Friday Notes From Indy

Speedway, Indiana

• Talk among observers in Gasoline Alley Friday centered on which teams/drivers might be struggling to find enough speed to make the 2011 Centennial 500. With 41 primary cars posting times during the week of limited practice, parity saw the top 33 within 0.6477 sec. of each other going into Saturday’s battle for the Pole. Several Rookies and “Indy Only” teams have pressure on them to find enough speed to make this historic field. Among them are: Bertrand Baguette (5th), JR Hildebrand (R-14th), James Hinchcliffe (R-16th), Charlie Kimball (R-18th), Alex Lloyd (22nd), Davey Hamilton (25th), Jay Howard (R-26th), Ho-Pin Tung (R-27th), Pippa Mann (R-28th), EJ Viso (29th), Ana Beatriz (34th), Mike Conway (42nd), James Jakes (R-43rd), Sebastian Saavedra (44th) and Scott Speed, (R-46th). Speed, who has experience in NASCAR and F1, is rumored to be vacating his seat in Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing mount as the team searches for a quicker pace.

• Danica Patrick, on this being perhaps her final Indianapolis 500 before moving to NASCAR full-time in 2012: “I think whatever happens, I’ll take into consideration that this is a huge event I think I’ve had great memories here, no matter what. I don’t know. I think that’s a question I don’t really have an answer to. I’m not there yet. I haven’t thought about those kinds of things. But all I know is I’m going to do my best to try to win this year and see what happens.”

• Double-file restarts were introduced to the IndyCar series at the beginning of this season. The rule has been met with mixed feelings among the drivers as some point to the car-to-car contact that has taken place on road and street courses as proof that it makes those restarts too dangerous for the high speeds and narrow track here at Indy. Others say that these are the best drivers in the world, and they need to show their talent. Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power weighed in on the issue when asked during Friday’s press conference. Castroneves:”I’ve got to see. It’s going to be the first of the oval double-file restarts. I don’t know how they’re going to want us to bring the three wide, you know on the first three wide (at the start of the 500) but the double file (during the race) is going to be exciting. It’s not like going from sixth gear to first like it’s been on the road courses, so you might not see those kind of troubles we’ve seen on the road courses”. Power: “We’re starting at such a slow speed late. I think when you double file you have no opportunity to pass. You’re sort of stuck in your row. That’s going to make it interesting The last two restarts of the day are going to be pretty wild. I mean, the outside row is going to be- I don’t know- maybe at a disadvantage if they don’t sweep because the groove just gets smaller and smaller all day. Everyone has to learn on the job.” And the class will be quick so they’d better be taking notes.

• Simona de Silvestro was evaluated Friday morning after sustaining burns on both hands during her spectacular turn 3-4 crash on Thursday. She was examined by IndyCar medical director Dr. Michael Olinger who did not clear her to drive today. She will be re-evaluated Saturday by Olinger.

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