Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dario Franchitti Snags 3rd Indy 500 Win

Dario Franchitti celebrates Indy 500 win #3 with Simon Pagenaud
On a day when record setting temperatures threatened to be the story at Indianapolis, Dario Franchitti held off teammate Scott Dixon and a host of others to win the Indy 500 for the third time. The race finished under caution after a hard charging Takuma Sato tried to make a move under Dario in Turn One but appeared to pinch the car and spun into the wall after the white flag had waved. That left Dario three-fourths of a lap to cruise home ahead of Dixon and Tony Kanaan who took third. It was a great effort by all of these drivers and Sato's bold move nearly paid off and you have to give him credit for making the attempt. It was the last lap of the Indy 500 after all, and Sato had been quite strong in the middle segment of the race leading numerous laps and never being far from the top five all day.

This race featured an amazing amount of passing on the front stretch, even without double file restarts this year and the lead changed hands on seemingly every lap over the last 20 laps. From my vantage point in Turn 3, I saw lots of hard clean racing all race long and no one even so much as left a smudge on the wall. The IZOD Indycar Series officials and Dallara should be quite proud of their new car creation as it showed it was very raceworthy on an oval with race speeds often near 220 mph. There was also good racing throughout the filed but several drivers had trouble with loose race cars, most likely for the first time this month. Rookie Bryan Clauson, Ana Beatriz and Ed Carpenter all had harmless spins in Turn One, and Carpenter's had the worst effect as he had charged up into fourth place and seemed poised for a late race move. Mike Conway had another scary Indy crash, this time in Turn One, and Will Power became collateral damage after hitting Conway's airborne machine with nowhere else to go. Marco Andretti also found the Turn One wall late in the race after a strong showing when he drove it too low to keep it from swapping ends. Marco led early and looked ready to challenge for his first win up until that point.

It was too bad that both the Indy 500 and Friday's Indy Lights Freedom 100 finished under yellow as both races were set for fantastic finishes. The slingshot move has become de rigeur at Indianapolis and numerous drivers used it to great effect today. Let's hope that the momentum continues onto the short ovals but it sure looks like Dario and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team has fixed whatever has ailed them so far this season with a one-two sweep at Indy. A cold bottle of milk will do that for a team though, and Dario knows that as well as anyone. A great day at Indianapolis, and a fitting race to honor last year's departed champion Dan Wheldon. The race has barely been over for two hours and already I am looking forward to next year when the Indycars race at the Brickyard for the 97th time. See you then if not sooner!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Franchitti Fastest on Indy Carb Day - Guerrieri Takes Indy Lights Win

Dario Franchitti led teammate Scott Dixon in Indy's Carb Day final practice
The Target Chip Ganassi Racing boys have thrown down the gauntlet at Indy for Sunday's 96th Indianapolis 500 after setting the pace in the final one hour Carburetion Day practice session with laps in excess of 222 mph. They were the only drivers to crest that mark and with their fifth and sixth row starting positions in the middle of the pack, their progress will be exciting to watch on race day. Pole winner Ryan Briscoe was the fastest Penske in fifth just behind Takuma Sato. Marco Andretti was the pacesetter for Andretti Autosport in third with teammates James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay in eighth and tenth respectively.

I was talking to a spotter for Townsend Bell while walking to my Turn 3 shooting location before the Carb Day runs and he said he thought race speeds would be around 213 to 215, so the big numbers put up by Dario and Scottie D surprised me somewhat. Getting through raceday traffic is always an issue and this year perhaps moreso with the impact of the larger tow from the new Dallara design still largely unknown. My February 2012 blog pick to win Indy, Helio Castroneves, lurks with the 11th fastest time from Carb Day and last year's hard luck champ JR Hildebrand rounded out the top 12. It is going to be hot and greasy so the teams are going to need all the downforce they can muster during the race to get a grip on Indy, especially in the corners. It is going to be fun to watch.

