By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times News Group — May 20, 2007
Seeking the speed, that they need …
On a gorgeous, cloud-free, sun-drenched day, the Brickyard was crowded by 31 Indianapolis 500 victory hopefuls, as they attacked the afternoon asphalt for one of the last opportunities the will have to seek the speed they need.
One of the first competitors on the track was John Andretti, who hasn’t driven an Indy car here since 1994. Mario Andretti’s nephew clearly remembered how to drive the storied oval and got up to speed quickly, posting a 222.830 mph lap in just his 20th circuit on the two and half mile oval. Andretti said he was “really pleased” with the Panther Racing No. 33 Dallara/Honda and explained he had to fight the urge to run the “NASCAR line” while on the track, which he had most recently driven while competing in 10 Brickyard 400 races here, since his last Indianapolis 500.
It quickly became the busiest day of the month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with 31 cars running a total of 1,768 laps, with the month’s total coming to 9,863 laps run.
It became obvious early in the practice session, that many of the teams that are already qualified were working car setups relative to running in traffic. Tony Kanaan, who is starting the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 from the middle of the front row, was the busiest driver for the day, running 104 laps in his No. 11 Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda. Right behind him was Buddy Lazier, who is also already qualified for the 500, running 100 laps in the No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Honda.
Sam Hornish, Jr. ran the quickest speed of the day with a 225.006 mph lap in his No. 6T Penske Dallara/Honda backup car. Hornish said later “We’re going to come back out tomorrow to work on it (the car) a bit more. We feel pretty good with the Team Penske car thus far, but we know we have to get it exactly right before race day, because there’s no room for error at the Indy 500.”
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was right behind him on the leaderboard with 224.458 mph lap, also run with a backup car. Dixon commented “We had a few changes later in the day and it was quite nice. I’m pretty happy.”
At one point in the last hour of practice, commonly referred to as “Happy Hour” there were 11 cars on the track at one time, making their last grasp for the speed. The 220 mile per hour mark was broken by 24 cars.
More driver announcements were made earlier in the day. Open-wheel veteran Roberto Moreno is slated to replace injured Stephan Gregoire in the No. 77 Chastain Motorsports Panoz/Honda. Moreno was being fitted for his seat in the backup car today and will get his first chance behind the wheel during practice tomorrow, between qualifying attempts.
Beck Motorsports finally announced that Alex Barron, the 2002 Indianapolis 500 Co-Rookie of the Year (an honor he shared with Tomas Scheckter) as their driver in the No. 98 CURB Records/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports Dallara/Honda. Barron is a four-time Indy 500 participant, with second and fourth place finishes to his credit. Alex struggled to get up to speed in his first day in car, finishing with 216.432 mph as his best lap.