BELL FASTEST AS ROP CONCLUDES AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 8, 2006 -- Townsend Bell was wise to intently listen to three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford's wisdom during a few laps of the Indianapolis ...
BELL FASTEST AS ROP CONCLUDES AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 8, 2006 -- Townsend Bell was wise to intently listen to three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford's wisdom during a few laps of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a sedan May 7.
"It's awfully quick, and it definitely opens your eyes at first," said Bell, who joined five drivers in completing their Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program/refresher course on the 2.5-mile oval.
Sixty-seven laps later, he was gushing about the No. 90 Rock & Republic Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone and the historic oval. Bell, who competed in 11 IndyCar Series races in the 2004 and '05 seasons with Panther Racing, was in the refresher category. Maybe it was partly Rutherford's advice or maybe it was partly the baseline of the car, but Bell was quickly up to speed.
He topped the speed chart at 221.381 mph (40.6539 seconds). Thiago Medeiros (214.690) joined P.J. Chesson and Marco Andretti in passing the four-stage ROP, while Arie Luyendyk Jr. (214.562), Larry Foyt (215.761) and Al Unser Jr. (218.820) also passed their refresher test. Practice for all cars begins at noon (EDT) May 9.
2006 Mrs. Indiana Justine Kaldahl, a resident of Avon, Ind., took a ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
JUSTINE KALDAHL (2006 Mrs. Indiana): "That was awesome, I loved it, it was better than Disney World by far. I have always loved racing, but never been down this close to it, it's a total different experience. Taking the corners was the best."
The Michael Andretti Foundation began auctioning off a VIP race package on eBay May 8. As an honorary guest of Michael Andretti and Andretti Green Racing, the winning bidder and a guest will attend a weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 28.
The winner will get an insider's look at race weekend activities and preparations with AGR. They'll receive three nights lodging, the opportunity to meet Michael Andretti and several of the Andretti Green Racing drivers. The winner will participate as an honorary crew member for Michael Andretti during final practice on Carb Day and be in Michael Andretti's pits during the running of the Indy 500. The package also includes a private tour of the race cars and a VIP invite to the invitation-only Andretti Green Racing team party.
Race day activities include breakfast with the team and sponsors and enjoying all the excitement of pre-race activities. Once the race starts, the winner can stay in the pits and see all the behind-the-wall racing action up close and personal. This access is only available to IndyCar team personnel and to those with special permission -- access that makes this package truly unique and priceless.
All proceeds from the package will benefit the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. "I'm excited about being able to put a package like this together," Michael Andretti said. "We hope to raise a good amount of money with the auction and are very excited to be able to pass it along to the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. I'm a big supporter of Sam and all the effort he has put toward this cause over the years."
The VIP Package will be auctioned on eBay until May 15. The package is available by visiting www.ebay.com or directly at: cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=8808298025
Two drivers entered in the Indianapolis 500 competed at the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Laguna Seca Raceway on May 7.
Scott Sharp finished 25th overall and 21st in the Daytona Prototype Class. Sharp co-drove the entry with his father-in-law Greg Pickett.
Eddie Cheever, who co-drove his team's car with Christian Fittipaldi, finished 43rd.
Each Indianapolis 500 entrant will receive a new Honda Indy V-8 engine for first day of practice on May 9. Teams must use that engine through practice and qualifying. All qualified cars will receive a new engine for Carb Day for use in the race. IndyCar Series regulars must use the same engine for the event at Watkins Glen.
GEORGE KLOTZ (Team manager and race strategist, #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Honda has always given us the very best engines, and we can count on that the entire month of May. The engines they are providing for practice can be used for more than 1,000 miles, so the lack of another engine doesn't affect how many miles we run in practice. You will always have an engine in the car when you need one, and we will not be limited too much. We will have to be slightly more efficient with the work we do, but we are confident we'll get in all the practice that's needed."
BARRY WANSER, (Team manager, Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "(It) makes it more of a challenge, and you're limited to 1,200 miles on the first motor. We did more than that last year with Scott (Dixon), especially when you start doing full-tank running the second week. It will be a challenge to make the most of it. It's the same for everybody, but you have to be careful with your track management and time to get the most out it. The first week is all about getting the pole. You could throw in some full-tank running in the mix of doing qualifying sims. It definitely will be interesting for everybody.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Willy T. Ribbs visited the Speedway today. Ribbs became the first African-American to start the Indianapolis 500 in 1991.
