Day-By-Day At Indy – Pre Qualifying

This is a brief synopsis of the day-to-day activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway preceding the 96th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27, 2012.

Friday, May 18 – It was “Fast Friday” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. The day is designated as such because it is usually when all teams try to achieve their fastest speeds of practice to prepare for Saturday’s qualifying runs.

Today, it was an appropriate name as the teams were allowed to run more turbocharger boost than had been allowed on previous practice days. The additional boost will be allowed for qualifying, but will be dialed back down for race day.

The fastest speed of the month was turned in by Marco Andretti today at 227.540 mph, which was the only lap over 227 mph.

The next four fastest cars were all over 226 mph. Ryan Briscoe was second fastest at 226.835 mph, while his Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, was third quickest at 226.716 mph. Andretti’s teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was fourth on the speed chart at 226.400, while Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon rounded out the top five at 226.224 mph.

The only serious yellow of the day occurred when Michel Jourdain Jr.’s car slowed on the backstretch with smoke trailing from the car, which stopped on the deceleration lane. Jourdain was uninjured and the fire was quickly extinguished by the Holmatro Safety Team.

Rookie driver Katherine Legge, who made her first appearance on the track yesterday, passed the third phase of her rookie test today and will be eligible to qualify this weekend.

32 cars ran 1,206 laps today with the only serious incident being Jourdain’s fire.

Qualifying begins tomorrow when the first 24 positions in the field will be filled. The final nine positions in the field will be filled on Sunday.

Thursday, May 17 – 2008 Indy 500 winner, Scott Dixon, turned in the fastest speed of the day with a lap at 223.088 mph, while rookie driver, Josef Newgarden, who has been among the fastest drivers on the track since practice opened, was second quick at 222.709 mph.

Third quick was Graham Rahal at 222.080, Will Power turned in the fourth fastest time of the day221.932 mph, while Justin Wilson rounded out the top five at 221.715 mph.

There was a special session in the morning for Dragons Racing’s Katherine Legge to work on her rookie test and her teammate Sebastian Bourdais to take his refresher, as he last competed at the track in 2005.

It was the first time the cars of Dragon Racing were on the track, as a solution to a dispute between Lotus and Dragon was resolved to allow Dragon to switch from Lotus to Chevrolet engines.

During the special session, Bourdais completed the first phase of the two-phase refresher test, while Legge did not turn any laps.

Regular practice was subsequently delayed from the normal noon start to 1:00 p.m. to allow Legge to complete the first phase of her rookie test.

A special session was also put in at the end of the day, allowing Legge to pass the second phase of her rookie test. The third phase can be completed during any general practice session.

The 29 cars that practiced Thursday completed 1,391 incident-free laps.

This probably was final day that the cars will be practicing their race set-up, as on the final day of practice, known as “Fast Friday,” the cars will have a change in turbocharger boost that is expected to add 40-50 horsepower to the Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus engines, which is expected to result in a four to five mile-an-hour increase in speed for qualifying. With the increase, it is expected that most teams will try to run single car laps, rather than in a pack, to practice qualifying set-ups. The boost will be returned to the previous level for race day.

Wednesday, May 16 – Rookie driver Josef Newgarden got a little of both the sweet and the bitter at the Speedway today.

Newgarden again was the fastest in practice today posting a lap at 222.785 mph on the 45th of the 61 practice laps he took today. That was the sweet part of the day.

The bitter came with 16 minutes left in today’s practice session when Newgarden’s car bobbled in Turn 4, did two complete spins and struck a glancing blow on the pit lane retaining wall.

Newgarden was happy that the incident was not worse.

“You don’t get many lucky breaks around this place, and I think I just got one. The guys have done a great job putting together such a good car, and I don’t want to hurt the thing. I’ll try to learn what happened and why the thing got around on me,” he explained.

Andretti Autosport drivers took the next three positions in the speed chart with Marco Andretti second at 228.108 mph, Ryan Hunter-Reay was third fastest at 221.763 mph and James Hinchcliffe was fourth quickest at 221.638 mph.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti rounded out the top five with a speed of 221.623 mph.

The five Andretti Autosport cars have logged a lot of practice laps and have been working together throughout the practices.

Ryan Hunter-Reay commented on the teamwork of the five.

