IRL: Indy opens, so do the skies

IRL: Indy opens, so do the skies

There is a popular saying in Indiana that if you don't like the weather, wait a half an hour and it will change. What they don't tell you, however, is that it usually changes into something much worse. Five past winners takes a...

There is a popular saying in Indiana that if you don't like the weather, wait a half an hour and it will change. What they don't tell you, however, is that it usually changes into something much worse.

Five past winners takes a ceremonial lap around the track: Kenny Brack, Al Unser Jr., Helio Castroneves, Arie Luyendyk and Buddy Lazier.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
The opening day for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 started off cold and overcast, and after about three hours became even colder and soaking wet. Many of the teams did manage to get in a decent amount of track time before the rains came, however, so the day wasn't a complete wash.

IndyCar points leader Scott Sharp seemed to be driving like a man possessed from the outset, setting the fastest lap of the day at 228.764 mph. Whatever it was that possessed him didn't exactly seem to be from the happy land of polite drivers, however, a fact that Felipe Giaffone can certainly attest to.

At one point early in the session, Giaffone went around a slower driver heading into turn three and, clearly to his surprise, found Sharp's Dallara ducking underneath him only inches from his sidepod. Giaffone made some quick work with the wheel and was able to avoid contact, but he was undoubtedly left questioning Sharp's derring-do less than an hour into the first day of practice.

Helio Castroneves had a solid day befitting a two-time defending champion, finishing second fastest with a 228.088, while a pair of Indy newbies, Tora Takagi and Dan Wheldon, sat a somewhat surprising third and fourth with a 227.884 and a 227.716 respectively.

Besides Takagi and Wheldon, it was the first opening day experience for several other drivers, including Tomas Scheckter, Buddy Rice, and A.J. Foyt IV. Scheckter, who lead a number of laps at Indy a year ago before finding the wall, has arrived at the Speedway this May with a noticeably more laid back attitude.

"Opening day (in 2002) I was suspended for three days, so at least I'm in the car!" Scheckter said. "I feel a lot more relaxed this year. I know everything that's coming, I know what's happening, I know what to expect, and I have a good team behind me.

Tomas Scheckter.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
"I think I keep learning (to be patient)," Scheckter continued. "I think a lot of the CART guys that came in are also very aggressive early on and it doesn't really matter because it's such a long race, and really the last 20 laps, that's when it counts. There are 7 pit stops. It's useless going crazy on the second yellow when it goes green to try and get ahead because it's not going to make much of a difference."

Scheckter's former teammate at Cheever Racing, Buddy Rice, was undaunted by his initial run in the month of May. "I think today was pretty comfortable," he said. "We got in three days of testing here, so I think we're doing alright. Now with the rain coming it may keep changing the track, but that's the way the month goes." Clearly he is already familiar with the uncooperative climate in Indianapolis.

A.J. IV was much less philosophical about the weather situation than his fellow Indy rookie. When asked how his day went, his answer was short and his tone was flat. "I didn't even get to run," he said. "We just did two slow laps and came in when it started raining."

Welcome to Indiana, IV. If you don't like the weather, wait a half an hour and it will probably get worse.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , A.J. Foyt