Day-By-Day At The Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Qualifying Week

May 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500. Many special activities are planned for the month but this column will be a brief summary of the daily happenings at the track leading up to the Indianapolis 500 itself.

Sunday, May 22 – Even though the second day of qualifications was predicted to only have a 30% chance of rain, the weather forecasters lied, as a cloudburst and intermittent light showers plagued the Speedway throughout the day.

When pre-qualifying practice opened at 9:00 a.m., it was announced that race veteran Patrick Carpentier had replaced Scott Speed in the seat of the #20 Dragon Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka entry.

The ride for Carpentier ended abruptly at 9:51 when he did a half-spin in Turn 1 and the left side of the car hit the SAFER Barrier. The car slid sideways and backward through the short chute, stopping in Turn 2. Carpentier climbed out of the car with assistance, but was later cleared to drive by the medical staff.

Practice finished without further incident and the cars not already in the field prepared for qualifications. There were nine spots still available in the field and once those spots were filled, bumping would begin.

Just as qualifying opened, there was a warning on the PA system that heavy rains, wind and lightning were approaching and for the fans to be ready to take cover.

The first car out to qualify was Ana Beatriz, followed by Graham Rahal. Just as Rahal finished his run, light rain began to fall, which quickly turned into a deluge and shortly thereafter, although the track and the pits were soaked, the sun began to shine.

Although track drying was underway, an intermittent light rain continued to fall, but by 2:25 p.m., qualifying resumed.

After Mike Conway finished his run at 2:51 p.m., the 33 spots in the field had been filled and the bumping began.

To this point, the four-car Andretti Autosport tem had been struggling to get up to speed after putting none of the team cars in the field on Saturday, all being too slow to make the top 24.

At the time the field was filled, only the cars driven by Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay had qualified for the race.

In the last two runs before the rain began to fall again, Marco Andretti qualified by bumping another car, and Mike Conway was the last car bumped before the rain began again at about 3:10.

More light rain shut the track down from about 3:10 to 4:43, leaving just over an hour and 15 minutes of potential qualifying time available.

When the track re-opened, Danica Patrick qualified with a speed that put her safely in the field.

After several waved-off and unsuccessful qualifying attempts, Alex Lloyd, who had qualified and then been bumped, successfully qualified for the “500,” bumping Marco Andretti back out of the field.

In the interim, after being bumped, Mike Conway made two more unsuccessful qualifying attempts, using up the three attempt that were allotted to the car for the day, leaving him out of the Indy 500 starting line-up.

On the last qualifying run of the day, Marco Andretti made a bonsai run to get into the race, bumping his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay from the field as time expired.

When the proverbial smoke cleared, the Andretti Autosport cars of Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick were in the field, while their teammates Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay were on the outside looking in.

During the day, several cars were bumped, some of whom made it back into the field, while some did not.

Paul Tracy, who missed last year’s race was the fastest qualifier of the day, while second-year driver, Ana Betriz will start 33rd and is the slowest car in the field.

The Indianapolis Motor speedway is now closed until, Thursday, May 26, when the Firestone Indy Lights will be on the track for practice and qualifying for Friday’s Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race.

