IRL: Indy 500: Fast Friday practice report

DIXON TOPS FAST FRIDAY PRACTICE AT INDIANAPOLIS INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 11, 2007 -- Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway lived up to its name as 28 cars turned 1,263 laps on the famed 2.5-mile oval on the final day of practice...

DIXON TOPS FAST FRIDAY PRACTICE AT INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 11, 2007 -- Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway lived up to its name as 28 cars turned 1,263 laps on the famed 2.5-mile oval on the final day of practice before the run for the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award and its $100,000 prize on Saturday.

At the end of the day, however, there were few surprises as Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, second and first respectively in the IndyCar Series point standings, topped the speed chart in preparations for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.

Dixon, who also led practice Thursday, recorded a quick lap of 39.6184 seconds, 227.167 mph in his No. 9 Honda-powered Dallara. Dixon will go out second during Saturday's qualifying.

Wheldon, who led the first two days of practice, turned in a best lap of 226.650 mph.

Andretti Green Racing regulars Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick occupied three of the next four positions, respectively, with Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr., the reigning race winner, sneaking into the sixth position. Ed Carpenter,

Helio Castroneves and Tomas Scheckter rounded out the top 10.

The top 10 cars were separated by 0.5217 of a second.

***

POST-PRACTICE NOTES:

Playa Del Racing driver Jaques Lazier will return to practice on "Fast Friday" and attempt to qualify on the first weekend of qualifications for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 21 Indiana Ice/Venture Logistics Honda-powered Panoz after Venture Logistics and the Indiana Ice increased their sponsorship this week.

DOUG WILLIAMS (President and CEO, Venture Logistics):"Playa Del Racing is an organization that everyone wants to cheer for at the track. Venture is a company that is all about working hard and providing our customers with outstanding service. PDR and Jaques take the same approach to the track, and we are proud to be a part of this team."

PAUL SKJODT (CEO/General Manager, Indiana Ice): "This is so exciting for all of us at the Indiana Ice. We are one win away from winning the national championship, and now we have the opportunity of putting Jaques and PDR in the position they deserve to be. Hopefully this Sunday we will be Clark Cup Champions and have a car qualified for the greatest spectacle in racing."

SUSAN SCHAFER (Co-owner, Playa Del Racing): "We are so thankful to have made fabulous friends like Doug from Venture Logistics, and Paul and Cindy Skjodt from the Ice. This team is capable of some fantastic things, but this is one of the most competitive industries in the world. We can't keep the lights on or get up to speed without the support of our sponsors. Luckily we have made some amazing partnerships at Playa Del Racing, and we plan to make every single one of them proud this weekend."

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 21 Indiana Ice/Venture Logistics Panoz/Honda/Firestone): (About what the team plans to accomplish today): "We're in the ballgame right now, and we're playing catch-up, so we have to be realistic about it because it's Fast Friday, and a lot of people are going to be trimming the cars out even more than they did yesterday. We think we have a very good car. We think we have a car that we can qualify in the top 22. That was our goal. So we're going to go out and do a shake down. We're going to do some things that we wanted to try and haven't had a chance to and then get a good balance on the car. If we can do that, we'll start trimming it out and see what we have." (About being one of the few teams driving a Panoz chassis): "Obviously, what we're hoping for is that it's going to allow us to have a better, more adjustable race car. We've had a good car the last two years that we've been here. It's had a lot of adjustability. I don't think we have the budget to go out and try to compete for a pole, so other than that, the only thing that counts out here is Race Day. Seldom do people remember who won the pole, but they always remember who won the race. You're immortalized on the trophy when you win the race. So, we're gambling and hoping that the Panoz, you know, we've developed it for the last couple of years, and that it will be a good solid race car for us on Race Day."

***

Saliva lead singer Josey Scott was the honorary starter of Fast Friday practice. Island Records recording artists Saliva is playing a concert from 6-7 p.m. today on the Coca-Cola Stage in the Pagoda Plaza.

JOSEY SCOTT (Saliva lead singer): "It sounded like a band of angels taking off. I thought I was going to leave this world a little too soon. There are certain moments in my life where I try to turn on the video cameras in my mind so I can relish these moments later on when I am sitting on the couch, and I am flipping through the channels. I try to put everything on pause and relish these moments to share them with my kids and remember all this stuff because one day I may be telling this to my grandkids." (About waving the green flag as honorary starter): "I'm definitely straight-up rock and roll. Bring it on. Yeow!" (About band teasing him for being honorary starter): "They'll be making a good sport of me for the rest of the day." (About Pace Car ride with Johnny Rutherford): "I loved it. I am a 15-car owner. I've got a few classic cars at home. It was nice to get to ride with Johnny Rutherford, the legend. I was trying to ask him questions the whole time because I pride myself on being a pretty good driver in a heated situation. One time my mother was in the hospital and had an accident, and I was able to make a 15-minute ride from my house to the hospital in five minutes in my wife's Corvette. I was pretty proud of that, but nothing like Mr. Rutherford, he's the king. I told him on the fourth turn, I said, "So what do you do when you are doing 140 mph on a turn in the Corvette? He said, 'Keep it in the groove.'"

