Archive for May 7, 2008

Speedway Sightings …

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — May 7, 2008
Speedway, Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Thirty-one race car drivers and one presidential candidate all hit the Speedway on Tuesday in an effort to begin their individual paths to immortality.

Shorty before noon, Sen. Hillary Clinton visited the garages of Sarah Fisher Racing.

“I was thrilled to have a chance to meet Sarah and her team, the first owner-driver who is a woman is a big deal. She’s a trailblazer,” Clinton said.

Fisher was equally pleased with the visit.

“It’s certainly an honor and very much a privilege to have Senator Clinton here endorsing our race team and what we’re doing. … She really supports initiatives for someone like myself going forward breaking ground and breaking glass ceilings.”

By the time the senator’s visit ended, things quickly began to heat up at the Brickyard.

With temperatures in the low 80s and partly cloudy skies covering the track all afternoon, concern that the forecast for rain will evolve into a round of scattered showers threatening both today’s and Thursday’s schedule altered practice plans for most of the teams.

After running a grand total of 1,316 laps over the course of Sunday and Monday, 1,383 laps were turned during the six-hour practice session.

In the first hour alone, 17 cars completed 240 laps with Tony Kanaan in the No. 11 Team 7-11 Andretti Green Racing Dallara/Honda setting the pace with the fastest lap of the month at 224.591 miles per hour. By the end of the day, even that speed failed to hold up.

In a late-afternoon flourish that saw 29 drivers break the 220 mph barrier, it was Kanaan who stepped up the pace with a 225.269 mph lap, only to have his teammate, 21-year-old Marco Andretti in the No. 26 Indiana Jones Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda, top the charts with a lap of 226.599 mph.

The young Andretti attributed his speed to a tow from rookie Graham Rahal’s No. O6 Newman/Haas/Lanigan entry, but that didn’t dispel the fact that Marco’s speed was faster than last year’s pole speed (225.817 by Helio Castroneves).

“We got a tow, obviously, but the mechanical balance of the car was very good and we couldn’t have gotten that speed without mechanical balance first.”

Tuesday’s practice was primarily to shake down the cars, so when speeds in the high 225s and mid 226s surfaced so quickly, it’s apparent that this year’s field is going to be fast.

The day’s top-five was rounded out by Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda at 225.011, Ryan Briscoe in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda at 224.804 mph and Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda at 224.727 mph.

Six rookies finished in the top 20 of the day’s speed chart with the fastest being Will Power in the No. 8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia Dallara/Honda at 223.550 mph.

Just before 5 p.m., rookie Jaime Camara, who hit the SAFER barrier in Turn One Monday, was released to drive beginning this morning by Dr. Mike Olinger, senior medical director of the Indy Racing League.

When asked how his experience in racing in the Firestone Indy Lights at Indianapolis compared to the IndyCar series, Carmara stated “Everything is sharper; you have to be a lot more focused here in the IndyCar. There is no margin for error.”

IndyCar practice resumes at Noon Wednesday, weather permitting.