IRL: Wallin' it at Indy

IRL: Wallin' it at Indy

Hard to believe that yesterday, when the wind was considered a huge factor there was only one incident as the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series conducted the first of a two-day testing session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for...

Hard to believe that yesterday, when the wind was considered a huge factor there was only one incident as the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series conducted the first of a two-day testing session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Buddy Rice.
Photo by Tony Johns.
That good record lasted exactly eight minutes this morning after the track went green for a scheduled 9AM start. Buddy Rice clouted the SAFER barrier in Turn 1, rendering his #15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda useless for the balance of the day. Rice blamed himself for the incident. "I just got in there and it stepped out. I went over the bump in the turn and boom, she went around and the rear end hit the wall."

His group from the Team Rahal stables expected to be heading back to Hilliard, OH by early afternoon; while they've got spare cars, why take the chance? IMS needed almost 45 minutes to repair the barrier and the track went green at 9:50AM.

But not for long. At 9:55AM it was Darren Manning's turn to test the Turn 1 wall and the Briton placed his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota against the same barrier. "I was flat in Turns 2, 3 and 4," Manning related about his qualifying simulation, "and I went into Turn 1 flat but it stepped out on me."

Less than 20 minutes later, the track went green again. After that there were tow-ins for #25 Marty Roth and #36 Bruno Junqueira, whose crew reported a lack of methanol in the tank. For the 2004 season, all IndyCar Series chassis may carry only 30 gallons of methanol, not the previous 35 gallons.

With about 24 minutes to go in the morning session, Sam Hornish Jr., fastest yesterday in his primary #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota took the team's #66 Panoz G Force out for a shakedown and systems check. All he managed was a scant five laps before Alex Barron brought out the final morning yellow and, in fact ended the scheduled three-hour practice with 20 minutes remaining on the docket.

Alex Barron.
Photo by Dan Helrigel - IRL.
Barron's #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy made contact with the Turn 2 wall, resulting in heavy damage to nearly all outboard components. The tub survived well. "Something mechanical happened," Barron explained. "Something happened in the rear of the car but we're not really sure what it is yet. It was a pretty good hit, 45 Gs, I think, so yeah it was a solid hit." Before that, Barron's lap of 41.3774 seconds (217.510mph) left the Californian ninth for the morning and tenth overall.

By the crack of noon, Barron had been released from the infield medical center and arrived back in the garage sporting an ace bandage around his bruised accelerator foot. One wag in the paddock noted that all the accident victims came from the same row of garages, which could result in a few swaps before practice begins on Mother's Day, May 9th.

Scott Dixon reigned supreme in the morning practice, driving his #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to a quick tour of the historic 2.5-mile oval at 40.9119 seconds (219.985 mph). Scott admitted he had a good tow for that speed, but also noted he had other laps in the 219.5mph range "pretty much alone.

"I'm pretty happy," Dixon said despite losing two sets of Firestone tires this morning when he ran over debris from crashes and cut them down. "I'm in a better situation than last year. There were some moments in 2003 when we got a little lost" preparing for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Dixon turned only 18 laps this afternoon - he did 40 in the morning - and was done for the day before 2PM.

Fastest again today, Sam Hornish Jr. used the draft to ace a lap of 40.8881 seconds (220.113mph) in his #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. "The guys worked really hard piecing together our cars after Japan," Hornish said. "Another week at the shop and we should be in real good shape for opening day next weekend."

Helio Castroneves again took second place in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota at 40.8952 seconds (220.075mph), making Robby Gordon's suggestion of a 223mph MBNA Pole Position average look more than likely. Both Penske drivers set their quick speeds in the afternoon session. Castroneves believes, "We are in good shape for the month of May."

Tomas Scheckter was third for the afternoon and fourth overall in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet at 41.0724 seconds (219.125mph), turning a total of only 12 laps. Scheckter thought, "we ran well both days. The important thing is to keep it off the wall, which we did." Stopping early, "I think we did enough and I'm pumped for the month of May," the South African exclaimed."

Dan Wheldon.
Photo by Dan Helrigel - IRL.
Dan Wheldon found sufficient speed in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda to improve to fourth for the afternoon and fifth overall at 41.1047 seconds (218.953mph). The Briton had some shifting difficulties at mid-afternoon which the team obviously fixed, allowing the Twin Ring Motegi victor to balance his car. "We have to make sure we have a good baseline for when we qualify and race," Wheldon said. "I think it's important not to lose focus of the big picture."

