Observations from Indy – Fast Friday (Andretti fastest)

UPDATE Well, we think that Andretti Autosport has corrected last year's qualification woes. For most of the day, all 4 Andretti cars (Ana Beatriz, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, and Ryan Hunter-Reay) were in the top 5. Around 5:00 pm, Marco threw down a lap of 227.540, without a tow. Earlier Ryan Hunter-Reay ran a lap of 226 even without a tow, then another at 226.2 with a tow. The day ended with Andretti's lap being the fastest of the day, followed by Ryan Briscoe at 226.835, followed by Helio Castroneves in third, Hunter-Reay in 4th, and Scott Dixon — the fastest Honda — in 5th.


Rank Car Driver Name C/E/T Time Speed Diff Gap Total Laps
1 26 Andretti, Marco D/C/F 00:39.5535 227.540 –.—- –.—- 36
2 2 Briscoe, Ryan D/C/F 00:39.6764 226.835 0.1229 0.1229 41
3 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/F 00:39.6973 226.716 0.1438 0.0209 35
4 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/C/F 00:39.7526 226.400 0.1991 0.0553 22
5 9 Dixon, Scott D/H/F 00:39.7836 226.224 0.2301 0.0310 60
6 27 Hinchcliffe, James D/C/F 00:39.8276 225.974 0.2741 0.0440 20
7 25 Beatriz, Ana D/C/F 00:39.8842 225.653 0.3307 0.0566 24
8 4 Hildebrand, JR D/C/F 00:39.8987 225.571 0.3452 0.0145 15
9 50 Franchitti, Dario D/H/F 00:39.9344 225.370 0.3809 0.0357 54
10 11 Kanaan, Tony D/C/F 00:39.9428 225.322 0.3893 0.0084 19
11 12 Power, Will D/C/F 00:39.9488 225.288 0.3953 0.0060 42
12 5 Viso, EJ D/C/F 00:39.9757 225.137 0.4222 0.0269 30
13 67 Newgarden, Josef (R) D/H/F 00:39.9963 225.021 0.4428 0.0206 43
14 83 Kimball, Charlie D/H/F 00:40.0064 224.964 0.4529 0.0101 45
15 19 Jakes, James (R) D/H/F 00:40.0071 224.960 0.4536 0.0007 53
16 20 Carpenter, Ed D/C/F 00:40.0096 224.946 0.4561 0.0025 49
17 15 Sato, Takuma D/H/F 00:40.0312 224.825 0.4777 0.0216 43
18 38 Rahal, Graham D/H/F 00:40.0375 224.789 0.4840 0.0063 47
19 17 Saavedra, Sebastian D/C/F 00:40.0604 224.661 0.5069 0.0229 16
20 14 Conway, Mike D/H/F 00:40.1190 224.333 0.5655 0.0586 42
21 8 Barrichello, Rubens (R) D/C/F 00:40.1299 224.272 0.5764 0.0109 18
22 18 Wilson, Justin D/H/F 00:40.1324 224.258 0.5789 0.0025 43
23 39 Clauson, Bryan (R) D/H/F 00:40.1384 224.224 0.5849 0.0060 52
24 98 Tagliani, Alex D/H/F 00:40.2547 223.576 0.7012 0.1163 40
25 41 Cunningham, Wade (R) D/H/F 00:40.3773 222.898 0.8238 0.1226 30
26 77 Pagenaud, Simon (R) D/H/F 00:40.4065 222.736 0.8530 0.0292 44
27 99 Bell, Townsend D/H/F 00:40.5885 221.738 1.0350 0.1820 45
28 30 Jourdain, Michel D/H/F 00:40.6511 221.396 1.0976 0.0626 12
29 7 Bourdais, Sebastien D/C/F 00:40.6888 221.191 1.1353 0.0377 58
30 6 Legge, Katherine (R) D/C/F 00:41.0154 219.430 1.4619 0.3266 44
31 64 Alesi, Jean (R) D/L/F 00:42.1697 213.423 2.6162 1.1543 40
32 78 de Silvestro, Simona D/L/F 00:42.3498 212.516 2.7963 0.1801 44

Today, as with the rest of the month, the Chevy motors have a slight, but noticeable edge. Today, that edge got wider, as the Honda people struggled with tuning their single turbo system. Scott Dixon, as stated, was the fastest Honda, in 5th. Eight of the top 10 speeds were posted by Chevy motors.


Team Lotus — what more can be said to document their misery? Obviously not working on qualification setups, the plugged along at 213.423 for Jean Alesi, and 212.516 for Simona de Silvestro. Simona was some 2.7 seconds per lap slower than Marco. Last year, Simona was the media darling after overcoming serious burns in a practice crash. Her natural charisma wowed the crowd and won hearts. This year, she looks more miserable with her situation than she did with last year's burns.


The second engine of the month was blown by Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing's Michel Jourdain. Jourdain's Honda engine blew "catastrophically" (Bobby Rahal's word), causing a nice-sized oil fire in the rear of the car. This pretty much ended the team's work for the day, with Jourdain scheduled to do more practice on Saturday.

The third motor of the month was blown by the Oriol Servia's crew. The Chevy motor was provide with "dyno plugs" still installed, causing an instant oil starvation and a prompt failure while in the garage. Oriol is still very happy that he's not driving a Lotus anymore.


A number of teams worked exclusively on race setup, since there won't be any bumping on Bump Day. Dragon Racing was another team content to simply get ready for race day, first finishing Katherine Legge's rookie orientation, then turning its eyes towards race day setup. As it turns out, yesterday's reorientation run by Sebastien Bourdais was a bit more exciting than it appeared. A setup error meant that the car had some 800 pounds less down force than normal — and Sebastien still turned laps at 209. Sebastien, using expressive no-doubt-about-it language, recalled his extreme discomfort during those laps….

Katherine Legge ran 44 laps, topping out at 219.430, and Sebastien ran 46 laps with a top speed of 219.843.

The initial 24 car/driver combinations will be set on Pole Day Saturday, with the remainder of the 33 spots being filled on Bump Day May 20

05/18/12 The ECU's have been reprogrammed, the gears have been changed, and we await the first practice of Fast Friday with the extra boost.

Now IndyCar fans will learn new terms – "Soft limit" and "hard limit" and "boost penalty."

The ECU replaces the old pop-off valves in limiting boost. The ECU is programmed not only with a limit to the amount of boost a driver can use, but also has a bit of software that calculates a "penalty" should a car's boost go to high. Penalties for boost infractions are sudden, severe, unpredictable in their severity, and could change the outcome of Pole Day — and any IndyCar race. Team Penske officials commented that Helio had 3 boost violations on one lap, where he went 219 mph flat out. The boost penalty kicked in, and the next lap — also run flat out — was 216 mph. In order to stay way from this penalty, teams can set the ECU to a "soft limit" where the motor hopefully doesn't hit the hard limit due to "things" the team does at the soft limit. However, the game is to make that soft limit as close to the hard limit as you can, to be competitive.

So what is stopping a driver from letting it all hang out on lap 4 of Pole Day, running up boost violations on the last lap? As it turns out, penalties *might* be awarded for the next race at Detroit. Then again, would you rather win Pole Day, or have a good starting place at Detroit?

None of this affects that ugly rev limiter, whose ugly noise will no doubt will be heard today during practice.


The drivers are all talking about the tow effect this month. Helio Castroneves didn't think that the tow would be on par with the old Hanford Device races at places like Michigan, but it will be a definite part of the race. Perhaps this will be akin to the first season of the NASCAR CoT, where drivers that pulled out to pass soon fell back a few spots.


The tech inspection for the new car is quite a bit different, and a quite a bit more complex, than the previous car. For instance, the undertray needs 3 different gauges to measure ground clearance. The old undertray was about 3/4 of an inch thick, while this new tray — the thing you see behind the rear wheels before disappearing under the side pods — is a full 3" thick.

In previous years, the rear wing angle was fairly unregulated, but now the limits are zero to negative 10 degrees. That's right — the rear wing isn't doing much down force, and in fact the series officials admit that the cars could run at Indy without it. Tech officials claim that the angles being used "are all over the place" within those limits.

One spot that you won't see on TV, but is a subject of lots of engineering, is the rear wing under the rear wing. If you look carefully, there is a horizontal "wing" surface holding up those massive (and I mean, MASSIVE) rear bumpers behind the rear wheels. Teams are experimenting with "wickerbill" trim strips at the back of that surface, with anything between no wickerbill and a 1" wickerbill coming through inspection. Tim Wohlford reporting from Indy

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