Archive for May 9, 2008

Speedway Sightings …

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — May 9, 2008
Speedway, Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — On the surface, Thursday seemed like just another laid-back rainy day in Indiana.

But inside the garages of Gasoline Alley, it was a day of rising tensions.

For the second day in a row, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was rendered silent as rains continued to fall in Indianapolis.

The canceling of open IndyCar practice for both Wednesday and Thursday now leaves only Fast Friday’s afternoon practice as the lone window for the entire Indianapolis 500 field to put its cars in qualifying trim for Saturday’s pole run.

Qualifying at the front of the Indy field is widely considered a must for two reasons.

First, with a third of this years competitors likely being rookies, being in the middle of the field as it takes the green flag and charges into the first turn at over 220 miles per hour might not be the ideal place to be. Secondly, the winner of the pole for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 cops the $100,000 PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award.

More than 30 drivers and their teams, searching for just the right setup, have been secluded in their garages. They’ve been unable to confidently implement the changes needed in their cars after the wide-open practice session on Tuesday when 33 cars hit the track, running almost three and half thousand miles in a six-hour period. Speedway conditions on Tuesday had ambient temperatures in the low to mid 80s and track temperatures running just over 120 degrees.

Another contributing factor to Tuesday’s run of 29 drivers breaking the 220 mile per hour barrier was that there had been two days of rubber put down on the track during the course of the Rookie Orientation Program.

Factors concerning race teams for today’s final practice include two primary issues, the weather forecast for Indianapolis calls for mostly cloudy skies in the afternoon, with a 40 percent chance of rain and highs in the mid 60s with light winds. The second issue is that the track is now completely green, with all of the tire rubber washed away by rain.

Attitudes differ from driver to driver on the need for substantial practice time on Friday.

“The Team 7-Eleven car was fast on Tuesday, so I don’t think we missed anything by not getting on the track today,” said Tony Kanaan, driver of the Andretti/Green No. 11 car. “I feel comfortable with where we are right now.”

Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing felt just the opposite saying, “We weren’t real thrilled with our runs Tuesday, so I really wanted to get back out on the track to see if we made any gains.”

All eyes will be skyward this morning as the clock ticks down to Saturday’s run for the pole.

Pent up speed and a green track is what awaits the Indy 500 field on what is likely to be a fast and furious Friday.