WILLY T. RIBBS: "I haven't been here since 2001. I was down in Lawrenceburg, Ind., shooting in a tournament. I shoot shotguns for a living now and Tony George came in (to the tournament) on Friday. We talked and he said to come on up." (How does it feel to be back here?) "What happened here in 1991 was probably the most important career happening for me, and it's certainly changed in its growth. It's a huge complex now, with Formula One being here, and IndyCar, it's an unbelievable. And when you look at Turn 1, it brings back all the memories." (And desire at all to get back in a car?): "Oh, no, no, I'm having a great career and my new race car is a Perazzi 12 gauge." (How did you get involved in tournament shooting?): "I used to shoot guns as a hobby as a kid, and I'd hunt birds with my grandpa, but I shot skeet and traps for fun in the (racing) off-season. Once I quit racing I started taking it real serious and traveling all over the country to tournaments. This is full time, every week all over the U.S., or Russia, England, wherever a big tournament is happening. I compete with the NSCA -- National Sporting Clays Association."
With Indiana's switch to Eastern Daylight Time and a recent move to the noon start, the nuances of the racetrack (temperature, shadows) will be altered. Goodbye "Happy Hour," that 5-6 p.m. period when drivers played "top that" to be the fastest of the day, and hello midday binge.
KYLE MOYER (General manager, Andretti Green Racing): "That makes a big difference. The biggest thing we're looking at is track change for the race, because now we're an hour later for the race too (1 p.m. EDT). The second biggest impact will be on qualifying. Before, you hated to be an early number. Now all of a sudden you want to draw in the top 10, especially the way it's going to be a shootout. I don't think it's going to be a 5 o'clock shootout. Now you're just going to run all day long, and if you're not in the top 11 you go right back in line . If you're in the top nine you're going to put yourself back in line. You're not going to say to yourself, 'Hey, we'll wait until 5 o'clock and be faster,' because I don't think you will. In practice, we try not to run in Happy Hour anyway. We'll probably run later in the day because it makes more sense since it's similar to race time. For us, we'll get a full six hours of work. I think the biggest thing is you'll see a lot more cars out at noon every day instead of waiting around for 5 o'clock."
STEVE RAGAN (Chief mechanic, Panther Racing): "Some people like to go out there and set a good time, to other teams that doesn't mean anything. You want to get out at the best time that benefits your running, and that's important now with the mileage. You have 1,200 miles on your engine, and I think that will change that "Happy Hour" running a lot. Really, what does that do? There's no more Happy Hour. The sun is different. That's going to shift everyone's approach. Wind, shadows and all the changes. You're just going to have to look at how everyone approaches it the first couple of days."
A total of 35 cars are currently at the Speedway. Twenty eight have passed technical inspection. Eight drivers have been on the track to date and have turned 640 laps this month. A total of 73 drivers have passed physical examinations at the Clarian Medical Center. There were three cautions for a total of 12 minutes.
POST PRACTICE QUOTES:
THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was very good. We went out at noon for the first two phases. When we started picking up speed, we started bumping the ground, so we brought it back in and adjusted the ride-height. We went back out and completed the next two phases. We also did a few more laps - 214 mph on the last one. We just didn't have any more tires or miles to run, otherwise I think we could have gone even quicker today. I feel very comfortable, and we have a lot of time to get up to speed this month. We're pretty much running race setup right now to get me comfortable. I have a lot of time during the month. It feels great, especially to be here with PDM, the team that I am doing the Silver Crown series with this year. It's a great opportunity. It came up a little bit late, kind of a last-minute deal. But, I'm very glad to be with PDM because we already know each other. We've tested together in the Silver Crown, and now we'll get to know each other much better. The guys already have confidence in me. We already did some pit stop simulations. That will be very important as well in a 500-mile race. It's great to be with Paul (Diatlovich) and PDM."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 1 Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (About Marco driving his No. 1 Andretti Green Racing car this afternoon): "I knew I had a really good race car and he wasn't real comfortable in his, so I thought it was a great opportunity for him to feel exactly what it should feel like, and I think it was a really good exercise for him." (With your return, are you getting closer to where you want to be for the Pole chase?): "We're not there yet. We're really just working on the comfort of the car right now. We haven't focused too much on speed yet. We're going to have to pick up another 3 or 4 mph if we want to be a factor for the pole, so we'll see." (There's a threat of rain later in the week, so these two days have been very valuable): "It helps me a lot to get back up to speed, and I really appreciate the IRL doing that for me because it's been three years. Just trying to get myself back up to understanding what the cars are like so it's been good for me."
