Practice for the final weekend of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 moved under another blustery late-spring day at the Speedway as twenty-three cars tested the oval and Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon proved fastest with a lap of 219.985...
Practice for the final weekend of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 moved under another blustery late-spring day at the Speedway as twenty-three cars tested the oval and Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon proved fastest with a lap of 219.985 miles per hour.
Cloudy and cool conditions continued to prevail over Speedway, Indiana on Thursday (May 17th) with the high barely reaching sixty degrees on a day when only two cars besides Dixon broke into the 219 mph bracket. Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon's 219.773 mph and Foyt Racing's Darren Manning (219.116 mph) were the only other drivers to come close to Dixon's tour.
A brisk north/northwest wind gusted across the Brickyard at varying intervals prompting fans in the higher grandstand areas to reach for another layer and making racers wary of being caught out in the short sections north and south between the turns.
As a result, racers tiptoed through the sections between turns one and two, three and four with caution and speeds dropped significantly. Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter was fourth quick on the day at 218.320 mph and his teammate Ed Carpenter right behind at 217.995 mph.
Davey Hamilton (217.975 mph) and AJ Foyt IV (217.893 mph) kept Vision in the forefront by finishing sixth and seventh on the time sheets at the final gun 6PM EDT.
Stephan Gregoire suffered the most damaging setback of the month to date as he whistled into turn one at the same point where Jimmy Kite lost control on Wednesday and spun backwards into the wall. The car suffered wing and suspension damage, but the greater loss was Gregoire himself who was transported by ambulance to Methodist Hospital for x-rays.
Gregoire suffered an end-plate fracture of the third thoracic vertebrae, a location proximate of the shoulder blades, and was hospitalized overnight for further observation.
His status going forward the remainder of the month and into the Memorial Day race date remains up in the air.
Gregoire's time was eighth-fastest on Thursday at 217.851 mph as the team had only just begun to put together its qualifying package for this weekend's final two days of attempts.
Rahal Letterman's Scott Sharp and Al Unser Jr were good for ninth and tenth respectively on the day at 217.680 mph and 217.590 mph.
Milka Duno continued to win fans over, attracting fully a hundred or more visitors to her pit area around 3 PM when she was on the oval for practice. Her speeds remain in the two hundred-teens range, putting her uncomfortably close to bumping territory when and if she gains a spot in the field this weekend.
The Venezuelan driver is attracting a mixture of the curious and the admiring as she takes time to sign autographs, poses patiently for pictures (often with men wearing wedding rings), and plays to the crowd that can't seem to get enough of the diminutive racer in the red, white and blue CITGO car.
PJ Jones throwback tribute to his father Parnelli Jones's controversial Andy Granatelli/STP Turbine car of 1967 circulated the track with the same bright orange and red colors of its namesake car, managing a lap over 212 mph in its second day on the track.
Team Penske made a perfunctory showing today, bringing their T-cars out to the track shortly after opening at Noon. Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish turned only a few laps before retiring to the garages with only six laps and a top speed of 106.783 mph (Hornish) between them.
Jimmy Kite's accident of Wednesday apparently was a mechanical failure as the team evaluated the gearbox area of the Panoz/Honda and found a broken left rear lower A-arm at the point of insertion into the box. The team plans to complete repairs in time to resume practicing on Friday (May 18th) when the track reopens at Noon.
The unsettled weather looks to be just about over as Friday's practice becomes of critical importance to the yet-unqualified teams that have braved the wind and wooly-time temperatures this week. The last day of the week will bring the final six hours of practice going into Saturday qualifications for the twenty-second through thirty-third starters who complete the field.