By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 10, 2007
Although Wednesday’s open practice session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was greeted by a heavy downpour just as the cars were scheduled to hit the track, there was much more optimism here than despair.
That’s because for the first time in recent memory there are more cars and engines available for qualifying for the running of the Indianapolis 500, than had been expected. Word out of Gasoline Alley indicates that there are currently 31 drivers committed to this year’s 500, with the potential of 37 car/driver combinations.
It has been reported that Honda (sole engine supplier for the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500) has 27 one-month-long race team contracts in place with 10 more “second week” contacts with other teams. Month-long contracted teams have already begun practice, while the “second week” teams will be allowed to start practicing next week.
Some teams have already announced driver additions such as Jimmy Kite who will be behind the wheel of the No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda and P.J. Jones (son of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones) who will be aboard the No. 40 Direct Diversified Team Leader Dallara/Honda
Teams discussing car and driver additions are rumored to be Panther Racing (John Andretti), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Roger Yasukawa) and Beck Motorsports (Alex Barron.) Other teams with car entries listed, but no drivers yet announced are Cabbie Motorsports, Hemelgarn Racing, CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports (one in addition to Alex Barron) and AJ Foyt Racing.
Late Afternoon Practice gets underway …
After undergoing the track drying process for just over 2 hours, the speedway opened for practice at 4:02 pm. In a matter of minutes, the storied oval was more than busy with 25 drivers putting their cars through paces.
Dan Wheldon continued his assault on the Brickyard by cracking the 226 mile per hour mark with room to spare in just his seventh lap on the track. His Target Chip Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon also scorched the afternoon asphalt with a lap of 224.902 mph, clearly indicating for the second day of open practice that the Ganassi Team is “dialed in!”
Wheldon stated for the second day in row “I must be getting old, because I am more concerned with the race than with the pole. Some people think we’re running qualifying levels of downforce and to answer those guys, I haven’t been slow in a race (this year) yet!”
Running right with Wheldon and Dixon was Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda whose 225.820 mph lap was almost a miler per hour faster than his best lap yesterday. Castroneves characterized his practice outing by saying “We’re still focusing on our race setup at this point because that’s really what’s important. The fastest car doesn’t always win. We improved the car’s handling and ended up a little faster than yesterday, so we’re happy with the direction we’re heading.”
Castroneves’ teammate defending Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish, Jr. was also faster than yesterday, later saying “The Team Penske car was pretty good today. We ran the same amount of downforce as yesterday and tried to improve the handling and the grip. I think we’re in good shape thus far, and I feel really comfortable in the car. Hopefully we’ll find a little more speed throughout the month, but we’re making sure we take our time and not rushing our progress.”
By far the most progress made by an Andretti-Green team member was Marco Andretti, who picked up over one and half miles per hour over his practice time yesterday, with the 20 year old climbing up amongst the leaders for the day at 224.745 mph within just an 11 lap run. Andretti stated that he was “pleased with the progress, but I do think we have a ways to go.”
For the rain-shortened practice a total of 680 laps were run, by 26 cars, in under two hours with the most active driver being Marty Roth in the No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda.
Open practice once again commences again at 12 noon on Thursday.
Then “Fast Friday” is upon us.
Top Ten Speeds for the Day
Dan Wheldon – Target Chip Ganassi #10 — 226.391
Helio Castroneves – Team Penske #3 — 225.820
Scott Dixon — Target Chip Ganassi #9 — 224.902
Marco Andretti – Andretti-Green #26 — 224.745
Tony Kanaan — Andretti-Green #11 — 224.112
Sam Hornish Jr. – Team Penske #6 — 224.054
Dario Franchitti – Andretti-Green #27 — 223.844
Tomas Scheckter – Vision Racing #2 — 223.539
Danica Patrick — Andretti-Green #7 — 223.476
Kosuke Matsuura – Panther Racing #55 — 223.331