Indy Lights winner Esteban Geurrieri in Victory Lane
The Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 was a thoroughly entertaining race as another comeback story unfolded at Indy. Esteban Guerrieri won from the back of the grid with a daring charge through the field. He had a wicked crash in Turns 1 & 2 in this race last year so seeing him take a win at Indy in a race filled with overtaking and two- and three-wide racing was a real treat. An early four car crash in two brought out a red flag for a cleanup, but when the race resumed, the competition was furious as multiple drivers took turns in the lead. Pole winner Gustavo Yacaman settled into a race pace that occasionally dropped him as far back as fifth, but he was in the hunt for the win in the closing laps. Unfortunately, another accident in Turn 2 on lap 38 meant the race finished under yellow so the sun baked fans who swarmed to Carb Day for the festivities never got to see a final shootout among the Indy Lights leaders. These guys have really figured out how to race in close quarters at Indy and this was arguably the best Freedom 100 in years.

I will be back shooting in Turn 3 again Sunday for the 500, which is my 37th straight and 39th in total overall. I started out as a fan and became a photographer because of my love for this race and nothing has changed through the years to diminish that. My hair is more sparse and a lot more gray, and I don't have to worry about anything other than being ready when the action begins. See you there! Until then, here are two slideshows from my work during Carb Day.

IZOD Indycar Series Carb Day final practice

Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

96th Indy 500 Field Is Set - Carb Day is Next

Ryan Briscoe starts P1 at Indy for the first time May 27, 2012
The 96th running of the Indianapolis is now just days away and I'll bet Ryan Briscoe is on pins and needles waiting for the final practice session on Friday at Carburetion Day. Most teams have run in small packs during practice leading up to qualifications this past weekend, but Friday will be the first real opportunity to experience raceday conditions on the 2.5 mile IMS oval. I hope it is a safe practice session, especially since there were only 33 cars available to qualify this year, and the slowest two are both sporting Lotus power, more than 10 mph slower than Briscoe's pole winning pace.

Simona DiSilvestro drives for HVM
Speaking of Lotus, I feel terrible for Simona DiSilvestro and Jean Alesi. They deserve better than what has been given them for powerplants, and if not for Penske's pull with Chevy, then Sebastian Bourdais and Katherine Legge would likely have been in the same situation. The Lotus engines are woefully shy on speed and since Indycar has decided not to let them run at higher boost levels for their twin turbo engines this weekend, odds are very good that Simona and Alesi will get blackflagged early for not being able to run within 5% of the leaders speed. Simona could barely get to 214 last week and Alesi's best lap was only 210, so if race speeds are between 210 and 220 for the leaders (which is likely going to be the case with larger aero tows on race day, even with the Chevy's and Honda's dropping back to pre-qualifying turbo boost levels), then the two Lotus runners are going to be in trouble if they are running around 200.

Jean Alesi struggled with Lotus power
When did anyone think 200 mph would be slow at Indy? This year, it's not just slow, it's potentially dangerously slow. Simona deserves so much more than this after her practice session accident which burned her hands in Turn 4 last year, and Alesi will not be given a chance to really race at Indy, which I'm sure is why he came to Indy at age 47 after being away from Formula One for a few years. Racers are racers and it's just too bad that Lotus couldn't get its act together before now, and whatever gains Bourdais brought them with their lone Top 10 finish earlier this season on a road course, they have thrown them away now that Jay Penske's Dragon Racing team has fought its way into the Chevy camp this past week. Who can blame them? Not me.

Jay at IMS Turn 3 drop gate
For the first time in memory, I did not even make it to the Speedway for Bump Day this past Sunday, and anyone who knows me would surely be surprised at that. I had other commitments that day and I knew there would be no real drama with only a total of nine car-driver combinations available to make qualifying runs for the final nine open positions. The real drama was Saturday on Pole Day and there was no way I would miss that.  I have not been able to spend as much time at IMS this year due to work conflicts and what I've discovered is that I have had to take a different approach with my photography and race coverage writing. Limited time at the track has forced me to be more selective and creative in what I shoot, rather than just blasting away and I think my recent experience shooting for Associated Press at other races has helped me hone in on getting the right shot and getting it quickly. I'd like to think my work has improved as a result, but I'll leave that up to others to judge. I am hoping to do at least one other blog post following Carb Day to wrap up final preparations for this year's 500 and provide coverage of the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100. Until then, if you would like to see all of the slideshows I have posted so far, then please click here. See you in Turn 3 this weekend!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Indy 500 Pole Won by Penske's Ryan Briscoe

Ryan Briscoe celebrates his first Indy 500 pole position
It was a sweltering day at Indianapolis today for Indy 500 Pole Day and Penske's Ryan Briscoe took the pole position after the final Fast 9 qualifying session by millimeters over James Hinchliffe of Andretti Autopsort. Hinch made a last ditch effort to unseat Briscoe but could not muster the necessary speed  and wound up second ahead of his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who also tried unsuccessfully in the last hour to snatch the pole from Briscoe. Once again, Penske has shown the way to go fast at Indianapolis but I'm sure it was closer than Roger would have liked today. He will still cash the $100,000 check though.

Three drivers hit the wall today but they were all able to climb out unharmed. Rookie Bryan Clauson did a half spin into the Turn 1 wall at the start of his fourth qualifying lap on what would have been a solid run shortly after noon. The track continued to heat up and then Oriol Servia lost it coming off of Turn 4 as he was about to take the green flag to qualify. Servia's accident was scariest looking as he spun into the inside wall and then smacked the end of the wall which separates pit lane from the race track which sent him into several more violent spins. Ed Carpenter had the day's hardest hit in Turn 2 but he was in pit lane during the Fast 9 session talking with Tony Kanaan so he's OK too. Thankfully the new Dallara design seems to be quite crashworthy, although I know no one really wanted to test that out this weekend, especially with the short car count where virtually everyone who makes a qualifying attempt is assured of racing in the 500 next Sunday. Except perhaps those who have Lotus power, and other than an early appearance in the morning practice session by Simona DeSilvestro, those with Lotus engines were nowhere to be seen the rest of the day.

One of the coolest things that happened all day was the ceremonial lap turned by Parnelli Jones in the #98 roadster which became the first car to be driven to an average qualifying speed in excess of 150 mph at Indy. He clearly enjoyed the laps and the sound of that old Offy sure was sweet. They will run for final qualifying tomorrow and another hot day is forecast so the old Brickyard will be as tricky as ever. I'll be back Carb Day for the final practice and the Freedom 100. Until then enjoy this cumulative slideshow of photos from today's action.

2012 Indy 500 Pole Day Photos

Indy 500 Pole Day Dawns Clear - Hot One Expected

Marco Andretti fastest so far at Indy
Set up in the IMS media center this morning, today promises to be filled with excitement and probably a few surprises. Marco Andretti was fastest on "Fast Friday" at Indianapolis after the IZOD Indycar Series officials bumped up the turbo boost pressure. The extra boost had 13 drivers crest 225 mph and and another 10 crack the 224 mark so the competition for the Fast 9 spots which will compete for the Indy 500 pole today should be fierce. Weather may also be a factor as the hottest temperatures of the month are forecast. With the advent of daylight savings time in Indiana a few years ago, the front stretch does not get nearly as much shade late in the day as it used to so the driver who can wait into the final hour for the best conditions may have the best shot at the pole. Tony Kanaan drew the first qualifying spot and ran over 225 yesterday so he may be the one to set an early benchmark for the day. The Andretti Autosport team continues to look very stout with four drivers in the top 10 Friday, including Ana Beatriz in a one-off ride for the team. Rookies Josef Newgarden and Bryan Clauson have been very impressive for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing this week and it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of their first Pole Day at Indianapolis. And lest we forget the Penske juggernaut:  Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves have the second and third fastest speeds of the practice week, also set on Fast Friday. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti lurk nearby for Target Chip Ganassi with the fifth and ninth fastest speeds so they cannot be counted out. It could be a wild day here at Indy so until I can get back on line later, I leave you with the following slide shows from practice days I shot earlier this week.