JOHNNY RUTHERFORD (Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner): (About how fast he would drive Saliva lead singer Josey Scott on a lap around IMS today in a Corvette Pace Car): "I'm going to blow the paint right out of his hair."

***

AAA Hoosier Motor Club Insurance will expand its sponsorship of Sarah Fisher to include sponsorship of her No. 5 AAMCO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing race car for the Indianapolis 500. AAA Hoosier Motor Club announced in March that it had signed Fisher to a three-year contract, making her the official spokesperson for AAA Hoosier Insurance. AAA is also the Official Motor Club, Official Travel Agency and Official Auto Insurance Company of the Indianapolis 500.

SARAH FISHER (No. 5 AAMCO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "AAA has been so good to me, and adding funding for our race car for the biggest race in the world seems natural for them. AAA really knows how to do things right and their involvement with the Indy 500 spans for decades. They are all great people to work with and I'm happy they will be riding along with me at this year's Indy 500."

GARY MICHELSON (Senior Vice President for insurance and marketing, AAA Hoosier Motor Club): "Sarah is an extremely talented driver, but what's even more important to us is the fact that she is a genuinely wonderful person. Honesty, integrity and a strong commitment to the community are characteristics that are very important to us, and those characteristics are plentiful in both Sarah Fisher and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. We are thrilled to be part of a team like this that truly exemplifies our own beliefs."

***

The forecast for Pole Day is for sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. Should the forecast hold, it would be the first Pole Day without rain since 2001. Here's a look at the weather on past Pole Days.
* 2006: May 13, complete rain out
* 2005: May 14, complete rain out
* 2004: May 15, practice delayed to 12:23 p.m. due to rain, temperature 58 degrees, qualifying started at 2:19 p.m., temperature 66 degrees, qualifying ended 6 p.m..
* 2003: May 11, practice began at 9 a.m., temperature 67 degrees, rain started at 10:24 a.m., track closed at 12:24 p.m. due to rain.
* 2002: May 11, Practice at 8 a.m., temperature 53 degrees, qualifying at 11 a.m., temp 57 degrees, 3 brief rain delays (one for 39 min and 2 for 12 min. each) between 11:49 a.m. and 4:40 p.m.. Qualifying ended at 6 p.m.. Temperature at 2 p.m. was 65 degrees.
* 2001: May 12, Practice at 8 a.m., temperature 50 degrees, qualifying at 11 a.m., temperature 56 degrees, temperature at 2 p.m. 65 degrees, qualifying ended at 6 p.m.. NO RAIN.
* 2000: May 20, Practice at 8 a.m., temperature 55 degrees, Qualifying at 11, temperature 51 degrees, Temperature at 3:25 p.m. 56 degrees. NO RAIN

***

The Indiana Section of SAE International announced today the four candidates for this year's 41st annual Louis Schwitzer Award sponsored by BorgWarner. The winner will be announced during a news conference at 10 a.m. Friday, May 18 in the Economaki Press Conference Room.

The four candidates:
Delphi Accident Data Recorder 3
Honda HI7R Engine
Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 Tire
Ethanol Racing Fuel

The Louis Schwitzer Award for engineering innovation and excellence at the Indianapolis 500 recognizes individuals with the courage and conviction to explore and develop new concepts in motorsports technology. This prestigious award has been presented annually since 1967 by the Indiana Section of SAE International in honor of early racing pioneer and past Indiana Section Chairman Louis Schwitzer.

The award winner is selected by a committee consisting of Indiana Section of SAE International members and Indy Racing League technical officials. Award sponsor BorgWarner Inc. provides a $10,000 cash prize to the winner. The Indiana Section of SAE International also provides a $1,000 scholarship to the engineering school of the winner's choice, and doubles that scholarship amount if the winner was a past Formula SAE participant. In addition, the winner's name is added to a permanent trophy on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

***

Indy Pro Series driver Tom Wood announced his retirement from driving May 11 after sustaining a compression fracture of the T9 vertebrae in an accident during private testing at the Milwaukee Mile on May 8. Wood, who is being treated at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis by Dr. Terry Trammell, intends to focus on team he co-owns in the Indy Pro Series, Team Moore Racing.