LARRY FOYT (No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): ""I kind of had a speed in my head of what I wanted to be at, and my dad (A.J. Foyt) kept saying not to worry about speed. It isn't about speed it's about you getting back in the car." (A.J. Foyt, in the background, said, "The goal today was to roll it back in the garage in one piece.") "Well, I did something right. Today was good, because I feel like I was right back where I was (last year) so, it's just good to be back in the car and comfortable. For me, my rookie year I drove a Panoz, last year I drove a Dallara and now I'm back in a Panoz so getting that feel again was something too, and we made some setup changes and everything we did went the right way so I'm glad the communication between my dad and I was good. There are some guys that have been running here for two days and we're not that far off of them, so I know with a little more time we'll be right with them." (Are you surprised with your speed today?): "No, I wanted to be a little bit quicker, I'm not going to lie. I guess you always do, but I hoped to run about (2)18 or (2)19 mph, but these cars are awesome, the Honda engines are awesome, and Firestone tires, so I'm just looking forward to a good month."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It feels great, I mean yesterday we had a lot of issues with the car. We have those sorted out. We tried to get the rookie refresher over with and learn some things, and basically we've learned that we have a car that has a little too much understeer right now. So we just tried to fix that, but something broke in the gearbox so we didn't get to go out again. I'm happy with my 214.5 (mph) lap. It's not that quick, but I was flat all the way around and I was comfortable in the car, so that's the important part. We can always work on the speed. Hopefully we can run tomorrow. We still have some miles on the engine. So maybe they'll let us run tomorrow even though we're a second weekend qualifier."
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 90 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): ""Most of the IRL races I've done have been a lot of high-banked ovals, and so the steering inputs and all of that are very light and the car kind of arcs itself into the corner. What's really cool about this place is you really are driving it into the corner, and it's nice as a driver because you always want to have more control of the situation, and I think here you do. It's awfully quick still, and it definitely opens your eyes at first. And it takes pretty good commitment to get it all right, but I like that. It's like a really fast road course in some ways. I think it's one of the, really the nicest oval I've been to and the fastest." (About the performance of his car): "I think you have to measure yourself against the car and not so much the speed, and in this case because the car started with such a good baseline setup. I just kind of went into it. If 210 was what the car was going to do, then I'll take it there. If we could go faster, we did, so I felt really comfortable. We'll try to make the car go faster. I guess this week really sort of builds toward the qualifying weekend and at the same you're learning things that apply to the race. I think today we were testing things that will deliver on both fronts. Again, I've got a lot to learn so, I mean, to talk about the month, I don't really know what I'm talking about. I've got to go through it first."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "For most of the day, my car struggled to pick up front grip. Toward the end of the day, it was either trim my car out on fresh tires, or drive what Dad said was a very comfortable car. That one run I just did in the No. 1 (Michael's car) was just huge for me, and the thing, the big thing that I can stress enough, is that now I know what a good car feels like."
P.J. CHESSON (No. 91 Carmelo Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The guys on the team have been working 15-hour days. I am tired after 4 p.m.. I don't know how the hell they do it. I had every driver coach, (Al) Unser (Sr.), (Johnny) Rutherford, (IRL President Brian) Barnhart, (IRL Vice President for League Development John) Lewis, everybody coming down talking to me, giving me pointers and telling me that we were doing a good job. I had tremendous conversations with all of them, and it's all been very positive. There are reference points and the wind. A lot of things that change here. Just getting my sights right and getting my marks right, figuring out the proper line and where I need to be and then getting the car where I can drive it, it's all part of the game, and I think that we have done pretty well. It's leaps and bounds for our team."
AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 A1 TEAM USA Geico Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "It's a great team that I am with. I am really looking forward to working with Buddy Lazier my teammate. Getting in the car yesterday after 18-20 months was just fantastic. I loved it. I loved the power that Honda was putting out. I feel really good mentally and physically. I just want to say that it is a different day from when my dad and Uncle Bobby were winning this thing. The playing field today is much more level than it was in 1987 when my dad won his last. There were different carmakers, engines and everything. Today, it's really the engineers that are telling the drivers how to drive the car, not the other way around, like it used to be. Anything can happen in the Indy 500, that's why we are here." (About his comeback): "It was the middle of June in 2004 that I was sitting up here and saying I was retiring from the single seat open-wheel car. I finished out the season as a spotter for Pat Patrick, so I went to all the races. After that last race, (that season) I said I wasn't going to a race in '05. I told myself I wasn't going to go and I didn't. Then the month of May rolled around and I started watching ESPN. I was watching practice and qualifying, watching the classics replayed. And I just started missing it. That built into the summer. I found myself watching the IRL races and yelling at the TV. I was yelling more and more at the TV so, come September, October, Gina, my wife, said, 'Get in a car!' Really that's all it took."
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).