Archive for May 17, 2007

Speedway Sightings

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 17, 2007
Speedway, Indiana

Two more famous American racing families saw their names formally posted in this year’s Indianapolis 500 entry log as John Andretti and P.J. Jones were introduced this morning as the drivers of the No. 33 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda and the No. 40 Team Leader-Dollander Racing Dallara/Honda respectively. If qualifying goes as expected, the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, will have three Andrettis, one Unser, a Jones and a Foyt.

Andretti is attempting to qualify for his eighth Indianapolis 500, while also having competed in 10 Brickyard 400 NASCAR races. In the case of Jones, whose father Parnelli won the 1963 Indy 500, P.J. will be trying to qualify this Saturday for his third 500. Jones’s mount will carry the same number and color scheme featured on the famed STP Pratt & Whitney Turbine driven by his father in the 1967 Indy 500.

Another driver added today to the qualifying lineup is Roger Yasukawa, tabbed to drive the third entry for Indianapolis-based race team, Dreyer & Reinbold. A four-time Indianapolis 500 competitor, Yasukawa, will be behind the wheel of the No. 24 Wellman-Corbier Dallara/Honda. Yasukawa is a Los Angeles native, who finished 19th in both the 2003 and 2004 Indianapolis 500s. He joins Dreyer & Reinbold teammates Sarah Fisher and former Indy 500 winner, Buddy Rice who have already qualified for this year’s 500. This is the first time Dreyer & Reinbold have attempted to campaign three cars in an Indianapolis 500.

Mid 60’s temperatures and gray cloudy skies greeted the race teams at the opening of official practice at 12 noon today, but it did not restrain their efforts to get “on it” in practice.

In the first hour of practice 11 cars made runs with the quickest being Dario Franchitti in the Andretti-Green No. 27 Dallara/Honda. He was joined by Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Sam Hornish, Jr, Michael Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Jeff Simmons, Kosuke Matsuura, Danica Patrick and Jimmy Kite. All, except for Kite, were working on race setup as they have already qualified for the 500. Jimmy Kite will attempt to qualify for the first time this weekend.

Later in the afternoon, as the skies cleared, Kite, in his first day on the track and in the process of “shaking the car down”, had his No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda get loose and spin hard into the outside wall, then sliding back across the track to finally rest in the infield grass. It has yet to be determined if a mechanical failure was the cause. PDM Racing only has one car at the track presently, putting the team under tremendous pressure to get the car repaired and up to speed in time for qualify this Saturday. Kite was checked and released from the Clarian Emergency Medical Center and cleared to drive by Dr. Mike Olinger, Indy Racing League Director of Medical Services.

Quickest lap of the day belonged Danica Patrick in the No. 7 Andretti-Green Dallara/Honda at 221.189 miles per hour, followed closely by Scott Dixon in the Target Chip Ganassi No. 9T Dallara/Honda at 220.556 mph and Sam Hornish, Jr. in the No. 6T Penske Racing Dallara/Honda running at 220.484 mph.

In addition to Dixon and Hornish five other teams put backup cars on the track for some serious laps. Those being Scott Sharp in the No. 8T Panther car, Ryan Briscoe’s in the No. 12T Luczo Dragon car, Dan Wheldon in the No. 10T Target Chip Ganassi car, Helio Castroneves in the No. 3T Penske car and Jeff Simmons in the No. 17T Rahal-Letterman car.

Practice saw 26 cars put on 1,210 laps, the most in a single day practice session since May 8th when 27 cars ran a total of 1218 laps. The most active drivers for the day were Marco Andretti with 102 laps, Ryan Briscoe, 100 laps and AJ Foyt IV with the highest individual effort of the day at 105 laps. There have been a total of 7300 laps run for the month.

It was quite clear today that those who have qualified are getting down to business developing race day chassis and aero configurations. The cars ran seemingly effortless in both individual runs and in packs with all but 3 of the cars running well over 200 miles per hour.

Qualifying for an additional 11 entries continues next Saturday May 20th.