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Fast Friday Indianapolis 500 Practice

Speedster Sebastien Bourdais was class of field on Fast Friday at Indy. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Speedster Sebastien Bourdais was class of field on Fast Friday at Indy. [Joe Jennings Photo]

by Paul Gohde

If there’s one thing you learn here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s patience; especially on a damp Fast Friday of practice that was interrupted by rain and two late-day crashes.

But it was worth the wait for both Honda and Sebastien Bourdais, as the Frenchman’s early afternoon time of 233.116 mph stood up as the day’s quickest, winning him and his Dale Coyne Racing Honda team $10,000 courtesy of the Harding Group.

Honda drivers dominated the day grabbing 11 of the first 12 spots with semi-retired Juan Pablo Montoya’s Penske Racing entry the lone Chevrolet, fifth at (231.682 mph).

Bourdais was followed closely by veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato. Rookie Indy Car driver Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 champion, was a surprising fourth ahead of JPM.

“It never hurts to be in front. This is a tricky place and we hope it continues to work this well in some different conditions,” said the four-time Champ Car king. “It matters more tomorrow and Sunday than today.”

The pre-rain practice session earlier in the day saw 32 cars on the track with Bourdais’ fastest run leading several Chevrolet teams that were close behind at that time.

After over two hours of afternoon track drying, practice resumed, but soon Juncos Racing’s Spencer Pigot hit the turn two wall, shedding body parts while sliding to a halt on the backstretch. Pigot, who usually drives in the Verizon Indy Car Series road/street events for Ed Carpenter Racing, was checked over and cleared to drive again. “I’m not sure what happened. We’ll have to go back and look at it,” the Florida native explained. “I went into Turn 2 and before I knew it I was backwards into the wall. Turn 2 hasn’t been a problem up until now.”

Rookie driver Zach Veach became the second driver to make contact during practice when he over-corrected his AJ Foyt Enterprises mount in the south chute and hit the wall there, and again in Turn 2, before sliding to a halt in the backstretch. “We had just taken some front wing out of the it and were building speed. It was fine on entry (to the turn) and exit.” And just as Pigot found out earlier, “I’m not sure what happened. Don’t know if it was my fault.”

Saturday’s qualifying will position the 33-car field with the Fast Nine running for the pole on Sunday. Sunday’s runs for qualifiers 10-33 from Saturday will determine their starting spot behind the Fast Nine. All 33 starters will earn season championship points based on their final starting spots.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”