Indy drivers busy testing race, qualifying setups

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was busy on Friday with most of the drivers already qualified for the Indianapolis 500 working on their race setups and 13 others trying to find the speed to qualify this weekend.

 “At this point in the month, it’s not so much about the speed on one lap,” said 2007 Indy winner Dario Franchitti, one of 22 drivers who qualified last weekend. “It’s about balance and how the car handles in traffic and how it runs through a full tank of fuel.

“We’re getting there,” added Franchitti, who will start the May 24 race from the outside of the front row. “We’re making some progress. Any track time we can get is beneficial. … We’re trying to get everything we can get now and keep working on the car.”

Others felt a much greater sense of urgency.

Indy rookie Stanton Barrett, hoping to fill one of the remaining 11 positions in the 33-car field, was focused on getting comfortable enough on the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) oval to do a solid, four-lap qualifying run when time trials reopen on Saturday.

“We just keep working on it,” said Barrett, a NASCAR journeyman who also works part-time as a stuntman in movies and TV. “Work on setup and get stability and grip and speed, that’s all we’ve been working on in different combinations.

“… The idea is to try to stay patient and not try and do anything too quick or fast.”

By midafternoon, Barrett had run 35 laps with a top speed of 218.499 mph (351.62 kph).

The big question for the drivers still hoping to make the race by being one of the fast 11 on Saturday, or by bumping out the slowest qualifiers in Sunday’s final round of time trials, is how much speed will they need?

Townsend Bell, who didn’t get into his KV Racing Technology car until Thursday, was fastest among the non-qualified drivers early Friday but he expects he will need to go faster.

“I really believe we can do some solid 223s (359s) in qualifying but, certainly, it depends on the weather and the track conditions tomorrow,” said Bell, who hopes to join teammates and first-week qualifiers Mario Moraes pf Brazil and Paul Tracy of Canada in the lineup. “The speed should be there.”

Tomas Scheckter of South Africa, getting his ride with Dale Coyne Racing on Friday morning, said he wasn’t too concerned about the speed it will take to make the field, just with getting used to his car as quickly as possible.

Scheckter was reunited with engineer Bill Pappas, with whom he worked while driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2003, the year he finished fourth, his best showing in seven Indy starts.

“I had a great run at Indy with Bill, and I like what Dale has done with the team and (what teammate) Justin (Wilson) has done in the car,” Scheckter said. “I’m confident Bill can give me a good car, and what’s also good is that we don’t have to build a relationship. We understand each other.

“Hopefully, we can get up to speed quickly and start moving the program forward.”

Scheckter got the car up over 218 (350) in 20 laps.

Others working on their qualifying setup included 1996 race winner Buddy Lazier, Oriol Servia, John Andretti, E.J. Viso, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Milka Duno and Indy rookies Robert Doornbos, Alex Tagliani, Mike Conway and Nelson Philippe.

Some of them had a much bigger hill to climb than others.

Philippe was the slowest of the 31 drivers, but he was faster than he was on Thursday.

“I was just really uncomfortable with the car,” the Frenchman said after driving a car rebuilt after he crashed it in practice on Saturday. “I’ve never been so scared in my life. I think when the guys put the car back together, I think something is wrong.”

He was feeling a lot better about the car and the track on Friday.

“This is something we can work with,” Philippe said. “It’s just going to take a little more speed.”


~ by Rud3Boy89 on May 19, 2009.

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