Archive for May 21, 2012

By: Wm. LaDow

Published in the Post-Tribune, a Chicago Sun-Times Media Publication — May 21, 2012

Overcoming an intense crash on Saturday, Ed Carpenter, the sole Owner/Driver in the Izod IndyCar series, became the 33rd and final qualifier Sunday, for the 96th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 27.

On the day, Sebastien Bourdais (223.760), Wade Cunningham (223.258), Oriol Servia (222.393), Carpenter (222.324), Mike Conway (222.319), Katherine Legge (221.624), Bryan Clauson (214.455), Simona de Silvestro (214.393), and Jean Alesi (210.094) all qualified without incident, to earn spots on the Indianapolis 500 grid.

With the Indy 500 field filled a little after 2 pm on Sunday, race teams made the most of open practice, trimming out their cars and establishing their race day setups.

Thirty-three cars took to the track with only one incident with Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-Dallara, drifting below the white line long enough to break free, spin and slam into the first turn wall. Kimball, who qualified Saturday in the middle of the fifth row at 223.868 mph, will be able to start from there, as long as his team is able to repair his primary car.

Track activity for the final three hours became an intense session of IndyCar “drafting”, ending with 2,007 laps turned, the most by far in a single day since the track opened for business for the 2012 race. Fastest on the day was Oriol Servia in the No. 22 Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet-Dallara at 223.752 mph.

With the first 10 rows of the grid averaging over 220 mph, much discussion here at IMS has focused on the lack of speed being generated by the two cars powered by Lotus engines.  Both the No. 78, Simona di Silvestro Lotus-HVM and the No. 64 Jean Alesi (R) Lotus-FP Journe cars are over six mph off the pace and will likely be mired at the rear of the field during the course of the 500 mile race, becoming “moving chicanes” as Alesi has put it.

The third car in the last row, the No. 39 Honda-Dallara, driven by rookie Bryan Clauson, qualified quite slowly due to concerns from yesterday’s wreck during qualifying that team General Manager Andy O’Gara described as a “$200,000 hit.”

Clauson’s Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team lightened the mood by placing a Band-Aid decal on his repaired car as Clauson went out to qualify.

Clauson’s car has run fast all month and won’t be in the last row very long come race day.

Posing the question — Will the use of the “Black Flag” end the Lotus-powered car’s raceday prematurely?

Photo by: Mike Young – Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway