Archive for May 14, 2011

Speedway Sightings at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune, a Chicago Sun-Times Publication
May 14, 2011

Working with IndCar Series driving coach Al Unser, JR. eighteen Firestone Indy Light drivers hit the track for a scheduled four hour testing session Friday, their last until they practice and qualify a day before their biggest race of the year, the Freedom 100 run on Carb Day, May 27th, at IMS.

Fastest on the day was Andretti Autosport’s Stefan Wilson who was clocked at 190.571 miles per hour. Wilson is younger brother of IndyCar Series driver, Justin Wilson. Following his 66 lap practice run Wilson said “It’s been a really good day. It gives us a bit of momentum going into the race on Carb Day. I just want to thank all of the guys on the #5 Andretti Autosport car. Today really put us in good shape for the race in a few weeks’ time. Hopefully we can keep this performance up and get the pole.”

Six drivers eclipsed the 189 mph mark, with Gustavo Yacaman of Team Moore Racing being second fastest on the day at 189.841.

Bryan Clauson, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, ran 14th fastest on the day at 187.419 mph. Clauson, the 2010 USAC National Drivers Champion is participating in the Firestone Indy Lights Series oval races by virtue of his winning an IndyCar Series “ladder” scholarship, based on his open-wheel accomplishments from last season. Clauson again admitted today that he is feeling the pressure to perform well as the first ever recipient of the USAC/Indy Lights scholarship, but knows that “comes with the territory.”

Slowest on the day was Chase Austin of the Willy T. Ribbs/Starting Line/BAR Race Team at 184.944 mph. It was just Wednesday, that Chris Miles, a principal with Starting Grid, Inc, announced a partnership with former IndyCar driver Willy T. Ribbs to form a team to campaign the 21-year-old African-American driver in the 2011 Freedom 100. Austin, at 15 years of age was the youngest driver ever to sign a developmental contract in NASCAR, doing so with Hendrick Motorsports. By 2007, he drove for Rusty Wallace Racing in the Nationwide Series and has run several races during the last two seasons in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series.

By the end of the day Friday, IndyCar Series teams were setup in Gasoline Alley with several teams already passed through tech inspection readying for a full practice on Saturday. Gates open at 9am with full IndyCar practice scheduled to begin at 12 noon and running till 6pm.

Al Unser Jr. coaching Indy Lights Drivers at IMS on Friday.

Speedway Sightings at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune, a Chicago Sun-Times Publication
May 13, 2011

Of the seven Rookie drivers slated for Wednesday’s IndyCar Rookie Orientation Program (ROP), six successfully completed the four phase process in methodical fashion.

Leading the way was Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand registering the fastest lap of the day at 221.533 miles per hour in the No. 4 National Guard Honda-powered Dallara. Working with Hildebrand was new Panther Racing teammate, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice. Hildebrand finished the day stating ”I felt pretty comfortable right away. Once we got going, I settled in. Obviously tire wear, because the track is pretty green, is something we had to pay attention to, so we had to be pretty efficient with the use of our tires.”

The surprise of the day was the performance of Ho-Pin Tung, the first Chinese driver in the 100 year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway who was second fastest at 220.477 mph. Tung is part of the Jay Penske-owned Schmidt/Dragon Racing team that also successfully put Formula One and NASCAR veteran Scott Speed through the ROP ending his day with a lap at 219.227 mph. Tung commented “When I started today, I went through a lot of things with my driver coach, Jeff Andretti, and (IndyCar’s) Al Unser Jr. They were a great help to get me through the first few laps. From there, it went really smooth. It was a very exciting day. Everyone knows that the Indianapolis (Motor) Speedway is one of the greatest tracks in the world and to be here as a driver and to be actually driving a car here is a very special experience”

In addition to Hildebrand, Tung and Speed, other IndyCar rookie drivers and their top lap speeds were Charlie Kimball – Chip Ganassi Racing (219.602 mph), Pippa Mann – Conquest Racing (219.166 mph) and James Hinchcliffe – Newman/Haas Racing (219.664 mph).

Completing three of the four mandated phases of the ROP was James Jakes of Dale Coyne Racing (214.563 mph). Rules permit him to complete the fourth phase (10 consistent laps above 215 mph) any time before qualifications on May 21.

The seven Rookie drivers will join the rest of the entrants for their first full practice session on Saturday from noon-6 p.m. (ET) beginning their quest to make to field of 33 for the 2011 Indianapolis 500.