Wheldon again fastest before rains hit Indy
Dan Wheldon took all of seven laps to lay down the fastest lap of the month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - 226.391 mph (39.7543 seconds) - during a rain-abbreviated second day of practice for the 91st Indianapolis 500.
Helio Castroneves certainly wouldn't allow that to go unchallenged, ripping off a 225.820 mph lap in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, as Happy Hour wound down.
The procession of "top that speed" began in earnest as the May 12 run for the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award and the first 11 spots draws neigh. Wheldon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, was third (224.902 mph) in the No. 9 Honda-powered Dallara, while Marco Andretti jumped to fourth (224.745). Tony Kanaan (224.112) was fifth in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car, and defending champion Sam Hornish Jr. (224.054 was sixth).
Twenty-six driver/car combinations recorded 680 total laps during the two-hour window without incident. The No. 77 Chastain Motorsports Panoz/Honda/Firestone made a pit road appearance, but Stephan Gregoire didn't get on the track.
1. (10) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 226.391
2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 225.820
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 224.902
4. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 224.745
5. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 224.112
6. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, 224.054
7. (27) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 223.844
8. (2) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 223.539
9. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 223.476
10. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 223.331
11. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 223.090
12. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 222.798
13. (15) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 222.696
14. (22) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 222.655
15. (12) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 222.636
16. (4) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 222.371
17. (5) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 222.241
18. (26) Michael Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 221.814
19. (02) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 220.895
20. (17) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Honda, 219.351
21. (99) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Honda, 218.847
22. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 218.334
23. (25) Marty Roth, Dallara-Honda, 217.827
24. (50) Al Unser Jr., Dallara-Honda, 215.407
25. (14) Darren Manning, Dallara-Honda, 129.819
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest of the day): "The Team Penske car was pretty good today. We ran the same amount of downforce as yesterday and tried to improve the handling and the grip. I think we're in good shape thus far, and I feel really comfortable in the car. Hopefully we'll find a little more speed throughout the month, but we're making sure we take our time and not rushing our progress. The Team Penske crew is doing a great job so far, and we're definitely building up to Race Day."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 10th fastest of the day): "We had many problems yesterday so I couldn't really run much, but all the engineers including Honda guys, has solved the problems, and I was able to have a good productive day. We couldn't run until 4 pm due to the rain, but I was able to check the car and find the right directions today. I am very happy about today and looking forward to practice more until qualifying."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth fastest of the day): ""I think today, unfortunately, we learned a few things about what wasn't quick, which sometimes is nearly as beneficial as learning what is (quick) just so you don't do it again. I don't think we really did anything today that made us faster."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth fastest of the day): "Today went well. Actually I prefer it with a little less time so we can just get the job done in a two-hour span instead of being here the whole day. We're just chipping away. I think we know what we've got. We still need to find more speed. We're too slow. We've got too much drag on the car compared to these Penskes, Ganassis, but we're working hard at it."
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "Let me start with, if there are any more questions for Marco, he'll be happy to stay until the end. No, I think Target Chip Ganassi Racing has done a very good job. They've worked very hard leading into this month. It's been very difficult with the Japanese race and the Kansas race. The car is performing well. The biggest thing right now is that we're working toward qualifying. We're kind of in between the two. But at the same time, when you have a genuine shot at the pole, you need to make sure that mechanically the car is very good for when you take off some downforce. By the same token, I think I said this yesterday, I must be getting old because I'm much more concerned with the race than I am the pole. I learned last year that you can have a car; I think Sam (Hornish Jr.) dominated the month last year leading into the race. I think we definitely had a better race car, and we've got to continue with that mindset and not get into that whole scenario where you're throwing away tires and stuff like that to try and get on the pole. It's the race that counts. I certainly think coming back, forgetting Indianapolis, just coming back for a year with Target Chip Ganassi Racing has helped at a track where fine details make a difference and having the engineer know your particular style can be a big difference. Yesterday I didn't get into the draft, but today I did have a draft. I think that's part of it. Each day, we're learning a lot. Some people think we're running qualifying levels of downforce and to answer those guys, I haven't been slow in a race yet. We're just doing our own thing. Andy Brown is working very, very hard on making sure we are mechanically well-sound for the race."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest of the day): "Obviously, we were a little limited on track time because of the rain, but we learned a lot about the Team Penske car today. We're still focusing on our race setup at this point because that's really what's important. The fastest car doesn't always win. We improved the car's handling and ended up a little faster than yesterday, so we're happy with the direction we're heading."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "Today was pretty decent. I think we still have a bit of understeer on the car, which is a lot of speed at the moment. We're pretty happy. I think we were the fastest no-tow lap. We tried to stay out of tows today, just gearing up for qualifying. I think a lot of the other guys are using a lot of tires, Dan's (Wheldon) on his sixth set. We've just started our third set, so we're trying to save engine miles and tires until we can start at the end of this week throwing in some good, consistent qualifying runs. I think the team, in general, has a ton of speed, and we're definitely looking at the front row." (How did the strategy change today with the rain?) "You kind of expect it, and it doesn't really change. You still have your strategies and plan of what you need to get through and it just sort of pushes it back. But, then again, it saves you tires and engine miles, which is good, as well."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest of the day): "Everyone was out there drafting today, trying to look good on TV and be the king of the day. I really think today was a waste of time. As you are preparing for qualifying, you have five cars in front of you and you do a 226 (miles per hour). That doesn't mean anything, so I was really frustrated trying to get a clean lap but I got one out of my four-lap qualifying sim. We didn't have a lot of time on the track and we struggled a bit at the start, but we're still working on making the Team 7-Eleven car faster and I'm sure we'll get there."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh fastest of the day): "Obviously the day was cut short because of the rain, but with only two hours, the Canadian Club car wasn't bad today. The speed has improved in the Canadian Club car, but we aren't where we need to be. I am happier than I was yesterday, but we aren't there yet. Having five cars allows us to try five things, and as we get closer to qualifying, we'll migrate towards the quickest setup, which right now looks like Tony's (Kanaan)."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest of the day): "Well I didn't think I was bad yesterday, so Dad's (Michael Andretti) like, 'Let me try it.' And he had to sweat out all my problems this morning. He got in thinking it was going to be good, and basically before he started feeling comfortable, he had to make a couple of changes. Then I lapped and made a couple of changes, but we're happy. Based on last year, I'm on cloud nine but I think do we have ways to go, I mean look at No. 10 (Dan Wheldon)."