“The Andretti Autosport cars have been working really well, so we’ve been making progress, and as a team we’ve been working really well together,” said Hunter-Reay.

“It’s been a cohesive unit, and it’s pretty impressive to see how things have been operating so far. So now the goal is going and qualifying to keep that teamwork going,” he added.

There were 30 cars on the track today and turned 1,632 laps. The only incident today was Newgarden’s spin, which was the first incident of the month.

Practice at the track resumes at noon tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15 – While the youngsters had dominated the speed charts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the first three days of practice, the veterans came roaring back to the top today.

Marco Andretti set the fastest lap so far this week with a lap at 223.676 mph, the first lap over 223 mph.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Helio Castroneves, was second quick at 222.025 mph, while James Hinchcliffe was third fastest 221.864 mph. Graham Rahal clocked in fourth at 221.855 mph and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five at 221.814 mph.

Many of the teams are concentrating more on race setups and running in packs to see how the new Dallara DW12 will handle and react in traffic than practicing with qualifying setups. However, some teams are still working to get up to a competitive speed.

The field is running with quite a bit of parity as 25 of the 30 cars that practiced today were separated by only one second on the clock.

Concentration on pack racing is expected again on Wednesday and Thursday, while qualification setups will be the main focus on “Fast Friday” when the teams will be allowed more turbocharger boost in preparation for qualifying on Saturday and Sunday.

1602 incident free laps were recorded at the track today by 30 car and driver combinations.

Practice resumes at Noon and will run until 6:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Monday, May 14 – Rookie driver Josef Newgarden continued his impressive start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as, for the second time in the first three days of practice, he posted the fastest speed of the day at 222.486 mph.

Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti were second and third fastest today with speeds of 221.639 and 221.519, respectively.

Scott Dixon posted the fourth fastest time of the day at 221.499 and yesterday’s fastest driver, Sebastian Saavedra, rounded out the top five at 220.785 mph.

Newgarden appears to be taking his rather surprising performance in stride as he commented about once again being quick in practice.

“It’s another strong day. We’re stepping through it each time, and we have a lot more to go still. Our good start is continuing to roll forward, so we’re feeling positive,” he stated.

Marco Andretti discussed that the five Andretti Autosport teams are working together, especially on race set-up, and that most of the fast speeds are being set when the cars run in groups.

“It’s mostly tows. When we went out to do our race simulation runs, there’s a lot of tag-a-longs,” he said. “We have enough cars to simulate a race with the five of us. People see what we’re doing and they want to work on their cars, and that’s when the big times go up.”

Today, there were 29 drivers on the track who turned a total of 1,199 laps without any incidents. Another full day of practice from noon to 6:00 p.m. is on tap for tomorrow, May 15.

Sunday, May 13 – As was the case yesterday, when practice ended today, the drivers at the top of the speed chart were somewhat of a surprise.

Andretti Autosport driver, Sebastian Saavedra, who is leading the Firestone Indy Lights point standings, posted the fastest IndyCar speed at the track today with a speed of 221.526 mph.

The rookie drivers for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing also continued to be fast as Bryan Clauson and Josef Newgarden, who was the fastest driver yesterday, were second and third fastest with speeds of 221.173 mph and 221.158 mph, respectively.

Former Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon was fourth fastest at 220.829, while Justin Wilson rounded out the top five with a speed of 220.615.

Saavedra commented on posting the fastest lap. “It’s exciting. We’ve been struggling the past couple of years, and so starting the month of May this way, it’s a very satisfying feeling. There’s some big strategy at Andretti Autosport, and five cars and all of us, we have homework to do every day. We have things to try, and we sit down all together to see what works, what we need to try for the next day,” he said.

It was a busy day at the track as 31 drivers were on track and ran 1,138 laps without any incidents.

Monday is expected to be another day at the track as practice is scheduled from noon to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday May 12 – Today was the official start of practice for the 2012 Indianapolis 500. The opening of the track was marked by Indianapolis Mayor, Greg Ballard, waving the green flag for the three Team Penske cars of Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe running in formation as they crossed the famous yard of bricks.

When practice ended at 6:00 p.m. however, the big story of the day was the on-track performance of the rookies in the field.