Practice Day May 15, 2012

Practice Day May 17, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Indy 500 Practice Photos - Day 3

Ryan Hunter-Reay
On a beautiful day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for practice, the Andretti Autosport team continues to be near the head of the pack and the young lions of the IZOD  Indycar Series are making plenty of noise. Andretti's team had three of the top five speeds today with Ryan Hunter-Reay second overall, Marco Andretti third and Sebastian Saavedra fifth quick. Another Andretti driver was in 10th - James Hinchcliffe who I caught doing major consulting with RHR leaning into the cockpit. Rookie Josef Newgarden continues to set the pace with the first lap over 222 mph on this the third day of practice. I was only able to get out to the Speedway for less than two hours today but it was a very productive day for no more time that I had to work with. I spent time looking for people and found them. The most interesting thing I overheard today was Roger Penske saying to his team over their radio was "we're having the same problem with all three cars." I don't know what problem they are having but it must be serious as Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power were back in 15th, 16th and 17th positions today. Maybe they were just work on race day setups...

This is my 350th blog post and I am dedicating it to a fellow photographer who passed away this weekend on Opening Day:  Keith Pritchard. I always considered Keith a friend and mentor as he was someone who helped me time after time when I was first starting out as a racing photographer. We went on many road trips together - Toronto, Michigan, Columbus - and I always knew I could find him in his favorite spot, shooting in Turn 1 every May. Sadly it was not to be this year and even though we all have known of physical troubles he has had the last few years, it was still a shock to hear that he had reached the finish line. His pictures of Danny Sullivan's "Spin and Win" in 1985 made Sports Illustrated that year, and were used again in last year's commemorative Indy 500 issue that SI put out with the Speedway's program. Gone but not forgotten. Keith ran a helluva race. He was always an AJ Foyt fan and I'll never forget the stories he told about AJ's injuries at Road America which he was there to shoot for the Indianapolis Star. And that would be just one of many racing stories he could tell. Rest in peace friend. My prayers go out to his family and friends - we've lost another friend. The slideshow which follows is in Keith's honor.
Marco Andretti
Sebastian Saavedra
James Hinchliffe - Mr. Mayor @Hinchtown

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rookie Josef Newgarden Tops Indy Opening Day

Josef Newgarden leads Simon Pagenaud through Turn 3 in practice at Indianapolis
Rookie Josef Newgarden topped 220 mph to lead the speed parade at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today on the opening day of practice for the 2012 Indy 500. In quite a surprising outcome, Newgarden surely gave little Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing a shot in the arm which hopefully they can build on through the rest of practice. If he keeps this up, he could be a contender for the Fast 9 or even the pole next Saturday. I'm sure there were a lot of raised eyebrows in the garage area following Newgarden's times today as he got to 219 early in the afternoon and then followed up with his 220 lap late in the day. Quite impressive for last year's Firestone Indy Lights champion.

It was a great day for practice at the Speedway today and I am always overjoyed when the track finally opens each May. Every year it's old home week at IMS and a chance to connect with old friends, some of whom I haven't seen since last May, plus meet new connections. I've been shooting Indy for so long that sometimes the biggest challenge is seeking creativity in my images and I can't say that I always get it right. But I do try to tell a story with my pictures and the shots I end up liking the most are often not action pix, but ones like the father and son watching with the boy halfway climbing the balcony railing, or the one with Dan Wheldon's face on the Borg Warner trophy for his 2011 win. So enjoy these photos and I will have many more to add as the week goes on, with Pole Day being the last day I can work at the track this week. Then it will be time to have the anticipation build for Carburetion Day the Friday before race day and then the 500 two days later on May 27th. I have not missed a 500 since 1976 and I'm grateful to be able to keep the streak alive. There's no place like it, but the biggest surprise I had today was that I did not need earplugs. That's too bad - I like it loud! But I did get several strong whiffs of ethanol exhaust when I was shooting outside of Turn 3 today, so that sort of made up for the lack of volume. Sort of, but not quite. More soon race fans!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Indy 500 Practice Opens - Penske & Helio Favorites

Helio Castroneves on track during April 2012 open test at IMS
This weekend marks the opening of official practice for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 and Penske driver Helio Castroneves will share the favorite's role with IZOD Indycar points leader and teammate Will Power. The Penske team has been a juggernaut so far this season with Helio capturing one win and Power taking the other three races - two on road courses from starting positions uncharacteristically deep in the starting fields at Barber and in Brazil. Helio has a chance to make history this month and join Indy legends AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of the 500. I predicted earlier this year that Helio would win the 500 in my season preview story on the 2012 IZOD Indycar series so I hope he is able to make me look good. For the full story click here. It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years since Big Al won his fourth 500 but time passes when you're having fun, as the saying goes, and I am excited to be back shooting the biggest race in the world again this May.