Third in the morning and sixth for the day in only his second day driving the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevrolet, Felipe Giaffone's 26th of 50 morning laps was a 41.1278 second tour for 218.830mph. Giaffone found the two-day test "very smooth. All the changes have been good and we're just taking our time, not doing anything crazy right now."

Although not as strong as Wednesday's winds, the sock atop IMS's scoring pylon varied direction throughout the day today and caused many teams to pack it in earlier than later.

Not so Kosuke Matsuura, who logged a total of 28 laps through the afternoon in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda; even so the Japanese rookie's morning tour of 41.1881 seconds (218.510mph) was good for seventh overall. "We're doing very good," he grinned, "trying to find the right setup. We improved two miles per hour from yesterday."

Roger Yasukawa saved the day for Team Rahal with his 22nd and final morning lap of 41.2933 seconds (217.953mph) in the #16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda, giving him eighth place for this final day of testing. Yasukawa thought, "Overall we had a good day. It was good to work with the crew again and adjust many things."

Robby Gordon.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Robby Gordon, third overall yesterday in his #70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Dallara/Chevy logged just four laps this morning but that last one of 41.3109 seconds (217.860mph) gave him ninth place for the day. In the afternoon Gordon logged 52 laps, performing simulated race runs in preparation for the month of May. Admitting, "We just happened to hit the setup right away and I think we'll be able to trim our car out and get into position to be good later on."

Scott Sharp turned the eighth best lap of the afternoon in his #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota, good for 11th on the combined listing; he turned 100 laps today, the most of 27 car/driver combinations practicing at IMS. The veteran knows, "You never run out of things to do," when trying to improve the car. "We're pretty well squared away to come into the month."

Rookie Mark Taylor, getting "more confidence on the racetrack," was 12th for the day in his #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet, based on his quick lap in the morning. Bruno Junqueira improved the #36 PacifiCare Panoz G Force/Honda to 13th overall and ran 82 practice laps today. "We learned some things and will now make a long list of things we need to work on. We still have a long way to go but we are making progress."

Adrian Fernandez, too, improved his car today and was 14th for the combined two practice sessions, marking his best tour in the afternoon and turning 75 laps in the #5 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda. The Mexican ace realizes he can learn from Matsuura, his faster rookie teammate but found his car "definitely better. It's been a very good test for the team."

Greg Ray was 15th in his #13 Renovac Panoz G Force/Honda. The Texan claimed his Access Motorsports team was "trying to work on the feel of the race car." Al Unser Jr., working to find good race balance for the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevy logged the 16th best lap of the day, turning a total of 89 laps and learning "quite a bit about the car."

Bryan Herta was 17th in the #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda, turning 65 laps and posting his best in the afternoon, working on "race settings mostly. We have a comfortable car right now." Rookie Ed Carpenter packed it up after teammate Barron's crash, but his 13th morning lap (of 18 total) gave the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy 18th for the day.

Dario Franchitti was 19th in the #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda, while teammate Tony Kanaan was a no-show for this test. Kanaan worked it out at Texas Motor Speedway last week in a Firestone tire test. Franchitti had "a frustrating couple of days getting to know the Speedway again."

Tora Takagi's best morning lap in the #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota was good for 20th and last year's Indy 500 Rookie of the Year "tried a number of different things these last two days." Sarah Fisher and the #39 Bryant Heating and Cooling Dallara/Toyota team worked to find the right comfort level for her fifth try in the Indy 500; she was 21st using a morning lap. "We have a plan of attack and everything's laying down real smooth," she said.

"Good job," said A.J. Foyt Jr. to his grandson Anthony after the 19-year- old finished his 42-lap excursion today in the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota, good for 22nd overall. "We pretty much accomplished what we needed to and learned a lot," he said. Uncle Larry Foyt, driving the #14T Conseco Dallara/Toyota was 23rd and logged 52 laps. "My biggest concern was not to do something stupid and Dad kept the car comfortable," so he was able to get "some decent speeds."

Rice ended up in 24th place, rookie Marty Roth was 25th in the #25 Dallara/Toyota, Manning took 26th and Hornish's five laps in the #66 Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota gave the two-time Indy Racing League champ both first and last spots.

Teams and drivers have a week to evaluate their testing progress before practice begins for the 88th Indianapolis 500 on Mother's Day, May 9th. MBNA Pole Day is set for May 16th and the race begins at 11AM CDT on May 30th.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Darren Manning , Robby Gordon , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Larry Foyt , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Marty Roth , Kosuke Matsuura , A.J. Foyt Jr. , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske