifications when a car turned in front of his motorcycle at the intersection of W. 16th Street and Lafayette Road. Ator sustained several broken bones, according to a statement released by the team.
JON HERB (Owner/Driver, Racing Professionals): "Our team is praying for Willie. He is a good guy and a talented mechanic who will be missed by the whole team."
Indianapolis 500 veterans P.J. Chesson and Alex Barron talked Thursday afternoon in Gasoline Alley about their prospects for finding a seat for the final weekend of qualifications.
Chesson made his first Indy start last year, while Barron is a four-time Indy starter.
P.J. CHESSON: "Maybe Greg Beck (Beck Motorsports), but I want to be in a Dallara, and that's what we're trying to sort out right now. But that's all we've got for now."
ALEX BARRON: "I have a few things going and they're not done yet, but it's kind of one of those things that every half hour the percentage of it happening kind of changes. So at this point, I just have to kind of hang around and talk to everybody, and hopefully we can get something put together in a reasonable time so that we can maybe run a few sessions before we qualify. I'd really like to drive for Greg (Beck). I think he's probably got the best car now, obviously, the Dallara, and I've run for that team before, so we have a little bit of history together. Everything else is going to be even more last-minute, but you never know. When Bump Day comes around, there could be a lot of things that come up last minute that could be a good ride. The main thing is just to be here. I got here, like, three days ago and keep talking to everybody, and I'm really hopeful that something works out and if it can be somewhat of a competitive effort and stay in the race."
A total of 46 cars are at the Speedway. Forty-two have passed technical inspection. Thirty-three drivers have been on the track to date, turning 795 practice laps today and 8,095 laps this month. Jaques Lazier turned 70 laps today, most of any driver. Vitor Meira has turned 426 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 three cautions today for a total of 35 minutes.
Ethanol presents $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 9, 10, 16, 17 and 25. In addition to the ethanol awards, Cholula Hot Sauce will award $7,500 to the driver who completes the Cholula Hot Sauce "Hot Lap of the Day" on May 11 and 18, while the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will award the $5,000 "Call 811 Before You Dig Award" to the driver who posts the fastest lap May 16.
POST PRACTICE QUOTES:
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 33 Camping World Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest unqualified driver): (About his first day on the track): "I think it was productive, just because now when I go to bed at night, I won't have to worry about getting out of pit road or -- well, I still have to worry about it because I'm not that good at it yet. I just learned a lot of things today. It's a lot to digest, and unfortunately the weather didn't want to cooperate today as much as I'd hoped. I kind of wish this weather would've been last week and played havoc with those guys a little bit and given us nice weather. They say tomorrow is going to be really nice weather, and Saturday and Sunday are going to be really nice, so we can go after it." (About the low line he was running early in the day): "It's OK for stock cars, but yeah, they came over (and told him to run a higher line). I still think it's OK for Indy cars. I just haven't quite figured it out, but I'll be down there in the race, I guarantee it, because I don't know any better. They all do, but that's the good thing about not knowing any better. Sometimes you do things that are unthought of. It taught me a lot to learn my line, though. The problem is the car turns so fast that I got to the point to turn in, and the car turned and I was down there. I guess it was a good thing that I turned too early. Michael (Andretti) came over after my first run and said, 'Man, you can't run down there,' and he said that they need to fix my helmet. Bell Helmets came over, and they've done a good job, and the team has worked on the car and got things worked out, too. We had some issues in the cockpit because when they put the seat in the car, it didn't have suspension on it or anything, and then when we got here, you do some laps, and then it's like, OK, there's things that can change. But when you're in a stock car, there it is and I know the measurements and off you go. But I feel great about today. Considering the weather conditions and all that, and as quick as we ran, we've got nothing to be ashamed about. We came out and had a good, solid day, and if this was last week, this would be a fantastic start. Our window is just starting to get a little bit closer."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest driver of the day): "The conditions weren't the most favorable again today, but we were able to work through it and put up some good times and get some things accomplished. We were still able to go out and accomplish a lot, but still conserve our tires and mileage, so it was really a successful day. The crew is just working so hard right now to get everything right, and they've been doing a great job, for sure. Hopefully tomorrow the conditions improve a bit, and we can work on more race setups."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest of the day): "It's the second day in a row that the weather has kind of not been that great. It's a little cool and the cars have so much downforce in these conditions that it can be a little deceiving when you are working on race setups. So we just went out and worked on a list of things that we wanted to test, which really aren't altered by the weather or conditions. Other than that we are just saving some tires up for when it gets a little warmer this weekend."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9T Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "(About topping the speed charts in practice): "It was a good day at the track. We didn't run too much. The weather conditions were kind of limited and a lot of the other guys really didn't run. I got plenty of running in with my teammate. We'll just have to see how it goes the next few days." (About using the backup car during today's practice): "A lot of components from the car we will race -- wings, dampers, all kinds of stuff -- are actually on that car. It's just some stuff we switch over so we can prepare the main car. Worst case scenario, if you have a crash, you're not crashing your primary car. That's the main part of it. So many things are very equal these days that it doesn't really matter too much."
DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest of the day): "I think we've got a better car now than probably what we qualified with. That's pretty good seeing that we're top 15, and we were close to getting into the top 11 on the first day. I think I said it on the second day of qualifying, 'I wish we had this car on Pole Day.' Trimming it out, I think we'd have a really quick car. It's nice to be quick on days like this when it's cold and miserable, you're not very comfortable getting the tires up to temperature, the wind is blowing a gale and all that kind of stuff. It's nice to have a comfortable car underneath me. Every time we go out we're making changes. We make some bad ones, we make some good ones. We're just trying to not go too far away from our basic setup that we've developed throughout the year." (How much did you risk today?) "Maybe we need to put a bit more downforce in that thing. We're right in the ballpark with everybody, on the high level. It's just somewhere the 14 car hasn't been in a while. Who knows, maybe we can keep it up there the next couple of weeks."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 50 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second-fastest unqualified driver): "Race Day could be any number of things. I've been back here 17 starts, and every Race Day has been different from the one before or the one after, so there's been 17 different days in my career. I'm sure that the 18th is again going to be different from all the ones before that. You need to get out there and you need to run under any conditions from extreme cold to extreme hot to wind blowing out of the south to the wind blowing out of the north. It's all about preparing to make it your day on Sunday. That's what you need to do." (About trimming out for qualifying vs. practicing race setup) "We ran today for the first time preparing for the race. Both of us were out there concentrating on that. I really feel very confident that my car is quick enough to get in the show. We just need to start preparing for the race, because this is our final week to get that done. Darren and I spent all of our time today doing that." (About how long it took to get comfortable in the car again): "It took about five to eight laps right in that area. We were trying stuff that A.J. (Foyt) had learned at Motegi and Kansas. Because Darren's car wasn't quite ready yet, I was the guinea pig on the first day. The speeds didn't show what we were doing out there. We were testing some stuff, and I was knocking the rust off all at the same time. The car feels much better today."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 24 Wellman Corbier/DRR Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest unqualified driver): "Condition wise, between yesterday and today, that's all the days I had. I don't know anything better than this, so hopefully today is really a better day. When you are out there through Turn 1 and Turn 2 it is always a concern, so you've got to be through those sections, but otherwise the Wellman/Corbier Custom Homes Dreyer and Reinbold guys, they did a fantastic job putting the car together, and for me, it was a really easy transition getting back to the car and getting up to speed quickly. I think today we learned a couple of things, and hopefully, those changes will work for tomorrow's conditions, and if we can get some drafting runs and traffic runs tomorrow, we will be pretty happy with the car all in all. I think Saturday we've got to put the car in the show, for sure, but based on the speed we are running now, I don't think that will be an issue. Hopefully, we can get out, qualify and spend more traffic time on Sunday, and perhaps a little pit-stop practice since I haven't done that since last year. And that goes the same for the good guys we have here. We are going to do that and be 100 percent ready by Carb Day.
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth-fastest non-qualified driver): "It was much, much better day. The team did a fantastic job to have the car in perfect condition. It was a good day for us. The conditions were so cool and windy and not so good. But, I think for qualifying they expect a warmer day, which is going to be nice." (About problems with the car yesterday): "They changed everything in the car. We went to the setup we had last week, and the car was much, much better."
PJ JONES (No. 40 Direct Diversified Team Leader Special Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth-fastest non-qualified driver): "All day went good. We shook the car down yesterday. Today we just got in and started getting up to speed, and I was flat out within 10 laps, I think. I really ran a lot of flat out laps all the way around. It was real windy, the track was cool and just being real conservative. Our gearing was way off but we just worked on getting me comfortable and worked on some race stuff and really didn't worry about speed today. It really wasn't a day to worry about going fast it was more about just getting comfortable, getting the car right and just getting a lot of little things like making sure the telemetry worked good and just working on some race stuff and some comfort stuff. We're happy with it. I think we'll be good, and tomorrow will be a better day I think weather wise." (About qualifying procedures): "I like the way the qualifying procedure is. I think for the way the league is operating now, I think the changes are right for the times. I think we can obviously run in the (2)19's and I'd like to run in the (2)20's at least. I don't know. For us too, we just want to make sure we get in the race. We can race as long as we're in the race. There's no use to going out there and post a number that is stretching ourselves and putting our car in jeopardy because we only have one, so really for us it's just making sure we're in the race and making sure we have a good race setup. Last year, we came from the last row to 19th and we raced pretty hard all day so if we can just get a better car than we had last year then it really doesn't matter where we start."
9 a.m. Public Gates Open
11:59 a.m. Honorary Starter: Gene Keady, former Purdue University basketball coach
Noon-6 p.m. IndyCar Series Practice
6 p.m. Track Closes
Note: Subject to change due to weather