Sunday, May 12, 2013

Indy 500 Practice Day 2 - Andretti Drivers Showcase

Andretti Autosport Teammates EJ Viso (5) and Carlos Munoz head into Turn 1
While rookie Carlos Munoz was fastest on the day today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he also learned some rookie lessons. I would also bet that there were some interesting team discussions this evening following practice which built on those I overheard on pit lane among Andretti Autosport drivers and team owner Michael Andretti. It was an Andretti show today as not much happened on track for most of the day which was quite cool and windy, even though track temperatures were never an issue. Quite a few teams did shakedown runs today but shortly after 4:00, all five of the Andretti team cars took the track together for practice drafting and running in traffic.

James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and EJ Viso discuss practice
Therein lies the rub as apparently young Munoz made a dive bomb move into Turn 1 which almost put him in the grass and could have ended up with disastrous consequences for the team. The IMS public address system announcers noted the move and the conversations got started pretty quickly in the Andretti pit on the next yellow flag when everyone came in. Munoz set his fast time in the tow from his four teammates and as I suggested in my last blog post, rookies at Indy must be careful when things come too easy too fast. I'm sure the team will make this a learning situation for Carlos and you know he needs experience running in traffic so thankfully no harm was done on the racetrack. The Andretti team clearly was flexing its muscles today and put on quite a show for the fans late in the day and should be able to build on this heading into the next five days of practice.

Larry Foyt
Now the grind begins. Monday through Friday from noon to 6:00 p.m. every day, teams will be trying to find speed to assure themselves of being Pole Day qualifiers. The first person on the track Monday however will probably be another rookie, Conor Daly, for AJ Foyt's team, as Conor is on his way back from European racing commitments and the team has been told they should be ready to run his rookie program starting around 9:00 a.m Monday morning. Larry Foyt has done a masterful job of pulling the Foyt Enterprises team together and has put Takuma Sato in the IZOD Indycar Series points lead as a result. Daly will certainly benefit from the team's success so far this season and as the last of four rookies entered in this year's 500, getting his rookie test out of the way early clears the decks for all the teams to attack this week's practice sessions on equal footing.

Kids and race cars at Indy
There's something about Indy which continues to draw families to the track despite the relative lack of interest in Indycar from the racing world as a whole. Indycar competition has arguably never been closer and the sight of little kids playing with their toy Indycars behind the pits gives me hope for the future of Indycar. These are the future fans of the sport and it reminds me of how young I was when my grandpa started taking me to the racetrack. Credit or blame him as you will, but I was bitten then and hope that more people bring their youngsters to IMS so they can catch the racing bug too. Indy is hallowed ground as far as I'm concerned and it's a huge reason I write about and photograph motorsports. And the best part is that tomorrow I get to do it all over again once my day as a middle school math teacher is done. I can't wait.

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