Rookie Josef Newgarden, driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, turned the fastest of the 693 laps run on the track today by 26 drivers, with a speed of 220.250 mph. Next quickest was second year driver JR Hildebrand at 219.693 mph, while another rookie, Newgarden’s teammate, Bryan Clauson, had the third quickest lap of the day at 219.632 mph.

Fourth fastest was yet another rookie, John Jakes, at 218.216 mph, while veteran driver Tony Kanaan posted the fifth fastest speed of the day at 217.741 mph.

In the post-practice press conference, Newgarden downplayed his role in the quick lap.

“I think the team deserves the credit. I’m really happy for them that they get the credit because they do deserve it. The do a good job and I’m proud to be with them,” he said.

In addition to the on-track activities today, the Speedway also hosted the Celebration of Automobiles Vintage and Historic Car Show in the track infield. The show is one of several non-racing events that take place at the track during the pre-race period.

Practice will continue every day, weather permitting, through next Friday, with qualifications for the May 27 race to be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20.

Friday, May 11 – The Firestone Indy Lights Series was on-track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. It was the only chance the Indy Lights drivers will have to practice at the track until May 24th, the day before the Freedom 100.

The were 17 drivers on the track today with series veteran Gustavo Yacaman posting the fastest speed at 190.063, while Estaban Guerrieri was slowest at 187.386 mph, a difference of just .6765 of a second.

For several of the drivers it was the first time they had been on the track.

“It was just amazing out there today,” said rookie driver Oliver Webb, who drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. “Everyone tells you how it’s going to be the first time you do it flat (out). But nothing really prepares you for it. With these massive grandstands, it really is a spectacle.”

Chase Austin was the only driver to have an on-track incident today and he was not injured.

“I was passing and got too low beneath the white line, got loose, spun out and hit the wall.

The 17 Firestone Indy Lights cars that were on the track turned a total of 1004 laps, with rookie Carlos Munoz turning in a total of 92 laps, the most for any one driver.

Also today, Jean Alesi, who turned his first-ever laps on an oval yesterday, completed the first two phases of his Indy Car rookie test to run in the Indy 500 and can complete the third during general practice for the Indy 500, which starts tomorrow.

Thursday, May 10 – The Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not officially open for practice for the Indianapolis 500 until Saturday, May 12, but eight drivers were on the track today participating in the annual Rookie Orientation Program.

To be cleared by race officials to practice for, and participate in the Indianapolis 500, drivers who have not previously qualified for the Indianapolis 500 are required to complete three phases of timed laps.

Phase one consists of running 10 consecutive laps between 200 and 205 mph. The second phase is 15 laps between 205 and 210 mph and the final phase is 15 laps at over 210 mph.

Josef Newgarden, Bryan Clauson, James Jakes, Simon Pagenaud and Rubens Barrichello completed all three phases, as did Michel Jourdain Jr., who has not raced in the “500” since 1996.

Wade Cunningham completed two of the three phases, while former F1 driver, Jean Alesi, who had never before run on an oval turned in 18 laps but did not complete any phase of the test.

Cunningham and Alesi will be able to complete the test between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m. tomorrow after the Firestone Indy Lights test on the track between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. It will the only opportunity the Indy Lights will have to test until Thursday, May 24, when they will practice and qualify for the Firestone Freedom 100 that will be run on Friday, May 25.

Rookie Orientation Program
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Results of Session – Practice 1
May 10, 2012

Car Driver Name C/E/T Time Speed Total Laps
1 19 Jakes, James (R) D/H/F 00:41.2338 218.268 77
2 39 Clauson, Bryan (R) D/H/F 00:41.4659 217.046 54
3 67 Newgarden, Josef (R) D/H/F 00:41.5564 216.573 47
4 8 Barrichello, Rubens (R) D/C/F 00:42.0397 214.083 83
5 77 Pagenaud, Simon (R) D/H/F 00:42.0452 214.055 93
6 30 Jourdain, Michel D/H/F 00:42.1284 213.633 73
7 41 Cunningham, Wade (R) D/H/F 00:42.7923 210.318 57
8 64 Alesi, Jean (R) D/L/F 00:48.2866 186.387 18

(C)hassis: D=Dallara
(E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda, L=Lotus
(T)ire: F=Firestone
(R) Rookie

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