Archive for May 16, 2008

Speedway Sightings …

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — May 15, 2008
Speedway, Indiana

The weather finally set the Indianapolis 500 field and hopefuls free for an afternoon of practice.

Conditions were nowhere near ideal with overcast skies, a temperature of 60 degrees, and winds from the east at 14 mph, but 35 cars made an appearance with four teams also running their “T” or backup cars.

It was an afternoon of “have” and “haven’t yet” as teams who have already qualified for the 500 were working on their race setups and those hoping to qualify on Saturday were searching for speed.

In one of the busiest days at the Brickyard this May, drivers and race teams completed 2,628 laps or just over 6,500 miles for the afternoon, without incident.

A total of 27 cars topped the 220 miles per hour mark with Ryan Briscoe running 223.708 mph in his No. 6T Team Penske Dallara/Honda. He was followed by his teammate and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 3T Team Penske machine at 223.284 mph.

Scott Dixon once again ran in the top five, finishing the day with a top speed of 223.192 mph in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara/Honda. Spots four and five on the speed chart were held down by Tony Kanaan in the No. 11 Team 7-11 Andretti-Green Dallara/ Honda at 222.880 mph and Tomas Scheckter No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing Dallara/Honda at 222.804 mph.

Based on his performance again Thursday, one can’t fault car owner Marty Roth’s decision to put John Andretti in the seat of the No. 24 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda. Andretti came out and promptly posted a lap at 222.474 and finished seventh fastest on the day, quite a solid outing considering that all of the Penske, Target Chip Ganassi and Andretti-Green cars participated in practice.

The fastest rookie of the day was Kalkhoven/Vasser Racing’s Will Power in the No. 8 Dallara/Honda at 222.657 mph. Power continues to impress fellow drivers with his workman-like approach. He became a subject in the early morning press conference with Dixon and Dan Wheldon, both agreeing that the most-polished among the newcomers on the track this year might just be Power.

“I personally think the one that seems very calculated and pretty quick is Will Power,” Wheldon said. “From what I understand, I don’t think he particularly likes the ovals.

“Just looking at him from a style standpoint, I got a feeling that he could potentially be the best. But obviously you got to get your head around liking these places.”

Wheldon was less complimentary of E.J. Viso, who drives the No. 33 HVM Racing PDVSA Dallara/Honda.

“The craziest by far is Ernesto Viso, I think his name is,” Wheldon said. “Dude, he looks nuts. You can tell he (Viso) hasn’t hit the wall yet. When he hits the wall, you’ll know, because he’ll pull out slowly from the car in front, move back nicely.

“You can tell he hasn’t hit yet. You can tell the guys that haven’t hit hard. In 2003, I came out of the box swinging. Then you hit the wall and you just start to calm down a little bit, then you start to hit the wall a bit more, then you really start to calm down. You realize it’s not a nice feeling.”

Dixon echoed Wheldon’s sentiments.

“Yeah, I tend to agree,” this year’s polesitter said. “Viso is pretty crazy. (Will) Power, he’s got good car control, definitely thinks about things a little more than maybe some of the others.

“I think the other one is probably Justin Wilson. Seems very, very good, as well.”

Today is the final day of practice before qualifying on Saturday and Sunday.