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Carpenter Leads Opening Day Practice At 224

Practice Results

How appropriate for Opening Day of the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 that a veteran, a champion and a rookie topped the speed chart.

In a day cut short 45 minutes because of showers, Ed Carpenter was quickest of the 32 entrants to get on the 2.5-mile oval with a lap of 224.786 mph (40.0380 seconds) May 14. Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner and IZOD IndyCar Series champion, was second in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

JR Hildebrand, who was quickest in breezing through the Rookie Orientation Program on May 12, was third (224.433 mph).

There were 669 laps recorded without incident. The second day of track activity, with a more favorable weather forecast, commences at noon May 15.

Reigning Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti (224.107) was fourth in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, and 2006 race runner-up Marco Andretti (223.927) was fifth in the No. 26 Team Venom car for Andretti Autosport.

Whether shaking down their primary or backup cars, working on running in traffic or seeing how quick they were off the truck, drivers enjoyed the work on the oval. For full-time competitors, their previous track time has been on four road and street courses.

Carpenter, competing in his first IZOD IndyCar Series event of the season – and first for Sarah Fisher Racing in the No. 67 Dollar General car – has a best start of eighth (2010) and finish of fifth (2008) in seven starts.

“It's only day one, but it's really exciting to see hard work pay off and see progress,” he said. “We're going to have to keep up the effort because it's a long week heading into qualifying, but I definitely like the start that we're off to.”

Added Fisher, a nine-time Indy 500 starter who announced her retirement from the race car in November: "I was really proud of the boys for starting the month off with little to no error. It was a bonus for Ed to top the charts, but we know we still have a lot more work to accomplish. For this being our first race of the season, we know we have to hit the ground running, and to see the team gelling already is a great testament to our people."

Over at Panther Racing, which has been the Indy 500 runner-up the past two years with drivers Dan Wheldon and Vitor Meira, Hildebrand got the opportunity in his No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing backup car to run in traffic for the first time on an oval. His best lap in the six-hour ROP session (221.533 mph; No. 59 of his 68) came without other cars on the track.

“That’s kind of the priority for me on a personal level, to get out there and figure out what the car is going to be like in traffic,” said Hildebrand, the ’09 Firestone Indy Lights champion, “and I was able to do that a little today. There really wasn’t anything unexpected from my side; it will be different when there will be 10 cars running out there. For a few laps running behind another guy I felt pretty comfortable and the car’s hooked up. For the first day running with a group it was good.”

Other notable Opening Day speeds were posted by 2009 race runner-up Vitor Meira (seventh at 223.192); Paul Tracy (11th at 222.295), who didn’t qualify for the 2010 race; Danica Patrick (12th at 222.232) and 2004 race winner Buddy Rice (14th at 221.461), who’s returned to the track for the first time since 2008.

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2011 Indianapolis 500 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, “The Most Important Race in History,” on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race Day ticket prices start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.imstix.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Children 12 and under will be receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2011 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

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