Preparations for this year's 500 have been compressed again into a single week of practice with Pole Day and Bump Day at the end of the week. Sadly, there will probably be no bumping this year as the entry list has only just reached 33 car-driver combinations with the late of addition of former Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi and a brand new team with Lotus power. Teams have been leaving Lotus lately like rats jumping from a sinking ship so it is unlikely, as Alex Lloyd so eloquent wrote in the May 10, 2012 Indianapolis Star, that we will see any additional entries since Indycar wants to keep Lotus in the field and their underpowered, underdeveloped engines are not likely to be very quick at all. With no testing at IMS whatsoever thus far, Lotus teams will likely have the last row party all to themselves, which is a real shame for Simona DiSilvestro who has shown both talent and courage in her brief Indycar career thus far.

I can't talk about this year's Indy 500 without mentioning the fallen - last year's winner, the late Dan Wheldon. His presence will be sorely missed this month as he had been pegged to drive the GoDaddy machine for Andretti Autosport this season not long before he was lost at Las Vegas. James Hinchliffe has done a marvelous job as his replacement so far this season and it would be fun to see him win Indy and make good on his promise to shave his head if he wins Indy this month. To do it in Dan's honor, in a car Danny was slated to drive, would somehow see justice served and Indy is usually full of surprises so it is not beyond the realm of possibility for Hinchtown to come through on May 27th and get to chug the winner's milk. Even though I picked Helio to win, sentimentally I'd like to see Hinch pour the milk over his head ala Danny a little more than three weeks from now so we'll just have to see what happens.

As the late radio voice of the Indy 500, Sid Collins, used to say:  "Stay tuned for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing".

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Keselowski takes Penske & Dodge to Win at Talladega

Brad Keselowski took Kyle Busch's assist to win the Aaron's 499
Roger Penske couldn't have sounded any happier following Brad Keselowski's win in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway; unless of course Penske teammate AJ Allmendinger had finished second. Vindication for Keselowski and Dodge was won on this day after Brad snookered Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle on the final restart in a single green-white-checkered finish. The race itself was fairly uneventful for more than two-thirds of the event, dominated by pack racing under mostly green flag conditions with Matt Kenseth showing the way and leading the most laps. Jimmy Johnson had dropped out early with an engine problem, but almost all the other front runners in Sprint Cup points were still in the hunt for the win. It seemed like almost everyone took a turn in the lead, although they would usually drift back into the pack to cool their overheating engines or hopefully avoid "The Big One".

Jimmy Johnson finished 35th with engine problems
But the whole race changed when The Big One finally happened between Turns 3 and 4 on lap 142 and lots of good cars were damaged or knocked out of the race. Pole winner Jeff Gordon was among those damaged in the wreck which also took out Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex and effected numerous others. Soon after, Kurt Busch took a wild ride through the tri-oval in his Ricky Bobby car, and then there was another late yellow for a second "Big One" in Turn 1 which set up the final restart. Last year's Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart had fuel mileage problems throughout the day and was later caught up in the second "Big One" which set up the final restart.

The first "Big One"
On a hot Alabama spring day that started off under rainy conditions which forced a minor delay for the start of the race, engines ran hot and fans saw a typical Talladega pack race. The grumbling started right after the race though, mainly from drivers upset about the rules package or the wrecking (or both). The fans seemed happy for the win by the Blue Deuce and Keselowski celebrated in style with burnouts at both ends of the tri-oval. My vantage point was atop the tallest grandstand in the tri-oval area so I could see and shoot virtually the entire track. The lead photo with this article was used by Associated Press as the leaders came to take the checkered flag and there was no dramatic pass for the win this year, unlike the fall race in 2011. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to shoot for AP here again, and it was my third straight Talladega road trip. 

