Friday Indy Notebook
The crowd today at the Speedway had to be one of the largest in recent memory, estimated to be well over 60,000 on a beautiful Indiana day. They cheered wildly during both the Indy Lights race and the pit stop competition. Ticket sales are rumored to be up over last year and it looked it on Friday.
|Concert crowd in the Indy infield taken from the media center|
We ran into Dr. Steve Olvey today on the Indy pitlane before IndyCar practice got started. Dr. Olvey along with Dr. Terry Trammel are still doing safety consulting for the FIA and he is currently working with the FIA to establish an FIA certification in every country for race safety workers/paramedics. He also worked on developing new helmet standards for kids 15 years old and younger. Dr. Olvey tells us that Dr. Trammel has been consulting some on the next generation IndyCar.
Ran into ex-Champ Car driver and current A1GP driver Neel Jani from Switzerland. The A1GP season is over but he has a ride for the 24 Hours of LeMans and is talking to several F1 teams about a ride for 2010.
|Neel Jani in the KV Racing pit box|
Helio Castroneves and his Penske Team defeated AGR's Marco Andretti in the final round to win the annual pit stop competition. This is Team Penske's 11th win in the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge. It is the winningest team in the history of the contest. It has won the last four contests (Hornish 2005) and Castroneves (2006, 2007). This is Helio Castroneves' fourth win overall and his third consecutive win. He also won in 2002, when he went on to win the Indianapolis 500.
Chip Ganassi held court with the media on pit lane and we quizzed him about Penske's concept of merging his IndyCar and NASCAR team under the same roof. "I can see how it could work and how it doesn't work, and I think about it from time-to-time, but I usually go lay down until that feeling goes away," said Ganassi.
As for people saying Indy is all about Penske and Ganassi, Ganassi was asked what he thought about the performance of KV Racing Technology and Mario Moraes. "There are a lot of threats out there to win the race, there is a lot of time between qualifying and the race you never know who stumbled on something that gives them an advantage, and anyone who thinks this is going to be a cakewalk on Sunday are kidding themselves.
"This is the strongest 15 or 16 top drivers and teams in my lifetime here. You can argue that the back of the field is weak, but the top of the grid is very good."
Does Ganassi have any team orders for the race Sunday? "We have no team orders," said Ganassi, "just don't hit each other."
The last two Indianapolis 500 winners and series champions, Dixon in 2008 and Dario Franchitti in 2007, will drive for Ganassi in this year's race. It's the first time in history that the last two season champs and "500" winners are paired on the same team.
"Hell, yes, I want to keep it going. I'm coming back here with two co-defending champions (Franchitti missed defending his 2007 title when he drove in NASCAR in 2008). I'm looking forward to Sunday. The great thing about it is that it is an unselfish, sort of open-book thing between the two of them. I would say they work as well together as any two we've ever had. They're both as cool as cucumbers about the whole thing. That's a lot different from me right now."
As for the next generation Indy Car (See related rumor) Ganassi said "This sport can still drive Detroit. As long as we have a car and engine combination that is relevant we'll be just fine. If you had to write about this current car, there wouldn't be much to write about. You can lock the car down far enough to save money but it's a double edge sword. If there is no interest in it there would be no money (from the manufacturers) in the sport."
Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, medical director for the Indy Racing League: #15 Martin Plowman and #44 Gustavo Yacaman have been checked and released from the Clarian Emergency Medical Center. Both are cleared to drive. #20 Ana Beatriz is being treated for a small laceration on her chin and will have X-rays taken of her left elbow and right knee. It was later announced her tests were negative.
Drag racing legend and current NHRA car owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme watched Miller Lite Carb Day practice from the Team Penske pits today. Prudhomme, a four-time NHRA Funny Car champion as a driver and two-time champion as a team owner, has been coming to Indy for years and enjoys getting out to watch "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Visiting the track with Prudhomme was his current Top Fuel driver, Spencer Massey.
"Well, I've been coming out here for several years. We have our race shop right over in Brownsburg, so it's a nice weekend to be out at the track. I know Chip (Ganassi), (Roger) Penske, Mario (Andretti), A.J. (Foyt) and all the guys back in the day." (Is it fun for you to get away from what you do for a little while and enjoy another form of racing?): "Yeah, I think so. I enjoy Formula One, NASCAR and IndyCar. But IndyCars have always kind of been my favorite, you know. Of all the open-wheel stuff. I like IndyCars a whole lot. Spencer (Massey) and I will come out here for Race Day. I just want to say, too, how impressed I am with the safety of the cars these days. When I first started coming out here, (the cars) were aluminum tubs, and there wasn't much to them. A lot of injuries. In today's world with the composite cars and the safety walls, it's really great." (On his feelings walking into the Speedway): "It's unbelievable. It's a shame that a lot of people missed this during the '50s and '60s with everything that took place out here: A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones; it was amazing times." Mark C. reporting from Indy