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Daily Trackside Report - Wednesday, May 18

TODAY’S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8 a.m. Garages open
Noon-6 p.m. Indianapolis 500 practice

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Light rain was falling over the Speedway this morning.

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Recent Butler University graduate and basketball standout Matt Howard visited the track today. Howard, from Connersville, Ind., helped the Bulldogs reach the NCAA men’s basketball final each of the last two seasons.

Howard was scheduled to wave the green flag to start practice today, but had to leave the track before the rain-delayed start of the session due to prior commitments.

MATT HOWARD: (On having the opportunity to wave the green flag for practice): “Just to be a small part of this place is something really special. If we’re able to go and have cars on the track, I can’t wait to wave the green flag and see everybody doing their thing. I’m definitely excited about doing that. It’s a very nice honor. Not a whole lot of people are able to do it, and to be selected is quite an honor.” (On the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): “I came to the race last year with the team, and that was a lot of fun. This place is something that holds a lot of tradition. It’s a special place, and I think anyone here will tell you that this track and this event are pretty special. I think it’s a big part of Indianapolis. I've tried to watch at least portions of every race for the last five years or so. I understand quite a bit about it, and I’ve gotten to know Ed Carpenter a bit because he’s from Butler and he’s someone I’ll follow to see how he does. Hopefully, I’ll get to see him a little bit today.”

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Some fun with Indianapolis 500 numbers, provided by Sam Schmidt Motorsports:

Not only has car number 77 never won the Indianapolis 500, no car with a number between 70 and 79 has ever been to victory lane in the race. Perhaps more interesting is that cars carrying single-digit numbers and numbers in the teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s 80’s and 90’s all have been to Victory Lane with only the 70s left out. Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda Firestone for SSM, is certainly hoping to change that in 2011.

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3 p.m. – Trucks running around oval in track-drying effort, with teams and cars on pit lane.
3:25 p.m. – Light rain begins falling again.
4:04 p.m. – Track closed for the day due to rain. No cars on track today. This is the second complete washout of the event, as there was no track activity Sunday, May 15.

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The last time two entire days of Indianapolis 500 practice were washed out in one week was May 12-13, 2006.

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Since veteran practice opened Saturday, May 14, 17 hours and 58 minutes of the scheduled 30 hours of track time have been lost due to rain.

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1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal talked about the effect of rain delays this month. Rahal co-owns Rahal Letterman Lanigan LLC, which is fielded a car for Bertrand Baguette.

BOBBY RAHAL: “Well, it’s the same for everybody. I think we’ve had time to get these cars prepared pretty well for this month. We’ve had some good practice so far, but it’s like I said, it’s the same for everybody, and we’ll just have to find a way to deal with it. There are a lot of little things you can do. You get more time to look the car over, go through all of the data, find ways to make it better and really dig deeper.”

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A special Team Penske/Indianapolis 500 edition of the acclaimed “The Charlie Rose Show” at 11 p.m. (ET) tonight on PBS. The show will feature in-depth interviews with Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, and team owner Roger Penske.

The show also will be rebroadcast in the United States at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. (ET) Thursday, May 19 on the Bloomberg Network.

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Japanese racer Takuma Sato is collaborating with local students in a project to support the With You Japan charity program, which he created to help empower local child-care professionals in Japan to provide responsive and proactive care to thousands of children as they try to move forward with their lives.

A total of 137 students from the Towne Meadow Elementary School in Carmel, Ind., are taking part in an arts project. They will assemble themselves at ground level to recreate the Japanese flag when photographed from above. The local fire department also is involved by providing a fire truck rescue bucket to serve as the elevated platform for the photograph.

The students want to send this personal and original message of togetherness and solidarity to their counterparts in Japan, many of whom have had their lives torn apart by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

Sato visited the school today to thank the school for its participation and to answer questions about the disaster. He visited the affected areas near Sendai last week and has first-hand experience of the extent of the devastation.

TAKUMA SATO: “I really appreciate the local kids getting involved in this project. There is so much work to be done over in Japan, and people there really need to know that they are not alone. The whole world is doing what it can to help them. I love the idea of the flag picture; it will make a really powerful and interesting message to Japanese kids.”

TIM PHARES (Principal, Towne Meadow Elementary School): “We are extremely excited to partner with Takuma Sato and his project With You Japan. Each year it is tradition for Towne Meadow fifth-grade students to participate in a service project before heading off to middle school. We want our students to understand the importance of giving to others, and this endeavor brought a unique opportunity to connect with students through art all the way across the world. It is our hope we can make a difference by sending a message of togetherness and support to the boys and girls in Japan. Our students thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and learned a great deal from this project. Towne Meadow is with you, Japan.”

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2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will team up with the Alzheimer’s Association at this year’s 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 to raise awareness for the disease. Wheldon will carry the Alzheimer’s Association logo on his No. 98 William Rast-Curb/Big Machine entry fielded by Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian.

According to the 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and today as many as 5.4 million Americans are living with the disease. Every 69 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease, and by mid-century someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds.

To learn more, visit alz.org.

DAN WHELDON: “I’m honored to announce my partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association at the Indianapolis 500. My mother was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 55. You can imagine the impact this news has had on me and my family. This is a cause very dear to my heart, and I hope that by teaming up with the Alzheimer’s Association, I can help raise awarenes

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