Provisional Indianapolis 500 Line-up

Row 1

1 – #77 Alex Tagliani 227.472 mph

2 – # 9 Scott Dixon 227.340 mph

3 – # 2 Oriol Servia 227.168 mph

Row 2

4 – #99 Townsend Bell 226 867 mph

5 – #12 Will Power 226.773 mph

6 – #98 Dan Wheldon 226.490 mph

Row 3

7 – #44 Buddy Rice 225.786 mph

8 – #67 Ed Carpenter 225.121 mph

9 – #10 Dario Franchitti 226.379 mph

Row 4

10 – # 5 Takuma Sato 225.736 mph

11 – #14 Vitor Meira 225.590 mph

12 – # 4 JR Hildebrand 225.579 mph

Row 5

13 – #06 James Hinchcliffe 225.572 mph

14 – #30 Bertrand Baguette 225.285 mph

15 – #11 Davey Hamilton 225.250 mph

Row 6

16 – # 3 Helio Castroneves 225.216 mph

17 – #43 John Andretti 224.981 mph

18 – #59 E.J. Viso 224.732 mph

Row 7

19 – #41 Bruno Junqueira 224.691 mph

20 – #22 Justin Wilson 224.511 mph

21 – #88 Jay Howard 224.483 mph

Row 8

22 – #07 Tomas Scheckter 224.433 mph

23 – #82 Tony Kanaan 224.417 mph

24 – #78 Simona de Silvestro 224.392 mph

Row 9

25 – #23 Paul Tracy 224.939 mph

26 – # 7 Danica Patrick 224.861 mph

27 – # 6 Ryan Briscoe 224.639 mph

Row 10

28 – #26 Marco Andretti 224.628 mph

29 – #83 Charlie Kimball 224.499 mph

30 – #38 Graham Rahal 224.380 mph

Row 11

31 – #19 Alex Lloyd 223.957 mph

32 – #36 Pippa Mann 223.936 mph

33 – #24 Ana Beatriz 223.879 mph

Alex Tagliani held up one finger to designate his starting position in next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, while he stands beside his happy car owner, Sam Schmidt. [Russ Lake Photo]

On the final run of the day, Alex Tagliani (#77) took the checkered flag, completing the qualification run, which put him on the pole for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

The 2011 Indy 500 front row starters. Alex Tagliani (center), earned the pole, while Scott Dixon (left) was second quick and Oriol Servia (right) will start on the outside of the front row. [Russ Lake Photo]

The announcer’s stand at the start-finish line of the Speedway has been christened the Tom Carnegie Announcer’s Stand. Here, part of Carnegie’s family looks at the plaque on the stand honoring Carnegie. [Russ Lake Photo]

Sebastian Saavedra (#34) was given the green flag from the starter’s stand and by today’s honorary starter, Bob Kenagy, son on the late track announcer, Tom Carnegie, whose real name was Carl Kenagy. [Russ Lake Photo]

Takuma Sato (#5) qualified tenth for the Indianapolis 500 and will start inside of the fourth row. He just missed the “Fast Nine,” all of whom had a shot at the pole. [Russ Lake Photo]

Proud car owner A.J. Foyt stood with his team manager, Larry Foyt (left), and his driver, Vitor Meira after Meira qualified in the 11th starting position for the Indy 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

During the “Fast Nine” qualifying session, Dario Franchitti (#10) was given the green flag as he started on his attempt to capture the pole. [Russ Lake Photo]

Ed Carpenter has established a tradition, that in addition to posing for post-qualifying pictures with his crew, he also has a photo taken with his family. With him are his wife, Heather, and his children, Makenna and Ryder. [Russ Lake Photo]

Saturday, May 21 – Well it’s finally here: Pole Day 2011, also known as Tom Carnegie Day, as the day honors the late, revered, track announcer, Tom Carnegie, who passed away this past winter at the age of 91. He was the voice of the Indianapolis 500 for 61 years. His famous phrases, “And He’s On It” and “It’s a New Track Record!” are phrases known and loved by fans of the Indy 500 throughout the world.

After a very wet week of practice, the threat of showers is in the forecast for today and it may have an effect on what speeds the teams deem acceptable to qualify for the race.

The first 24 positions in the field will be filled today, with the final nine positions to be filled in qualifying on Sunday. If a driver is not among the fastest 24 in the initial qualifying line, the team has up to three attempts to “bump” their way into the fastest 24 first-day qualifiers.

At 4:00 p.m. the first qualifying session will end and the fastest 24 drivers of the day will be in the field. At 4:30 p.m., the “Fast Nine, ” the fastest nine drivers in the field will each make at least one qualifying attempt and the fastest speed of that session will be the pole winner.

There was practice scheduled between 8 and 10 this morning, with the green officially coming out 8:08 a.m.

Just eight minutes into the session, the first incident of the day occurred when Ryan Briscoe went into Turn 2, did a quarter-spin to the left in Turn 2 and hit the SAFER Barrier with the rear of the car, then did a three-quarter spin and with the left side of the car made secondary contact with the SAFER Barrier before sliding across the track and stopping in the infield grass.

Briscoe bruised his knees in the incident but was cleared to drive.

Simona de Silvestro, who was cleared to drive after burning her hands in an incident on Thursday, ran some practice laps prior to qualifications.

Following opening ceremonies, Sebastian Saavedra was the first car out to qualify at 11:02 a.m.

The second incident of day occurred at 11:40 a.m. when on his fourth qualifying lap, rookie driver Ho-Pin Tung did a quarter-spin to the left in Turn 1 and hit the SAFER Barrier with the rear of the car. The car then slid backward through the short chute between Turns 1 and 2, brushed the SAFER barrier in Turn 2 and came to a stop.

