Indy 2009 Time Trials

When a large crowd of media-types gathers in the Econamaki Press Conference Center on Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it usually signals an interview with a record-setting Indy Racing League driver who has just captured a front-row spot for the Indianapolis 500. But on a cool, windy day at the Speedway Saturday, the draw for the reporters and photographers was a skinny dude in a cowboy hat and sunglasses that weren?t needed on this cloudy day.

Richard Petty, the seven-time NASAR champion, can still pull a crowd, especially when he shows up as an entrant for the biggest open-wheel race in the world. And match the legendary Petty name with a driver named Andretti, and you?ve got a combination that draws some interest.

Petty has teamed-up with driver John Andretti to bring Andretti?s NASCAR sponsor, Window World, to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, fielding a car prepared by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing?s veteran team.

While the Window World name is emblazoned on Andretti?s Front Row Motorsports Sprint Cup ride, the company?s CEO, Todd Whitworth, hopes to broaden the team?s fan base here in Indy.

?We?re reaching out to the people that are buying our products. The fan base is also our customer base,? Whitworth said. ?With the new tax stimulus plan, people can replace their windows with our product and qualify for that and get up to $1,500 back in tax credits. So this year was absolutely the perfect time for us to get involved in motorsports and get our name out there. And who else better to do it with than with Andretti and Petty.?

Andretti, who appears to be an open-wheel driver who?s lost in the world of NASCAR, was the catalyst for this one-off race deal together with Whitworth.

?I met John Andretti last year, and Window World hadn?t been involved in motorsports at all,? said Whitworth. ?John came up to see me, and we started talking about Indy last year and just couldn?t quite get it (the deal) together. So it didn?t work out last year, but this year we?re here, and to be here with the King our first time is just something we could never dream of.?

And Petty? ? From the mechanical standpoint, even with my stock cars, I don?t really get that involved in it because I can?t be there every minute. It?s hard for me to come into Indy cars and say you need to change this because it?s going to be better or whatever,? said the ?entrant? of the Petty blue and dayglo pink #43 Andretti mount. ? I try to hire the right people to do the job and then stand back and see what goes on from there.?

A successful race for the Petty/D&R team would be about the same as any other team in the garage area. ? You know, make the race and just get a good finish. For all of us the expectation is to go out and put on a decent show and have a good finish in the top 10- that would be a big boost for our team and for Window World because it?s hard to run 500 miles and not have trouble,? said Petty, who will be back on May 24th for the race. ?Remember, this is just a one-shot deal, guys. If we come up and win the race?? Petty left that thought dangle as the room erupted in laughter.

*Notes: Celebrating the Speedway?s Centennial era is a major theme here at IMS this spring as the 2009-2011 years will commemorate the time from the facility?s opening to the first 500-mile race. Events commemorating the celebration included a gala dinner held in February that featured 27 living Indianapolis winners and other track legends. A balloon festival that paid homage to a balloon race that opened the track in June 1909 followed that. A concourse d?elegance, featuring world- class classic and antique automobiles will take place in the track?s grassy infield on June 18-20, 2010. That event will celebrate the significance of vehicular transportation and competition to Indianapolis. Noted artist Thomas Kinkade was commissioned to create a painting that is being used as the cover for this year?s race program- an issue that contains reproductions of important documents from the Speedway?s history. A hardcover book, ?Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 100 Years of Racing? by Ralph Kramer, is also available here at the track and at local bookstores. The tome features archival photos from the track?s huge file, along with a well-written text by Kramer. No American track has more recorded history than IMS, and the book does an excellent job of documenting that.

*Quote of the weekend from Roger Penske: ?I take my hat off to the IRL because our costs to run this series are probably a third of what it costs to run an up-front NASCAR team this year.?

*Many teams have partial engine deals for the 500;deals that limit them to running only during the second week of practice and time trials. These money-saving programs are good for the under-funded teams, but do put great pressure on the driver and crew to get up to speed in a very short week. Veteran Jaques Lazier hopes that his experience could help some of these efforts. ?There are obviously a few seats available. I know that I?m confident enough that if we do get it put together, I?ll have plenty of time to get in a car on Thursday and Friday and get it in the show next Saturday.? Another driver trying to line up a ride is five-time 500 starter Bruno Junqueira. Junqueira, a pole winner in 2002 has also finished in the top five on two occasions.? I should be in a car trying to get the pole like I did in previous years, but this year I?m trying to get a car to race. People want to get their drivers qualified in the first week, then they?re going to think about a second car.? Junqueira believes that perhaps three teams have given him positive feedback about a possible ride.

*The HVM Racing entry sports the #00 to raise awareness of the need to reduce our carbon footprint. The number stands for zero emissions.

*An updated Indy Car Historical Record book has been posted at The book contains Indy Car records dating back as far as 1909 for races that were sanctioned by groups such as the Indy Car Series, AAA, CART and USAC.

*As of Friday 39 cars were at the Speedway and 31 had passed technical inspection. Thirty-one drivers had been on the track to date.

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