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Power Puts Penske On Top At 227.7 As Speeds Climb

Practice Results

Danica Patrick was reminiscing about her participation in the Indianapolis 500, which at age 29 is interesting in itself.

“It seems like it was not that long ago that it was my first time here,” Patrick said of the 2005 event.

“That makes me feel even older,” said Bobby Unser, who won the last of his three Indianapolis 500 titles in 1981 -- 10 months before Patrick was born in Beloit, Wis.

In her fifth IZOD IndyCar Series race, Patrick arrested the attention of a global audience and compelled hundreds of thousands of spectators at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to stand and cheer every historic lap she led in the 500 Mile Race. Patrick finished fourth – the same as her starting position – and since bettered it with a third place in 2009.

“I just remember everything about (2005),” said Patrick, who added that the race is her most memorable, trumping her victory in Japan in 2008. “It was a great day, a life-changing day.”

Patrick, and most other drivers, had a great day as practice for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 and Pole Day/Tom Carnegie Day (May 21) resumed following a two-day weather-related break. Patrick posted a quick lap of 226.267 mph to place 10th on the speed chart.

All 40 entrants took on the track, recording a total of 2,394 laps, and the top 38 cars were separated by one second. With 12 minutes left in the six-hour session, IZOD IndyCar Series points leader Will Power of Team Penske unseated Alex Tagliani atop the speed chart with a lap of 227.778 mph (fastest of the month) to earn the $5,000 Grady Brothers Construction Fastest Lap of the Day award.

"We're happy with the race car and we want to be on top on Saturday," said Power, who has started from the pole in all four IZOD IndyCar Series races.

Tagliani, driving the No. 77 Bower & Wilkins car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, had a quick lap of 227.652. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe (227.217) and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (226.927) followed, and Townsend Bell in the No. 99 Herbalife Schmidt Pelfrey Racing car was fifth (226.741).

The yellow flag flew early in the session when Simona de Silvestro’s No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier in the North Short Chute. She was transported to Methodist Hospital to be treated for burns to her hands and released.

Patrick, who has an average starting position of 10th at Indy, recorded 35 laps in the No. 7 Team GoDaddy car for Andretti Autosport. A second consecutive solid outing on Fast Friday would boost the prospects of qualifying for the nine-car shootout that will determine the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone and the first three rows for the May 29 race.

“You have to stay confident here,” Patrick said. “I think you have to feel comfortable with your car. You have to be sure of yourself and your equipment. Hopefully our changes are efficient and they do what you expect them to do.

“Time will tell. This is a very unique place. You can go out there, come back to the garage, go back out with the same car, it feels totally different. You have to keep your head on straight and stay confident.”

Most observers would say Danica Sue Patrick, who moved to England at age 16 to advance her racing career, has never lacked outward confidence. But as she relayed, competing on low-banked track that is akin to a square road course can quickly take the wind out of one’s sails. Unser, who made 19 starts, shook his head in agreement.

“I really am approaching this like any other year,” Patrick said. “Actually, I feel like I get more nervous every year. I'm more nervous coming into it this year than last year. Maybe it's because you're getting older and on some level you think you have less of them to do, I don't know. I also think after this many years, being here, it starts to really sink in what this event is all about. Like I said, you have the chances where you could have won. You're thinking, ‘How am I going to make that happen this year?’ I have high expectations.”

A special 100th Indianapolis 500 Sports Illustrated edition features on the cover cars that made history in the ‘500,’ including the No. 15 Argent Mortgage car that Patrick drove for Rahal Letterman Racing. She led 19 laps and gave eventual winner Dan Wheldon all he could handle in the latter stages. It also reminded her of 2005.

“It just makes you want to win that bad, that much more," she said. "I think that's part of what makes me more nervous every year I come here is just wanting to really be a part of that, really wanting your face on the trophy, being a part of the footage that they run on the track feed when it's raining, being part of that historic footage, just achieving something that you worked so hard for.

“We all work so hard for that. I would go so far as to say I don't think there's any other event that any team works as hard as the Indy 500 because of what it really means, what it can do for a driver, a team, anybody involved in a good day or a victory.”

***

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.

 

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