By Amy Konrath
INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, May 17, 2011) – Mike Conway shook down the No. 27 Hire Heroes car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after some tweaks overnight, and Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti got in five laps “to get the feel of a different setup.”
That was the extent of on-track action – save for crews tuning up on pit lane for pit stop competition qualifications May 18 – on a day more reminiscent of mid-autumn than mid-spring. The green flag flew at noon for the start of the six-hour session, but light rain sent the flagman packing at 4:05 p.m. The track opens for all cars at noon (ET) May 18.
“We just wanted to feel some of those (changes) and see what we had,” Conway said. “These were certainly not ideal weather conditions and aren’t representative of what we’re going to see in a few days, so it didn’t make too much sense to log a lot of laps.”
It was the second session of preparations for Pole Day/Tom Carnegie Day on May 21 cut short because of weather conditions, which impacts team strategy relating to setup testing and tire/engine conservation. For some, a day lost to the weather is built into the plan. For others, such as Andretti, who’s chasing speed, the lap counter needs to rise.
He has a quick lap of 224.215 mph (40.1163 seconds) in his No. 26 Team Venom primary car with a tow, which is 15th on the combined speed chart. Still, he’s concerned.
“It makes a difference (that he didn’t get in a full session). Who knows if we would have gained or they would have gained on us,” said Andretti, who has three top-five finishes in his five starts at Indy. “I’m really worried about the speed of our car. I’ve driven exactly Danica’s setup 3 miles an hour off of her (lap time). I can’t explain why. I’m worried about qualifying for this race. It is still early days, but I honestly think if you’re not going to be qualifying in the top 10 you should be worried.”
There are 40 entrants who have recorded laps, with 33 starting spots available on May 21-22. Alex Tagliani’s lap of 225.878 mph in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, posted a day earlier, stands as the quickest of the month.
DAY 4 NOTEBOOK:
Biff Henderson, stage manager for “The Late Show with David Letterman,” toured the Speedway today. Henderson and a crew were filming humorous segments for the show.
Henderson met with Indianapolis 500 veterans Bobby Unser, Helio Castroneves, Al Unser Jr., Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal. He also toured the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.
BIFF HENDERSON: (On the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): “The Speedway is classic. It’s really top-shelf all the way. Even as I’m sitting in the Museum, I’m looking at all these past winning cars and thinking of the drivers, and I know it’s a lot of history. It’s an incredible facility. It’s just great.” (On his interactions with drivers and teams): “Obviously, today isn’t the best day for track activity, but getting into those prep garages is quite an experience. It’s not my first time out here. I’ve done a few things here for David Letterman. I’ve been out here a few times. Talking with the drivers like Helio and past drivers like Little Al and Bobby Unser is just great. I’ve enjoyed talking to the younger guys, but there’s nothing like talking to a legend. Having that experience and being out here for the 100th anniversary is something very special for me. It’s a very impressive place.”
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser already has arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to celebrate the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 over the next 12 days. Unser will be one of 11 Indianapolis 500 winners driving 11 Indianapolis 500-winning cars during pre-race ceremonies Sunday, May 29.
Unser will drive the No. 8 National that Joe Dawson guided to victory in the 1912 Indianapolis 500. The car features a second seat for a riding mechanic, which will be filled by Unser’s wife, Lisa.
BOBBY UNSER (On being a part of the 100th anniversary pre-race festivities): “It’s going to be a great honor to drive the 1912 winning car. They had riding mechanics in those days, and my wife is going to ride in the mechanic’s seat. So she’s got to know that if that thing runs out of gas, she has to get out and push. But it really is going to be nice to drive that car. I mean, this is the 100th anniversary of the greatest race course in the entire world. It’s been around for a hundred years. That’s a lot of history. You look at the Museum, all these winning cars, it’s just awesome.”
Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe and his wife, Nicole, are conducting an Indianapolis 500 contest on Twitter for the second consecutive year, with the winner receiving an all-expenses paid trip to the race May 29.
