By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 19, 2007
With Friday, being the only full day of practice left until the final weekend of qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, race teams spent a cloudy and windy Thursday afternoon relentlessly searching for speed. Ambient temperatures in the mid-to-high 50s, track surface temperatures in the mid 70s, and winds from the north at 16 mph, made for a very challenging day.
Though several race teams, who have already secured a place in the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 ran laps on the two and half mile oval, it was the teams yet to qualify who showed the most concentrated effort.
The roughest stretch of the day came just after 1pm when Stephan Gregoire in the Chastain Motorsports No. 77 Panoz/Honda, running at over 215 miles per hour, got loose coming out of turn one, went into a spin and slid the back end of his car against the outside wall, destroying the entire rear suspension. After being examined at the Clarian Emergency Medical Center, he was transferred to Indianapolis Methodist Hospital by ambulance after complaining of back pain, where an MRI revealed that he suffered an endplate fracture of his third thoracic vertebrae. Gregoire is scheduled to be released from the hospital on Friday.
This accident was the second at the Speedway in two days, following Jimmy Kite’s ride into the first turn wall yesterday afternoon in the No. 18 PDM Racing Panoz/Honda. The cause for the Kite incident proved to be a break in the gearbox mounting apparatus, that allowed the entire left-rear suspension to disengage, generating “a tow” on one side of the car, throwing it into a spin before hitting the wall. Kite stated “The positive part was I was already slowing down and getting ready to come in, and I was only doing about 190 (miles per hour) when I spun, so if I was up over 200 mph, it would have torn up (the car) a lot more than it did.” The crew is planning to have the car repaired by Friday morning practice. The PDM team may have caught a break though because the primary car they’re working frantically on to get repaired is a Panoz chassis. PDM has been fortunate to locate some very good Panoz chassis parts that had been rendered obsolete by other teams that have changed over to the more popular Dallara chassis. Kite went on to say “… we’ve been using as many favors as we can right now.”
Target Chip Ganassi teammates, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, using their backup cars were atop the lap speed leaderboard at the end of the day at 219.985 mph and 219.773 mph respectively. Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and defending 500 Champion Sam Hornish, Jr., also in their backup cars, worked exclusively on pit stops. Andretti-Green Racing kept all of their cars in the garage for the day, citing the weather as the cause.
One of the more concerned drivers for the upcoming qualifying weekend is Rookie Milka Duno. Last week she ran as quick as 219.830 mph. But since tangling with the outside wall coming out of turn one on May 11th, her since repaired Dallara/Honda has not regained its earlier speeds. Today her best was 213.460 mph, which puts her in a dubious position for making her way into the 33 car race day field.
Two entries filed for the upcoming Indianapolis 500 are owned by the CURB Records/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports Team. The word out of Gasoline Alley is the team’s two cars, the No. 43 and No. 98, both Dallara/Hondas, are here at the track and being put into running order, but the team has yet to secure a major sponsor.