TOM WOOD: "I love this sport, but I think I've done this enough. I can't thank Dr. Terry Trammell, everyone at Ortho Indy and the Delphi Safety Team enough for all that they've done for me over the years." (About future plans): "This has all come about so suddenly. We need to work on a game plan, but eventually I'd like to develop our own ladder system, developing guys in the Indy Pro Series to compete in the IndyCar Series. This obviously isn't the way I wanted to go out as a driver. But there are new challenges ahead, and I'm looking forward to meeting them."

***

91ST INDIANAPOLIS 500 POLE SPEED PREDICTIONS

Driver
Ryan Briscoe 227 mph
Ed Carpenter 227

CARPENTER: "It keeps coming down, I think. I don't think it's going to go over 228. I'm thinking maybe high 227."

Helio Castroneves 228.5
Milka Duno 227
A.J. Foyt IV 227.5
Stephan Gregoire 226.5
Davey Hamilton 227.4
Jon Herb 230
Sam Hornish Jr. 228
Buddy Lazier 228

B. LAZIER: "It's always weather-dependent, but I wouldn't shy away from maybe a 228."

Jaques Lazier 227.4
Darren Manning 228

MANNING: "Well, I think high 228. I think if anybody does a (2)30, they probably deserve it."

Kosuke Matsuura 229

MATSUURA: "Last year was, I think, 229, and it depends on tomorrow and the wind direction. But if the wind comes from the south, I think 229."

Danica Patrick 225.5
Jeff Simmons 228

SIMMONS: "Well, whenever anybody asked me earlier, I thought that with the new torque, we'd see 230. But it seems to me that they don't want us to be there, and they're starting to take some power away. So I would say we'll probably see high 227, maybe a 228."

Dan Wheldon 228

WHELDON: "But I have no idea, to tell you the truth."

Rick Mears, who holds the Indianapolis 500 record with six poles, was asked for his prediction for the pole speed Saturday.

RICK MEARS: "No idea. I could not even guess my own when I ran."

*** A total of 40 cars are at the Speedway. Thirty-four have passed technical inspection. Twenty-nine drivers have been on the track to date, turning 1,238 laps today and 3,627 laps this month. Vitor Meira turned 86 laps today, most of any driver. Milka Duno has turned 299 laps this month, most of any driver. A total of 97 IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers have passed physical examinations at the Clarian Medical Center. There were five cautions today for a total of 1 hour, 3 minutes.