Tung was assisted from the car and was transported to Methodist Hospital for further evaluation. A later report was that he had suffered a minor concussion and will not be cleared for seven days, effectively putting him out of the “500.”

When qualifying resumed, the field filled quickly as the 24 spots in the field available today were filled by 1:05 p.m. and then bumping began.

A light rain halted action for about five minutes at 2:00 p.m., but qualifying quickly resumed. The original qualifying line was completed at 2:08 p.m. when Ed Carpenter qualified as the 39th driver to make a qualifying attempt.

At that point, second and third attempts to qualify were made by several drivers, some making it into the field and others making uncompleted attempts.

The session was scheduled to end at 4:00 p.m., but at 3:34, a heavy shower started, bringing action to a halt.

The track was dried enough that it was determined that, beginning at 5:25, each driver in the “Fast Nine” would get one qualifying attempt for the pole. The nine are, in order, Alex Tagliani, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, Townsend Bell, Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Oriol Servia and Buddy Rice.

The drivers went out in reverse order with the ninth qualifier out first.

The second driver out was Oriol Servia who set a four-lap average speed of 227.168 mph. This was good enough for the pole until Scott Dixon, who was the eighth out topped the speed charts with a four-lap average of 227.340 mph.

There was some drama when Dario Franchitti who went out right before Dixon and is his Target Chip Ganassi teammate, had posted three laps at over 227 mph, but on the fourth lap he slowed and coasted to the pits out of fuel.

The miscalculation probably cost him a place on the front row. Because he did not complete his run, he was automatically relegated to the ninth starting position.

The was also a fuel miscalculation on Dixon’s car, but it did not have the same disastrous effect as Dixon did not run out of fuel until he came out of Turn 4 on his final lap.

After Dixon had knocked Servia off the pole, it was down to one car left to make a run, the Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Bowers & Wilkins car driven by Alex Tagliani.

To the delight of the fans left in the stands, and many others, Tagliani put together four excellent laps, which averaged 227.472 mph, good enough to put him on the pole.

Following qualifying and the trackside ceremonies, Tagliani and car owner Sam Schmidt made an appearance in the media center interview room.

Both were tired, especially Sam Schmidt, who has suffered more than his share of heartache in racing, especially his accident while testing in 2000, which left him paralyzed, but were still smiling.

Schmidt was trying to explain just how special today’s achievement was. “I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this has been difficult ever since it happened to put it into words. I mean in California I grew up watching Rick Mears and just dreamed about coming to this place and then was fortunate – my dad was actually a team owner here for the Donald Davidsons of the world in 1978 and ’79, and they didn’t have any great success, and then started coming here, drove here in ’97 and ’99. It’s truly huge. Whether it’s the 100th anniversary, whether it’s the adversity that this team has overcome and Alex has overcome personally, whatever, I mean, it’s just really, really large,” he said.

Tagliani gave most of the credit for winning the pole to his team. ‘This is the car I drove here last year,” he said. “It was fast. It unloaded fast. If you feel that you have a shot to be on the pole for the 100 (anniversary), you’re not going to go out there and draft people and put yourself at risk. And Rob Edwards, the manager, and with Sam, they said, past 5:00 you guys pull back in the garage because it’s going to get crazy out there, lots of tows, and we just followed the plan, and I think that’s why we’re here tonight,” he explained.

Tomorrow, qualifying starts at noon and runs until 6:00 p.m. The final nine positions in the field will be filled and then the bumping will begin, with faster cars “bumping” already qualified cars out of the field. With all the unusual things that happened today, tomorrow is shaping up to be an interesting day.

Helio Castroneves (#3) set the fastest practice lap of the day at a speed of 228.611 mph. [Russ Lake Photo]

Helio Castroneves was smiling broadly in the post-practice press conference after setting the fastest lap of the day. [Russ Lake Photo]

Alex Tagliani, who has been quick throughout the month, and was the second-fastest driver in Friday’s practice session, seemed relaxed and ready for qualifying tomorrow. [Russ Lake Photo]

Team Penske president, Tim Cindric (center), drew a qualifying position number for Helio Castroneves. Versus head announcer for the IZOD IndyCar Series telecasts, Bob Jenkins (right) was announcing the qualifying positions. [Russ Lake Photo]

The #17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. car, which is driven by Raphael Matos, was being towed through Gasoline Alley from the garage to the pits for practice. [Russ Lake Photo]

A nice crowd was on hand in the sunny weather for the final day of practice prior to qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Friday, May 20 – Some of the smaller and lesser-known teams had dominated the speed charts for the practice sessions held prior to today. That was also the case today until the last hour of “Fast Friday”, when the “big boys” came out to play.

