Dixon, Helio, Briscoe Duel At 223; Power Fast Before Crash

Friday, May 16, 2008

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There are 26 cars aiming for 22 spots available for the 92nd Indianapolis 500.

No matter how you slice it, there will be some disappointed individuals and likely some surprises as Third Day Qualifying and Bump Day unfold May 17-18 on the capricious 2½ miles of asphalt that has been the site of similar circumstances over the years.

An hour's worth of practice precedes four-lap qualifying for positions 12-33 in the field Saturday, May 17 for the May 25 race as each car has three attempts both days to make the show and/or bump its way into the field. A four-lap average speed of 220 mph is the over/under to secure a spot, according to an unofficial poll of non-qualified drivers.

"We know we've got a quick enough car to be solidly in the field," said Alex Lloyd, who was 15th fastest (221.528; 40.6251 seconds) during six-hour session May 16 in the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing with Chip Ganassi car. "Obviously, we want to get close to that 12th spot, if not on the 12th spot."

Scads of storylines are developing, such as will Will Power's No. 8 Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia car - fastest among the non-qualified in practice (223.039 mph) Friday, May 16 - have its balance back after being dented by the Turn 1 wall? The same goes for E.J. Viso's No. 33 HVM Racing car, which lacked a rear end after making contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier.

Will 1996 500-Mile Race winner Buddy Lazier, who got on the track for the first time Friday, be able to hang it out - possibly multiple times? And can Phil Giebler, last year's Chase Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year who has yet to complete a lap, be able to tame the track and Panoz chassis to give American Dream Racing its first start in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?"

Among the non-qualified, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal (222.959), Roth Racing's John Andretti (222.860) and KV Racing Technology's Oriol Servia (222.456) were in the top 10 overall Friday. Dale Coyne Racing's Bruno Junqueira (222.102), and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Buddy Rice (221.919) and Townsend Bell (221.857) were in the top 15.

"It's pretty hard to figure out what the right thing to do is because of the weather," Andretti said. "Obviously, we're expecting some inclement weather over the weekend. We'll just have to wait and see. We know we've had a pretty good car the last three days speed-wise. Hopefully, if the weather and everything holds out right, we can get a good time and worry about race setup."

Scott Dixon again was stout as Target Chip Ganassi Racing worked on race setup. The PEAK Motor Oil Pole sitter checked in with a best lap of 223.713 mph (40.2301 seconds) to top the speed chart. Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (223.411) and Ryan Briscoe (223.372) were on Dixon's heels. Both were in their backup cars, and Briscoe tore up the back end of the No. 6T when it made contact with the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier with about two hours left in the session.

Thirty-six cars totaled 2,164 laps on a sunny day that was a relief to everyone in the paddock.

"We had no rain, normal temperatures, so we were able to do a lot of miles and try as many ideas as we had in our heads," Servia said. "I am quite happy with the last two or three things we tried with the car. They made it a lot more consistent. Today has made me very hopeful that we will have a very decent car for the race."

An abbreviated recap of the month:

•There have been 9,071 laps recorded since 13 drivers took part in the Rookie Orientation Program on May 4-5.

•Eleven spots were locked in on Pole Day, with Dixon taking the $100,000 PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone to the bank (likely it was direct deposit). Wheldon and Briscoe also sit on the front row.

•Rain has impeded track activity, with only three all-entrant practice days filling the six-hour window.

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Indy 500 tickets on sale: Tickets are on sale for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25, the 92nd running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET) Monday-Sunday during May, with special hours of 6 a.m.-1 p.m. on Race Day, Sunday, May 25. Online orders can be made at any time. Race Day ticket prices start at just $20.