It’s Now or Never …

Posted: May 17, 2008 in Uncategorized

Speedway Sightings …

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune — May 17, 2008
Speedway, Indiana

Like Thursday, the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened for business at 12 noon sharp.

Unlike Thursday, the sun showed brightly on Friday afternoon when 36 cars took the track.

Track temperature at the start of the session was 94 degrees, with an ambient of 62 degrees, along with winds from the north-northwest at 14 miles per hour, making for some of the best conditions this month for IndyCar practice.

Dan Wheldon proved to be a bit of a profit with his comments on Thursday morning about rookie driver E.J. Viso. The 23-year-old Venezuelan former test driver from Formula One slammed into the Turn 3 wall after completing only one lap. Viso was helped from his No. 33 HVM Racing PDVSA Dallara, whose rear tires and rear wing were heavily damaged. He was checked and cleared to drive by the Speedway medical staff less than a half-hour following his crash.

However, soon after Viso’s adventure, Will Power, the rookie driver that Wheldon indicated had probably been the most consistent rookie throughout the month, found himself sliding into the Turn 2 wall, just after running his fastest lap of the day at 223.039 mph, as the result of a tow. Power, in his No. 8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia KV Racing Dallara, who hadn’t been up to full speed without the benefit of the draft said of his wreck “There was a lot of blustery wind out there and I just got caught out. I wasn’t even up to speed yet and the car came around on me sending me into the wall.” Power was also cleared to drive by Speedway medical staff not long after his incident. As one of the Champ Car transition teams, KV Racing does not have a race-ready backup car available; as a result, it appears that they will work through the night to get the No. 8 rebuilt for qualifying tomorrow. Power was scheduled to be the first qualifying attempt of the day Saturday.

Later in the afternoon, after running 86 laps, Ryan Briscoe in his backup car, the No. 6T Penske Racing Dallara, crashed hard into the SAFER barrier exiting Turn 2. The car was substantially damaged with the rear suspension and wing taking most of the abuse. Briscoe was released to drive by the Speedway medical staff within a half an hour.

Last incident of the day was rookie Graham Rahal in his No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Dallara, who “white walled” his right side tires glancing of the wall coming out of Turn 1, essentially ending his day.

His teammate Justin Wilson, in the No. 02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan McDonalds Dallara also had uneasy episode during his team’s effort to trim out the car for qualifying. Wilson’s assessment of the episode was chilling … “I had a big moment in Turn 1. I think it was more luck than judgment that the back (of the car) came in line. I basically crashed but didn’t hit anything. It was the crash that never happened, but should have. We thought that was enough luck for today, so we put the car away.”

“Fast Five” of the day consisted of the race polesitter Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara at 223.713 mph, followed by Helio Castroneves in the No. 3T Penske Racing Dallara at 223.411 mph. Next on the speed chart was Ryan Briscoe in the No. 6T Penske Racing Dallara at 223.372 mph, Will Power in the No. 8 KV Racing Dallara at 223.039 mph and Graham Rahal No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Dallara at 222.959 mph.

Most track observers agree the speed needed to capture one of the final 22 spots on the grid of 33 for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will likely be over 220 miles per hour. On Friday, 14 drivers fit that criteria.

Drivers like 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, although they have yet to qualify, but are confident that they have the speed to make the field, spent the majority of their day working on racing setup, rather than “trimming’ their cars out for qualifying.

Buddy Lazier, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, made it on the track in his No. 91 Hemelgarn entry putting in 51 laps on the day. His car ran the lowest speed of the day at 216.392, but he was pleased with the effort of his team shaking the car down. He plans to get more practice time in tomorrow between qualifying attempts in an effort to find the speed he needs to make the show.

The only car yet to see time on the track is 2007 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Phil Giebler’s No. 88 American Dream Racing Panoz/Honda. They had hoped to be out this afternoon, but were delayed until their Honda engine lease became official. They are committed to qualifying this weekend.

It all comes down to 12 noon Saturday, when the most competitive field at Indianapolis in over a decade will lay it all out on the line to earn their way into the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The weather forecast for Speedway, Indiana calls for isolated thunderstorms with a 30 percent chance of showers.

You can bet that the team engineers will once again be working late into the night here at the Brickyard.

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