Rain tightens up search for speed at Indianapolis …

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

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 16, 2011

Rain again covered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday, canceling the day’s six scheduled hours of practice, placing increasing pressure on race teams in preparation for the running for the Indianapolis 500 Pole on Saturday, May 21st.

Before the start of opening practice Saturday, Brian Barnhart, President of Race Operations for IndyCar made it clear to all those present in the driver’s meeting “to watch the weather and use their time wisely, making sure they were efficient with their track time.” His words were prophetic as the 41 IndyCar entries have already lost nine of the 42 hours allotted for practice leading up to Pole Day.

There are two-types of race teams here every year. Those who run at several different IndyCar tracks during the course of the year such as Ganassi, Penske or Sarah Fisher Racing and teams who race here as a one-off opportunity. The regular season teams have the benefit of having a handful of races under their belts already this season and it shows in their approach to the withering practice window.

When asked what the decreasing practice window meant to him, Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 6 Penske car (the quickest of the three Penske entries on Saturday) expressed confidence in his team’s planning saying “We know the equipment very well, and as long as all of the race teams are under the same reduced practice time, we’re good to go.”

But in the case of those drivers who are here for a singular opportunity, the very premise from which this race has evolved over the last 100 years that this speedway has been operating, Townsend Bell summed it up perfectly when he labeled his return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway “a pilgrimage.”

Bell, returning for his fifth Indianapolis 500 and again driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the No. 99 Herbalife car voiced more “excitement to get into the equipment,” than anxiety about getting up to speed. “Returning with a same personnel ” is a plus, and last year we got up to speed with just a handful of laps” to qualify a career best tenth. Bell has a history of making the most of limited practice. In 2009, he turned his “one-off” opportunity into a fourth place finish. Last year he ran with leaders for 158 laps, clearly looking at top-five finish, when he was penalized and moved a lap down, finally finishing 16th.

The drivers and team owners hope today will bring sunny skies and much-needed practice time.

IMS rained out.

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