WHELDON LEADS OPENING DAY OF FULL PRACTICE FOR 91st INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 8, 2006 -- IndyCar Series point leader Dan Wheldon topped the speed charts in the first day of practice for all cars for the 91st running of the ...
WHELDON LEADS OPENING DAY OF FULL PRACTICE FOR 91st INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 8, 2006 -- IndyCar Series point leader Dan Wheldon topped the speed charts in the first day of practice for all cars for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.
Shortly after Happy Hour began at 5 p.m., Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion, posted the day's quickest lap of 39.9868 seconds, 225.074 mph in his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, a two-time Indy 500 winner, posted the second-quickest lap - 40.0007, 224.106.
Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter (224.783 mph), Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan (224.622 mph) and Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon (224.564 mph) rounded out the top five.
Jon Herb had the lone incident of the day, making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. He was uninjured in the accident.
Twenty-seven car/driver combinations completed 1,218 laps.
Dan Wheldon is currently the hottest driver in the IndyCar® Series, and if past records are any indication, the Indianapolis 500 may not be the struggle it's been for other points leaders.
The series points leader has finished in the top 10 at Indianapolis only three times in the previous 11 IndyCar Series races at the Brickyard. But while the average finishing position for the points leader is 16th, Wheldon, who enters Indianapolis as the points leader for the third time in four years, has finished in the top five in the last three 500s. He recorded a third in 2004 and a win in 2005 when he entered as the race as the series' point leader.
Wheldon can also take some solace should he fail to win "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." The IndyCar Series points leader entering Indianapolis has gone on to win the IndyCar Series championship five times in 11 seasons.
Firestone produced nearly 5,175 Firehawk racing radials for use throughout the month of May. All were built at the Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio. At the direction of IndyCar Series officials, each entry competing all month will receive 35 sets of Firehawks (140 total tires), to be used at the team's discretion throughout the practice, qualifying and race sessions. The tire selected for Indianapolis has been designed to deliver better grip than in 2006 and is available in two different stagger configurations (.35 and .44 of an inch). The same specification was successfully utilized the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.
Tony Kanaan drove two other Andretti Green Racing entries in addition to his #11 Team 7-Eleven entry. Kanaan turned laps in the #26 car of Marco Andretti and the #7 car of Danica Patrick early in the practice session. The cars were outfitted with Firestone tires allocated to the #11 car.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced today a partnership with A1 TEAM USA owner Rick Weidinger for its No. 15 entry for the 91st Indianapolis 500. The No. 15 Honda-powered Dallara car driven by 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice will be known as the A1 TEAM USA/Dreyer & Reinbold Honda. Rice's teammate, Sarah Fisher, also will carry the A1 TEAM USA logo during the month of May.
RICK WEIDINGER (Owner A1 TEAM USA): "We are excited to return to the Indianapolis 500 as a co-entrant with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team. The Indy 500 is the greatest spectacle in motor sports and most famous auto race in the world, and we feel privileged to have another former winner in Buddy Rice as our team's driver. Rice is one of America's top open-wheel drivers with a vast background in road racing also. Buddy will carry the American spirit of the A1 TEAM USA and the international appeal of A1 GP World Cup of Motor Sport."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 A1 TEAM USA/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It is tremendous to bring Rick and the A1 TEAM USA effort to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for this month. I believe we have a strong, professional operation that can make the No. 15 car a contender on May 27. Having won the world's biggest race in the past, we have the opportunity to race for the win with the A1 TEAM USA/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry. I am very excited about our effort."
DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is extremely pleased to have Rick Weidinger and his A1 TEAM USA organization return to the Indy 500 with our No. 15 car and former Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice. Rick and his A1 TEAM USA came to Indy last year with our organization and we had a great relationship during the month. It is fantastic to have his operation part of Buddy's No. 15 in 2007. We hope to give Buddy a chance to win his second Indy 500."
Butler University basketball standout A.J. Graves waved the green flag to start today's practice session. Graves toured the Speedway grounds with several members of the Butler University men's basketball coaching staff, including former Butler basketball players Matthew Graves and Brandon Miller. The group also got an up-close look at the car of Butler alumnus and IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter.
A.J. GRAVES (Today's honorary starter): "I've never been out here before, and this has been a great opportunity. When they asked me if I would come out and wave the flag, I didn't even think about it. This brings up goosebumps for me. This is unfamiliar territory, and to be able to come out here and watch these guys perform and practice, and to race in a couple of weeks is amazing. I'd like to come back. (About coming back to see his first race:) "I don't have tickets. I'm just a poor college kid, I have no money to buy them." (About his emotions as the cars came down the front stretch): "It was a big rush. Lots of excitement. I mean, I'm a thrill seeker, I love this stuff. It was a really amazing experience." (About his pace car ride): "Not everyone gets a chance to do that, I mean, they asked me if I wanted to do that, and I did it. I mean, it's amazing to be able to go around the track like that. I'll probably never be able to go that fast anywhere else."