Kurt Busch spins late in the Aaron's 499
On this trip I actually got to see the City of Talladega for the first time and owe a debt of thanks to other local AP photogs who led me out of the track after the race on Sunday. I also saw some very nice Alabama scenery on the backroads between the track and Birmingham to get on I-65. It reminded me a lot of Brown County with the twisting hilly roads and lots of trees. I drove roughly 1200 miles over the weekend and things didn't always go like I had planned but everything worked out. When race day opened with heavy rain, I was initially concerned that I might get washed out like I had at this year's Daytona 500, but I had set my mind to stay until the Aaron's 499 was run even if it meant driving back late on Monday. Thankfully it didn't come to that. Normally I like to have all my travel arrangements nailed down before a big trip like this but not this time - it was an exercise in faith and flexibility. I had originally intended to camp at the track but I ended up staying in three different hotels over the weekend - the best was the Quality Inn in Irondale, Alabama and the worst was the Red Roof Inn in Goodlettesville, Tennessee. Regardless of lodging arrangements and the vagaries of the local weather, I had a great photo weekend. And this year there was no threat of tornadoes in the area like the spring race last April, thank God.

My race slideshow follows this post so I hope you see something you like. Now it's time to settle in to work in my hometown on the Indy 500 as practice opens this Saturday following rookie orientation Thursday. The Month of "Jay" is well underway so start your engines and follow me to the track. I will see you there!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Talladega Journey Continues - Logano Takes Nationwide Race

Joey Logano passed Kyle Busch at the line to win the Aaron's 312 at Talladega
From blazing heat on Saturday during the Nationwide race to wet and humid conditions this morning - greetings from the media center at Talladega Superspeedway. Joey Logano pleased raced fans yesterday in the Aaron's 312 by passing Kyle Busch at the checkered flag for the win. The "ABK - Anyone But Kyle" fans really whooped it up in the backstretch stands with Logano's win. The race itself was marred by a scary accident which saw Eric McClure take a wicked hit on the inside wall near the end of the backstretch which brought out a red flag. McClure had to be cut from the car and was later taken to a local hospital fir further evaluation. After a red flag for McClure's incident, two green-white-checkered attempts finally resulted in Logano's victorious pass coming to the finish line.

It was a fairly entertaining race as of course the Alabama fans cheered every moved of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Eric Almirola in Jr's team car. Fans also seemed to appreciate Danica Patrick's run to the front she was competitive all day and actually led the race at one point. There weren't a lot of cars still running at the end as the 117 lap scheduled distance was extended to 122 at the finish, and there were several other spins and wrecks elsewhere on the track. Danica even got some payback with Sam Hornish Jr. on the last lap after he ran her out of room and she hit the wall - she got him back in the next corner and punted him into the fence for good measure. This track is amazing and my day wasn't nearly as exciting shooting for Associated Press as nothing of significance happened where I was stationed on the inside at the beginning of the backstretch. I had a good photography day nonetheless and the following slideshows give you some idea of what I was able to see from my vantage point atop a television camera tower. Today could be a different story but it was raining hard on my way into the track and there's a chance for isolated storms all day today, so it will be interesting to see how the day unfolds. I've already had to miss the Daytona 500 this year due to weather but I will stick this one out and see what happens, rain or shine!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Talladega Weekend Off to Hot Start

Local and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car in pole day tech line at Talladega
Setting up in the media center at Talladega Superspeedway brings immediate relief from what is already a sweltering Alabama spring day early in the morning. NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying kicks off in a couple of hours and then the Nationwide race will be run later this afternoon. I do not know where AP will have me working as yet, but the garage area is quiet so far with the exception of teams going through tech inspection. My drive south from Indy yesterday got interesting around Louisville with a wicked rainstorm creating all kinds of visibility problems but I didn't have to stop. Driving 20 miles south the skies cleared and the rest of the trip was a breeze. I'm glad I stopped last night instead of making a bonzai run to the track as I feel really good today and am ready to go to work. More on that shortly folks. 

Jeff Gordon's crew pushes the 24 car to the pole day tech line