The follower of Briscoe (@RyanBriscoe6) who guesses his four-lap qualifying average to the thousandth of a mph (three digits past the decimal) will win round-trip airfare for two from anywhere in the country, four nights’ hotel accommodations, tickets to the 2011 Indianapolis 500 and other “cool swag,” Briscoe said.
To enter, followers must post their guess at Briscoe’s average qualifying speed on his Twitter feed (@RyanBriscoe6) by midnight (ET) Friday, May 20. The “tweets” must contain the hash-tag “#BriscoeIndy500” to be eligible and also must include Briscoe’s qualifying position as a tiebreaker.
The winner will be selected from all proper entries following the completion of Indy 500 qualifying.
DAY 4 – TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2011
Nine Indianapolis 500 teams will compete Wednesday morning for the final three spots in the IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge on Miller Lite Carb Day, Friday, May 27. The three quickest teams from this lineup will earn a spot in the 12-team Challenge:
KV Racing Technology-Lotus (#59 Viso), KV Racing Technology-Lotus (#82 Kanaan), Team Penske (#3 Castroneves), Newman/Haas Racing (#2 Servia), Andretti Autosport (#7 Patrick), Andretti Autosport (#27 Conway), Andretti Autosport (#28 Hunter-Reay), A.J. Foyt Enterprises (#14 Meira), KV Racing Technology-SH Racing (#07 Scheckter).
Nine teams already have qualified for the Challenge based on pit performance between the 2010 Indianapolis 500 and the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle earlier this month:
KV Racing Technology-Lotus (#5 Sato), Team Penske (#6 Briscoe), Target Chip Ganassi Racing (#9 Dixon), Target Chip Ganassi Racing (#10 Franchitti), Team Penske (#12 Power), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (#22 Wilson), Andretti Autosport (#26 M. Andretti), Newman/Haas Racing (#06 Hinchcliffe), Dale Coyne Racing (TBD).
Alfe Heat Treating has signed as an associate sponsor of A.J. Foyt Racing for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500. The sponsorship marks the company’s first venture into motorsports.
The “alfe” logo will appear on the nose of the No. 14 ABC Supply Indy car driven by Vitor Meira and on the engine cover of the No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing car driven by Bruno Junqueira.
Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind., Alfe Heat Treating, Inc. is the largest commercial aluminum heat treating operation in the United States. The company operates plants throughout the Midwest and Southeast serving aerospace, automotive, military and commercial customers with both ferrous and non-ferrous facilities. For more details, visit www.al-fe.com.
KURT WESTMAN (President, Alfe Corporate Group): “Growing up here in Indiana, the Indianapolis 500 and time trials was something I looked forward to every year. Along with the race came the drivers you always wanted to win, your heroes, and A.J. Foyt was one of mine. What an honor for me and Alfe Heat Treating to be a small part of the A.J. Foyt Racing team. Everyone here at Alfe is excited and hoping that this year we can help bring the team to victory.”
A.J. FOYT: “I’m real proud to welcome Alfe Heat Treating to our team. I think we have a good chance in this year’s 500 to post our best finish in quite a while. I appreciate the support that Alfe is providing toward that goal.”
A total of 59 cars are currently at the Speedway, and 59 have passed technical inspection.
Two drivers were on track today, turning 13 laps. Mike Conway turned eight laps, most of any driver. Forty drivers have been on track this month, turning 2,479 total laps.
There were three cautions for a total of 82 minutes today.
FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF PRACTICE:
INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE QUOTES:
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Hire Heroes USA/7-Eleven/Dr Pepper): (On practicing in the cold weather): “When it’s that cold, unless the race is going to be like that, it’s not really worth running out there. We won’t learn too much in it. Not much to be gained today. It does kind of give us more tires to use for the rest of the week each day. Hopefully it warms up a bit tomorrow.” (On the shortened amount of practice time before qualifications): “It’s not far away. We always think we have loads of time at the beginning of the week, and then it’s always the same thing. You get to the last couple of days, and if you haven’t quite got the car right, then you’re going to be rushing a bit more. As long as the car is good and you keep chipping away at it, I think that’s the main thing. I think we’re really close. I think we’ve got a good balance, and I think the speed is there. We’ve just got to take our time and know that qualifying isn’t that far away.” (On his reason for practicing and having Marco Andretti in the car): “We made some changes overnight, and we wanted to get a feel for what it felt like. It’s good for me to let (Marco) have a feel and see if I’m feeling the same things as him. We had the same comments, and we got some good back-to-back running.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Hire Heroes USA/7-Eleven/Dr Pepper): (On practicing in the cold weather): “I think I have a little bit of my grandfather in me to where I was probably the only one on the team that thinks we can learn something. At the same time, though, I think I was just trying to convince them so that I could go drive. I just wanted to feel out a different setup and thought, ‘Why not?'” (On his goals for the day): “I was able to try a setup that I haven’t run yet. I just kind of got my thoughts on it and a second opinion. You always learn. If we were going through pretty extensive test items and stuff like that, it’s different. I just wanted to feel out an overall package.” (On the shortened schedule before qualifying): “I think guys like me, we could be in trouble if we slip a little bit. I’m not sure it’s experience because I’m going to be flat those four laps, and it’s whether the car wants to do it or not. It’s going to be super-competitive out there. We’re going to try to get what we can get.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske): “It is always great to be at Indy, just walking through the garage area and seeing the fans that show up braving the elements. It is a shame that the weather hasn’t been cooperating with us much this week. The Verizon guys have been staying busy preparing the car and my engineer, and I have had plenty of time to discuss our strategy moving forward. I am really looking forward to getting back on track.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 IZOD Team Penske): “This weather has been a factor here at the Speedway, and even though I would rather be out on the track, it is really special just coming to the track every day. The fans are amazing. The fact that they show up in this damp, cold weather really shows how dedicated they are. Our No. 6 IZOD car is all polished up and ready to run. Now, we just need the weather to give us a chance so we can get out there and see what we can do.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske): “Man, it’s tough just sitting and not having a chance to run, especially at this place because it’s so awesome. We did a lot of media today and stayed as busy as we could, but there’s nothing like getting out there and running 220 miles an hour. Hopefully we can get things going tomorrow in the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car and work on preparation for qualifying as well as the race.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 99 Herbalife Schmidt Pelfrey Racing): (About passing time during weather delays): “You just kind of relax on a day like today. It’s a lot easier (not to run today) than Sunday, since I didn’t get to run on Saturday. It’s tough when you haven’t run yet (like on Saturday) and it rains (on Sunday). You haven’t even driven yet. At least we got some decent laps yesterday, and we know our cars are very strong. I’m quite a bit more at ease than I was on Sunday.” (Are you starting to think about qualifying?): “I think because of the field this year, you’re thinking about qualifying all the time. I think we’re going to be good, but we haven’t even gotten anywhere close to qualifying setup yet. I’m feeling very positive.” (About alliance with Brian Herta Autosport): “We had a car yesterday that was P1 in practice and they had a quick car, so we get to work with those guys and figure out what they were doing and if it was much different and see what we could do to improve ourselves. Hopefully that just rises the tide. If one side decides to go down the road of experimentation, it’s very useful to be able to look at that and analyze the data and know what that experiment generated.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers &Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): “We did two good runs yesterday with a change in between. It was valuable to have some data for today and to look back at last year’s data and evaluate it. With that we could see today if the changes we made over winter paid off. Having that data is important for a day like today when you have a lot of down time to burn. It’s nice to see that our car is up to pace and we’re on top of the chart so far for the week. Even if it’s early, the weather plays a really important part. If you don’t need to run very much, and your car is already right there, it’s a relief for everyone on the team. The teams that are very concerned are the teams that have a plan to run many, many miles. The weather, obviously, makes them very frustrated and disappointed because it interferes with their plan. For us, we had a plan. We knew we weren’t going to run the first day. The second day, we wanted to run, but it rained. The third day, we finally ran and were pleased with the number of laps we were able to run and the information we have.”
WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times local):
Indianapolis 500 practice
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at Noon (ET) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27. The race will be televised live by VERSUS.