A total of 38 cars are at the Speedway. Thirty-eight have passed technical inspection. Twenty-seven drivers have been on the track to date, turning 1,218 laps today and 1,709 laps this month. Buddy Rice turned 88 laps today, most of any driver. Milka Duno has turned 189 laps this month, most of any driver. A total of 94 IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers have passed physical examinations at the Clarian Medical Center. There were seven cautions today for a total of 1 hour, 13 minutes.
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest of the day): "Unfortunately, we had some issues with the car early in the day, which caused us to spend a lot of time in the garage. However, we were able to correct the problems and get back out for some quality track time. All in all, it ended up being a pretty good day because we ended up with a well-balanced car and finished the day among the leaders on the speed charts. Hopefully we'll keep heading in the right direction tomorrow."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth and 10th fastest of the day): "We were trying some different things today, and the best way to judge is to have one driver driving all the cars. I was chosen to drive the cars because I'm the closest in size to Marco (Andretti) and Danica (Patrick). We had a couple of things we wanted to try, and I think we accomplished them. It's still early, but it was a pretty good day for Team 7-Eleven. For sure, we had a better start than we did last year."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest): "It was all right. I think this morning was quite strong. We didn't do many laps. We only used one set of tires, and then we put on another at the end. We made a lot of big changes just trying to take the day to see what we need to do. I don't know if we gained much out of it, but hopefully when we look at the data we can see what we need." (About the forecast of similar weather possible for Pole Day): "This should be good. Hopefully we do get a bit more running through the week. The track's obviously going to change a bit with more rubber going down, and maybe it will cool off. I don't know. I haven't seen the forecast, but this week's always showers and thunderstorms now and then, so it's hard to know what to do. But, we, I think, got the big things that we needed to get through today."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth fastest of the day): "We worked on making the Team Penske car quicker as the day went on. I was hoping we'd be a little faster, but I think we're in decent shape for the first day of practice. We're going to come out tomorrow to see if we can fine-tune the car, and hopefully we can make it a little quicker."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 11th fastest of the day): "Speed-wise, I think the team is showing a lot of promise. We struggled a bit with the back end of the NYSE car today. If we can fix the rear end, I think we'll be quick. It was a very good start to the month."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth fastest of the day): "It was an OK day, we'll put it that way. It wasn't great. We went out on a different setup than some of our teammates just to find out which was going to work, and ours didn't, so we are going to decide where to go from there. But at least, a couple of cars look reasonably good."
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "It was a good day to start the opening day of May. Obviously I get a little superstitious, and I've just signed a deal with Ritmo watches, and I was using that today, so I was a little nervous. It's definitely great being back at Indianapolis and to be going around this track. I'm just excited for the rest of the month. (About his confidence heading into the month): "Yeah it is (high), but with what we've seen this year, I'm more concerned with the race. I guess I'm getting old because that doesn't seem like the high priority, but my confidence is really high right now. You know working with (engineer) Andy Brown is a pleasure. The rest of the engineering stuff and everybody at the team, we're right at a nice wave right now, but we understand that it could as soon come to a crashing halt. We're going to try everything in our power to stay as good as we are."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest of the day): "After the last couple of races, since the beginning of the season, we've had consistent finishes, so my confidence is really high going into this month, and it showed on the track today. Hopefully it shows the rest of this month."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh fastest of the day): "The car's been good the whole time. We're just making small changes here and there. It's feeling good. We haven't tried to see how fast we can go. We're just working on tire wear. We're trimming out the car a little bit but nothing where we will be. The track is still really green right now. We're just focusing on making small changes."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest of the day): "Overall, I thought we went backward and forward a little bit all day with the Motorola car. It's too early for us to have a lot of answers right now. We're not super-slow, obviously, but we're not very fast by ourselves yet, either. I don't know why. If I knew, we'd put it on the car. It just feels good to be back at Indy. I look forward to it and always know that we're going to have a lot of ups and downs during the month."
JON HERB (#19T Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (About his accident):"I went off in the corner, and it turned good. It felt real good down at the bottom, and I guess that's when I needed to pay attention because the next thing I know, I was sideways. It's unfortunate, but luckily we have another car, so we'll be all right. It caught us out there a little bit, and it wasn't what we needed."
WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9 a.m.Public Gates Open
11:59 a.m.Honorary Starter: Liz Lehmann, 2007 Purdue Grand Prix winner
Noon-6 p.m.Indianapolis 500 practice (all cars)
6 p.m.Track Closes
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.