Sunday, May 30, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Tony Kanaan shook down five Andretti Autosport cars Saturday but focused on his 7-Eleven ride today and the results showed on the speed charts. Pole Day is shaping up as a battle royale for the Fast Nine spots among the Penske, Target and Andretti camps. With five more days of practice until then, and the prospect of more rain in the forecast every day this week, track time will be at a premium and I expect teams to take advantage of every bit of green light time they get. Indy Racing League officials adjusted today's schedule after Saturday was mostly washed out, so I would not be surprised if more schedule changes are made throughout the week to make sure teams get the time they need to prepare for qualifying. Top speeds today were set in the draft, so it will be interesting to see what Helio et all can run by themselves without benefit of a tow from another car. More of that will be seen later in the week as teams hone in on a qualifying setup.
It was like old home week for me at the Speedway this weekend as I ran into lots of photographer friends and began to feel as though drivers were recognizing me after spending so much time shooting Indycar races the last five seasons. I even ran into Soctt Dixon's dad and shook his hand, asking him if he had been to Marsh lately, after talking with him there a couple of weeks ago in the express checkout line. My brother and I stopped into the 500 Oldtimers suite during one rain delay and Johnny Rutherford walked in with a greeting of "Looks like a bunch of oldtimers in here!" I have not made it out to the corners to shoot yet but there was plenty to do this weekend as I tried to get as many driver shots as possible and spent quite a bit of time atop the F1 garages shooting cars entering Turn 1. It is a great vantage point and one of the few places at Indy where you can really see the drivers working the steering wheel. Several cars were bottoming out going into one when tire pressures were low and showers of sparks were flying as a result. There are a few rookies who still are searching for the correct entry line into One, but I was very impressed by how quickly they all got up to speed.
The prettiest car at the track is the Lotus-themed Dallara of rookie Takuma Sato, who looked quick and smooth throughout his rookie test. The following slideshow is a quick look at pix from this weekend and there will be much more to follow this week as I spend as much time as possible at the Track. I'll be the one wearing the Canon photo vest. See you there!
Friday, May 14, 2010
Every May around Indianapolis, you can always tell when the Speedway is about to open for Indy 500 practice. "500 Festival" hotshots are tooling around in their pace cars. Checkered flags start showing up in people's yards or hung from their homes. Drivers start making publicity appearances for their sponsors. The local news media ramps up their print and video coverage of preparations for the opening of the Track.
The teams are now all ensconced in Gasoline Alley and getting down to the business of preparing their cars to hit the track in a little more than 24 hours from now. Drivers are gearing up with media appearances at places like Macy's, which has a huge push on now for sales of IZOD Indycar Series merchandise. Driver "experts" will soon be in demand for the local television stations. Earlier this week, I attended a live broadcast of the Autosportradio.com show at McGilvery's Pub on the westside and heard Ed Carpenter, Vitor Meira and AJ Foyt IV talking about their preparations. They appeared relaxed and ready to go as the best time of year in Indy is about to get underway. The pub was packed for the show and the Hoosier 100 promoter was also there, so if you are in Indy for the 500 weekend, go out to the State Fairgrounds after Carb Day activities are over and watch the USAC Silver Crown cars run 100 miles on the mile dirt. If you still can't get enough racing that weekend, then go to O'Reilly Raceway Park the next night for the "Night Before the 500" USAC Midget show on the 5/8 mile paved oval. The Star Mazda series will also be featured that night.
At the Autosportradio.com show, it was especially interesting to hear Vitor and AJ talk about being teammates this year. Vitor has made an incredible comeback from back injuries suffered in his crash with Rafael Matos during last year's 500, and he told a great story about discussions with team owner AJ Foyt about reassurances he got about the ride being available to him when he recovered. He also talked about the new Pole Day qualifying format and indicated he knew it was for the benefit of the fans. Foyt IV was very entertaining and said he would be happy to qualify 10th on Pole Day and didn't seem to want any part of the Fast Nine session that day. He was asked about his relationship with AJ and said it is much better now that he is not crashing AJ's cars. The best part of the interview was his comment that there have been times with these IRL cars when they weren't handling (like at Richmond) where he "just wanted to crash and get it over with". The crowd loved the comment and of course everyone understood that he wasn't really hoping to crash and that he was describing what it was like trying to maneuver an ill-handling race car when every corner the thing might swap ends on him.
The six rookies entered for this year's race will get the bulk of the track time this weekend after the veterans are given the first two hours Saturday and Sunday to shake things down. Takuma Sato, Simona De Silvestro, Ana Beatriz, Jay Howard, Bertrand Baguette, Mario Romancini and Sebastrian Saavedra each have good teams behind them and while they may be limited in big car, big track experience, none are newcomers. Sato has a wealth of Formula One experience (plus Honda money) and ran the USGP at Indy for Honda's F1 program on Indy's road course, although turning left exclusively will be new for him. De Silvestro was the last Formula Atlantic champion, won several races in that now-defunct series and has looked stout on the road courses so far this year in her maiden Indycar season. Ana was the first woman to win a Firestone Indy Lights race (at Nashville two years ago) and comes back to Indy this year hoping to forget her huge Turn 1 Indy Lights wreck that I photographed in the 2009 Freedom 100. Howard is teamed with Sarah Fisher and got laps at Indy last May but looked shaky in his initial foray at the Speedway so I hope he keeps his foot down and that Sarah's little team can give him a good car. Baguette is an unknown but Saavedra dominated a number of Indy Lights races in 2009 so he should do well with sufficient track time.
I'll be there tomorrow to bring it all home and I hope you'll come back for further updates as the run-up to Pole Day next Saturday continues. Go fast. Turn Left. Bring it back in one piece. That is what these rookies hope to do this weekend before the Track opens up for all entrants on Monday.