When practice closed at 6 p.m., Team Penske driver, Helio Castroneves stood at the top of the field with a lap at 228.611 mph., while his Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, stood fourth and seventh respectively, on the speed charts.

Alex Tagliani who has been quick all month, had the quickest speed of the day until Castroneves turned in his quick lap, dropping Tagliani’s speed to the second-quickest of the day at 228.327 mph.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon was third fastest at 228.181, with Ryan Briscoe fourth at 228.029 mph, which was just .001 faster than Bertrand Baguette, who showed up in the top tier of speed charts for the first time this year.

Ed Carpenter was the sixth, and last, driver over 228 with a speed of 228.017 mph.

“We did a lot of laps today,” Castroneves said. “I wanted to make sure I was happy with the race car. As soon as we felt happy with the race trim, race setup, we decided to go for it (a quick lap).”

“Qualifying tomorrow will be very tight. I can see that my teammates will be strong ones, and there are other fast guys out there too,” he added.

“We feel we are strong, but on the charts, there are a lot of cars that are strong. It’s very difficult to get a good read,” Tagliani commented.

Simona de Silvestro, last year’s Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, who burned her hands in an accident at the track yesterday, has not yet been medically cleared to drive. Her medical status will be re-evaluated on a daily basis.

The draw for the qualifying order for tomorrow’s Pole Day run was conducted shortly after the track closed. Tagliani’s car was drawn as number four, the first of the month’s fast cars to go out.

The were only 24 minutes of yellow flag time during the six-hour practice session today, all for track inspection and debris on the track. During the practice session, 39 cars ran a total of 2,254 laps. With only 33 cars making the field, it is shaping up to be a very busy and exciting weekend of qualifying.

Qualifying will start tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., with the initial session to qualify 24 cars running until 4:00 p.m. At 4:30, the “Fast Nine” will go out on the track for an all-out shoot-out for the pole, which will last until the track officially closes at 6:00 p.m.

Two crew members make adjustments on Tomas Scheckter’s machine as he sits in the car, waiting to return to the track. [Russ Lake Photo]

A.J. Foyt Enterprises driver, Vitor Meira (right) looks at charts held by a team member, as team owner A.J. Foyt (second from right) looks on, while Foyt’s other driver, Bruno Junqueira, sits in his car waiting to go out on the track. [Russ Lake Photo]

Driver Justin Wilson took time to relax while he was in the pits. [Russ Lake Photo]

A.J. Foyt Enterprises team manager, Larry Foyt, sits on the team’s scoring stand watching the action in the pits. [Russ Lake Photo]

Dario Franchitti, who celebrated his 38th birthday today, sits in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing car waiting to take to the track for practice. [Russ Lake Photo]

Scott Dixon (#9) and Davey Hamilton (#11) ran side-by-side during today’s practice session. [Russ Lake Photo]

KV Technology-Lotus teammates Tony Kanaan (left) and E.J. Viso were in deep discussion on pit road. [Russ Lake Photo]

Thursday, May19 – The weather finally cooperated and the green flag waved on practice promptly at noon, as scheduled.

A number of cars took to the track almost immediately for practice. Just 10 minutes into the session Ed Carpenter, who was the fastest on the opening day of practice, turned a lap at 224.134 mph.

Practice was interrupted just 25 minutes in when Simona de Silvestro, who was on her fifth practice lap, spun due to apparent mechanical failure. The car became airborne during the spin and violently crashed into the third turn fence. The car came off the fence, sliding sideways and went upside down on the track on fire and with fire trailing behind it as it came to rest still upside down, virtually destroyed.

As a testament to the safety features in today’s cars, she was assisted from her virtually destroyed machine and walked to the ambulance. However, she was transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where she was treated for second-degree burns on her right hand and lesser burns on her left hand, and was later released.

The crash, however, precipitated a 36-minute yellow flag period due to massive track clean up, and the need to repair the fence.

After the track went green, the cars once again streamed onto the track. Fortunately, there were no more incidents during the day and the only subsequent yellows were for debris on the track and one tow-in.

At 1:36 p.m. Alex Tagliani ran a lap at 26.541 mph, which held up as the fast lap until he bettered his own lap with a speed of 227.652 mph, at 4:59 p.m. the fastest lap of the month to that point.

The activity level really picked up during “happy hour,” the final hour of practice between 5 and 6 p.m. as several laps over 227 mph were recorded.

When practice closed at 6 p.m., three drivers were in the 227 mph bracket and a number were in the 226 mph bracket.

Team Penske driver, Will Power, turned in the quickest speed of the day with a lap at 227.778 mph, while Tagliani, who continues to be the surprise of the month thus far, was second quick with his lap at 227.652 mph.

Power’s Penske’s teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves clocked in third and fourth, respectively, with speeds of 227.217 mph and 226.927 mph.

Townsend Bell, who is in a one-off ride with Sam Schmidt Motorsports was fifth quick with a lap at 226.927 mph, while JR Hidebrand, who continues to be the fastest rookie, turned in a lap at 226.527, the sixth quickest lap of the day.

Despite the lengthy yellow after de Silvestro’s crash, a total of 2,394 laps were turned in on the track by 40 cars.

Tomorrow is “Fast Friday,” the final day of practice before qualifications on Saturday and Sunday.

With 40 cars practicing today and a full day of practice anticipated tomorrow, and only 33 spots available in the field, the competition to get into the race will be tremendous, and several teams will leave the track on Sunday night, disappointed after not making the race this weekend.

Tony Kanaan (right), suited up and hoping to go out for practice talked with his former boss, Michael Andretti. The track had indicated one minute to go to the start of practice when the rain once again began to fall. [Russ Lake Photo]

Surrounded by spectators, Penske Racing Pesident Tim Cindric (second from left), team owner Roger Penske and driver Ryan Briscoe studied the prototype 2012 Dallara Aero kit which was on display at the track. [Russ Lake Photo]

Rookie teammates Ho-Pin Tung and Scott Speed were smiling on pit lane in spite of the fact that persistent bad weather once again kept them for practicing. [Russ Lake Photo]

A.J. Foyt Enterprises, ABC Supply sponsored, drivers Bruno Junqueira (left) and Vito Meira talk while in the pits shortly before rain returned to the Speedway. [Russ Lake Photo]

Mario Andretti talked with his grandson, Marco Andretti. [Russ Lake Photo]

Driver Raphael Matos took advantage of track down time to relax on the pit wall. [Russ Lake Photo]

Bertrand Baguette posed next to his mount, The RACB/Aspiia RLL Special of Rahal Letterman Lanigan LLC Racing. Baguette, who was a rookie in the 2010 “500” and on The IZOD IndyCar circuit, has this ride only for the Indy 500.. [Russ Lake Photo]

Wednesday, May 18 ? Frustration is mounting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as yet another complete day of practice was lost to inclement weather. At one point, drivers were strapped in their cars and the track was one minute from going green, when the rain began again.

Especially hard hit by the loss of practice time are the rookies and the drivers with one-off rides, as they need maximum practice time to get the proper feel of the track and their cars.

Rookie driver Scott Speed, who took his first laps in an IndyCar during the Rookie Orientation Program, summed up the situation: “As a rookie, having less track time is definitely not the best thing in the world. It definitely makes things a little more difficult. We’ll do our best to take it in stride. I think we’ll be OK with it. We have a lot of resources here. There’s nothing extra we can really do to prepare for the race. At this point it’s all about track time. I mean, we’re just waiting,” he said.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is good, so it is anticipated the track will be a very busy place when practice opens at noon.

The Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske team took advantage of the time available in the pits to practice pit stops on the #3 car driven by Helio Castroneves. [Russ Lake Photo]

A group of school children crowded up against the fence of Gasoline Alley between the pits and the garage area, anxiously waiting to get Danica Patrick’s autograph. [Russ Lake Photo]

This painting by well-known artist Thomas Kinkade features the Ray Harroun 1911 Indy 500 winning car, the 2010 winning car of Dario Franchitti and other historical and modern details. [Russ Lake Photo]

The #5 KV Racing Technology-Lotus driven by Takuma Sato sits on pit lane as the team practices pit stops. All three KV Technology-Lotus entries for the “500” are painted in a 1960’s Lotus British Racing Green. [Russ Lake Photo]

The checkered flag was waved at 4:05 p.m. as the rain began to fall, signaling the end of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. [Russ Lake Photo]

Wednesday, May 17 – Although there were two hours and 44 minutes of green flag pra

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