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

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