Monday, May 5, 2008

2008 Indy 500 Practice Continues - Vets & Rookies

Day 2 of practice runs for the 92nd Indy 500 continued today with an interesting mix of rookies going through their orientation paces, and veterans getting back up to speed through refresher courses. The first wall contact of the month sent Jaime Camara to Methodist Hospital but I heard late in the day that he had been released. Among the vets getting track time were Max Papis (pictured in Turn 3), Bruno Junqueira and Davey Hamilton. Max was out for the second straight day while Bruno and Davey were shaking off the rust by getting out today for the first time. Davey was last year's "feel good" story as he traded in his pilot's role for the IndyCar two-seater and ran his first race of any kind since his horrific Texas crash a few years ago. For Bruno, this is his first time at Indy since getting clipped by AJ Foyt IV in Turn 2 in the 2005 Indy 500 and breaking his back. It's good to see them both back on the track.

Will Power continued to show impressive speed today, as did Alex Lloyd and several others. Seat time cures all ills for race drivers, especially at a place like Indy where you have to thread the needle every time you dive into Turns 1 and 3, and the wall comes right out at you on the exits of 2 and 4. That is the fast way but everyone I saw today looked nice and smooth. No one runs the Cogan Line" or brushes the fence the way Tom Sneva used to, but I did see Servia have to go high to pass Jay Howard on the entrance to Turn 3 when Howard probably should have been in the warmup lane. He will learn - the price is high at Indy for slow learners and Howard was the Indy Pro series champ in 2006 and very impressive in the races I saw him run. Besides that, he has a good first name...

I couldn't get away from work until 2 this afternoon so I got out late and then was hoping to go outside Turn 3 to shoot the action coming right at me. I shot Turn 1 from the outside on Pole Day in 2006 and the head-on shots with the drivers' hands up high on the wheel are simply awesome. But it's dangerous as hell and the special vests are almost impossible to come by, so I had to settle for walking pit lane to see who was out, and then went to the inside of Turn 3 to shoot. It's the last corner where the fence is low and you're not shooting through a slot (or through the fencing itself like I did last May in Turn 2). The late afternoon sun shines right in the driver's faces as they come through 3 and exit into the north short chute so I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn't go to the outside of the wall today. Maybe later this month (if I'm lucky).

I still have a ton of photo editing to do, even though today was just the second day of practice and a limited number of teams have been out. It's incredible how many images you can shoot with high speed digital now. It's the best thing since they invented the motordrive. I'm packaging up the rookie crop for American Motor Journal and expect tomorrow to be action-packed as all the teams hit the track. I think Moraes still has to finish his last speed bracket in his rookie test, but I'm pretty sure everyone else is ready to go flat out for Pole Day. Of the newcomers, Power, Wilson and Rahal have all been very impressive, but my shining star so far is Alex Lloyd, who is attempting to start his first IndyCar race of any kind, and he's doing it on the most well-known stage in the world. I ran into him yesterday on pit lane and told him it was good to see him out there, and after his dominating run through last year's Indy Pro series, he could be one to watch. The race within a race for Rookie of The Year should be very entertaining this year and I can't wait to see how it all pans out. As the late Sid Collins used to say on the 500 radio broadcast: "Stay tuned race fans, for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Indy 500 Practice 2008 - Day 2

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