***

POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

BRIAN BARNHART (President, Competition and Operations, Indy Racing League): "I think it's been disappointing the last couple of years we haven't had a chance to (use the qualifying format). We've had such a solid week of practice. When you look at about 22 cars between 222 and 227 (mph) - 5 miles per hour separating 22 cars. Technically, you've got 28 cars going for 11 spots, but you've got 22 of them within 5 miles per hour, I think it's going to make for a very exciting day, very dramatic and should be very entertaining for the fans."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "I think this morning as everyone could see lots of people were running early on the track when it was cooler. There was pretty good grip because it hasn't rained that much. On our first run we had a bit of understeer and for our second one, we took some wing out, and it just went quicker. We got a bit of a tow off of Sam (Hornish) Jr. and got a 227. (About qualifying): "Clean laps, healthy cars on the track, time of day (will affect things). I think both of our cars are very quick at the moment. (Tony Kanaan) looks very strong. I think just running the speeds he did out there looked pretty clean. Last year, the groups were quite split, and you didn't have people to work with. I think it is easy to start a lap but then fight traffic quietly on a run and you normally get to see what passes over the length of four laps. We were even talking about it in the meeting early this morning about not running those decisions. I think we will have to do at least one base line but not get too caught up to them."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest of the day): (About today's practice): "There were a few little problems that we couldn't quite get out, but the car is very fast. It's about getting the most out of it tomorrow. I think if we can do that, we'll have a good shot at the pole. At the end of the day, you really can't get too excited. You have to focus on the race. Last year, I saw the real disappointing side of Indianapolis and in 2005 I saw the great side. I can't let anything distract me and understand that the big picture is to win the race. It would be great to be on the front row. It would be great to get the pole because Indianapolis is a special race to me and that's something I haven't achieved yet. We'll just have to wait and see." (On tomorrow's qualifying format): "It's no different to us. If we were thinking about not being in the top 11, Chip (Ganassi) would kick my butt from here to Milwaukee, and that's the next race. I've been very fortunate at Indianapolis to always be in cars that can contend for the pole and contend for the race wins. It's about maximizing those opportunities. I haven't quite maximized the opportunity to get the pole. That's something I feel I have a genuine shot of so we'll try and do that. But like I've said, it won't distract us from our main effort on the race."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest of the day): "It was a much better day for Team 7-Eleven as we worked toward our qualifying car. We had a reasonable speed alone. We've been good all week, and I think we're there. We're competitive, for sure. Tomorrow (Pole Day) is the most stressful day of the month other than the race. The new qualifying format looks exciting and dramatic so I think the fans will have a blast. I do well under pressure. I like the pressure, the atmosphere and hopefully we'll have a good day."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest of the day): "It's been an up-and-down week for us for sure. The NYSE car got better today after we made a few changes. We've been among the quickest cars all week so I'm hopeful we'll be right where we need to be tomorrow."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest of the day): "Today was a busy day. We were mostly prepping for Pole Day tomorrow. We really made some good progress on the Canadian Club car. It looks very close for qualifying tomorrow between the top seven or eight. I think it is going to be important to get the weather conditions in your favor to have everything right, and right now, I'm excited about it."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest of the day): "We worked a lot on the car today and tried to get some laps out there by ourselves. We're pretty happy with where the Team Penske car is going into Pole Day. Tomorrow morning we'll fine tune the car and then go out for qualifications and hopefully put it on the first or second row."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh fastest of the day): "We haven't been ultra fast. We've been fast, but we haven't been the fastest car. I think the Target (Chip Ganassi Racing) cars are really fast. It's been a little bit hit and miss for us. Every now and again we go out and have a run that's not that great, so I'm hoping that doesn't happen for qualifying. But I think if we get everything right we'll be maybe in the first row probably the first two rows if we get it all right."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 10th fastest of the day): "We ran consistently strong again today, which is what we were looking for. Unfortunately, a yellow came out just after we put on fresh tires for our final run, so we weren't able to be as high on the speed chart as we might have liked, but tomorrow is what counts. We'll have time in the morning to make our final adjustments before qualifying, and I'm optimistic about our chances."

DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We're good. We're starting to make progress with the car like we have done all year. We're working out what we need from the car and with the input from A.J., (Engineer) Len (Paskus), myself and now Little Al (Unser) and (his engineer) Tim Wardrop, we've been making the car feel better and we've gone faster. The new car is freeing up pretty good, and we still have some trimming out to do."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 A1TeamUSA/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 13th fastest of the day): "Today went pretty well. We'd like to be a little closer to the top of the charts. But we have a good shot for the top-11 on Saturday. We had some issues out of our control on Thursday and we had to stop early. Then we had another issue early today that wasn't our doing. So we lost some valuable track time the last two days. It was a little slick on the track later in the day and we learned some more about our car. We haven't been able to test very much this year so we are using this time to catch up. It has been rather unique that the weather has been so good for us. Only the one day with rain. So many years lately we have had to sit around and watch the rain. But this week has been great. It is scheduled to be a little cooler on the weekend and that will help our cars run faster. You don't always see Indy as nice as it has been so far. This time of the year it can be unpredictable here."

SARAH FISHER (No. 5 AAMCO Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 16th fastest of the day): "We did well today. We have to keep focused on the fact that we have a really great race car and our race package is good. Right now we are trying to find some more speed, and we'll keep digging at it."

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 22nd-fastest of the day): "It was a frustrating day. We're still learning right now. If this were Legos right now, we're just trying every piece in every position. Soon though, we're going to have to start putting the right pieces together. That's the nature of starting from scratch. In a sense, it's both a positive and negative. We're definitely learning a lot right now, but there's still a lot to be learned." (About qualifying): "I'd like to qualify somewhere between 224 and 225, it just depends on how things go. We'll see how our times go, but right now, we're getting tight on the amount of time available."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 50 A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 23rd fastest of the day): "The team is really coming together. It's great to be out on Fast Friday and working to find more speed. (About making a qualifying run tomorrow): "A.J. and I really haven't had a chance to talk about when we'll make a run. We'll see what tomorrow brings."

***

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m.. Public Gates Open
8:59 a.m. Honorary starter: Billie Jean King, former professional tennis champion
9-11 a.m. Indianapolis 500 practice
Noon-6 p.m. AAMCO Transmissions Pole Qualifications
6 p.m. AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award Winner Ceremony (Yard of Bricks)
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.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Milka Duno , Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Sarah Fisher , Jon Herb , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Rick Mears , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Tom Wood , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Johnny Rutherford , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , HART