Short Day Adds Pressure To Teams Heading Into Final Weekend

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

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Of the 3,090 laps completed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on this dreary day, 2,700 were recorded by 15 safety vehicles with the express purpose of drying the 2.5-mile racing ribbon.

After a delay of almost five hours because of inclement weather, fans cheered in unison as the green flag flew at 5:19 p.m. and Marco Andretti's No. 26 car flew past the start-finish line. Possibly, a few in the pockets of hardy spectators also raised a cup to the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway safety workers, who drove the equivalent of a coast-to-coast round trip in an effort to keep the racetrack in play.

It was the first opportunity for drivers - qualified and those counting the hours until Third Day Qualifications May 17 - to test equipment and continue race preparations since Pole Day. Second Day Qualifying was a wash, and the same threatened this session until the late-afternoon break.

It was short-lived. Twenty-nine drivers took advantage of 30 minutes of green flag time, and 45 minutes total including running yellows. Of course, they want all six hours allotted to daily track activity.

"The weather is the same for everyone, but it's still disappointing to get so little time on track in the Indiana Jones/Blockbuster car," said Andretti, who led an Andretti Green Racing triumvirate of speedsters at 222.801 mph (40.3948 seconds; third overall for the day). "We still need a couple of days of full-tank runs to get a good handle on the race setup. It has been good though because the rain has given us some extra time to sign autographs and talk to the fans that paid to come out and didn't get to see any action."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates - and front-row neighbors - Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon topped the speed chart. Dixon, the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone winner, checked in at 222.834 mph (40.3889 seconds). Wheldon was .0042 of a second behind (222.810 mph). Think they were running the same setup?

"Because there were so little laps, everybody was out there, so we got to run in traffic a little bit and see how the balance was," said Dixon, who obviously liked what he saw. "It was pretty decent, but it was basically about who got the biggest tow. It was a good day for Team Target because you learn something every time you are on track."

Among non-qualified cars, John Andretti in the No. 24 Roth Racing car was quickest at 221.386 mph (40.6530 seconds; sixth overall). Buddy Rice, driving the No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car, was seventh fastest at 220.277 mph and Enrique Bernoldi posted a fast lap of 220.105 mph in the No. 36 Conquest Racing car. Townsend Bell (220.020) in the No. 99 Dreyer & Reinbold William Rast Racing car and Bruno Junqueira (219.981), driving the No. 18 Z-Line Car for Dale Coyne Racing, also were in the top 10.

"It was good because it had been three days that I wasn't in the car," Bernoldi said. "It was good preparation in case we have a day like this on Saturday for qualifying. You have to be ready to go out there no matter what time the session starts, and you also have to be able to get the best out of the car in any condition. Now we will keep our fingers crossed that we can have more track time tomorrow and Friday before qualifying this weekend."

Alex Lloyd, who saw his first action since May 9 after being medically cleared to drive earlier in the day, had a fast lap of 219.180 mph (41.0621) in the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing with Chip Ganassi car.

"It was nice to get in the car and get in at least a few laps today with the way the weather was looking," said Lloyd, who welcomed primary sponsor Wii Fit on board. "We were basically just doing leak-checks, having had the accident and put the car back together again. We wanted to make sure everything was OK. We got what we needed to accomplish today. Hopefully, if we get some running in tomorrow we can get a couple more laps at speed and see what we can do."

Twenty-two positions are up for grabs Saturday among 26 cars entered.

Jeff Simmons, driving the No. 41 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing, took his initial laps of the month and posted a fast lap of 216.907 mph (41.4925; 22nd overall). Likewise, Roger Yasukawa in the No. 98 CURB Records/hhgregg/Real Power Beck Motorsports car got re-acquainted with the track with a fast lap of 212.349 mph.

Weather permitting, practice continues from noon-6 p.m. (ET) Thursday, May 15.

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