Wednesday’s practice for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 was full of sunshine, heat, and a few surprises.
It all began when I arrived at the Speedway at around 8:30 this morning. It was already 71 degrees, and you could tell it was going to be a hot one — likely the warmest temperatures we’ll see before race day. Long sleeves and pants would not have been necessary.
When I first arrive in the morning, the first place I normally head to is Gasoline Alley. Today was different, though, as I got a tip from my friends at Panther DRR that this morning was qualifications for the Carb Day Pit Stop Competition. The boys at Panther DRR finished with the quickest time of the cars that participated.
These crews will participate on May 24: Servia (Panther DRR), Kimball (NovoNordisk Chip Ganassi Racing), Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), Briscoe (Chip Ganassi Racing), Andretti (Andretti Autosport), Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), Castroneves (Team Penske), Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), #Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Kanaan (KV Racing Technology), Power (Team Penske) and Sato (A.J. Foyt Racing). You can view many of the qualifying pit stops on my Twitter page, @IndyCarChad.
Between the pit stop qualifications and the start of practice, we learned from a report by Robin Miller that Buddy Rice has declined to drive the number 99 car, which was entered by Sam Schmidt. The leading candidates for that car now include Katherine Legge and Jay Howard. Bryan Clauson may still have a shot at it, but he is considered a long shot.
While hearing of that news, I saw a big crowd over near Ed Carpenter’s garage. It was Butler University men’s head basketball coach Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs come to visit the Speedway. They weren’t the only special guests of the day though, as a few Indianapolis Colts players, including quarterback Andrew Luck, stopped by to take it all in. Shortly after that, Bob Jenkins reminded us that it was 20 years ago today that the legendary AJ Foyt announced his retirement here at the Speedway.
When practice began, temperatures were in the mid 80s with a fairly strong breeze blowing around. The temperatures kept rising throughout the day, reaching the 90 degree mark late in the day. Today was by far the biggest day this month as far as fan attendance goes. I noticed there were some long lines for food, and the yellow shirts had their hands full. People were coming in by the masses as they knew it would be a picture perfect day at the track.
About an hour into the practice, an interesting moment occurred with one of the Dragon Racing machines. Sebastian Saavedra’s car was coming down the front stretch when it suddenly sent debris everywhere. The slow-motion footage provided us with an awesome look at what had happened. The wrap on the car near the rear actually began peeling off as bits and pieces of it went flying into the air. It looked like confetti made out of small pieces of mirror glass. The clean up took about 15 minutes.
Many people expected speeds to be up a little, but many of the teams I spoke with told me they were working on race setups. With the threat of rain over the next four days, nobody knows how much more practice time will be available. Most everyone was working with their primary cars, trying to find the balance that their driver liked.
Happy Hour was once again filled with excitement and nervousness. There were 13 cars running nose to tail that featured a lot of passing and tense moments. The Hondas finally began to show up on the top of the speed charts in the final 30 minutes of practice. The wind once again limited the speeds somewhat, in addition to the teams using race setups instead of qualifying trim. We’ve had five days of practice and still haven’t had any accidents.
There were a total of 2,165 laps turned today around IMS, and Dario Franchitti had the fastest one at 224.236 mph. Tomorrow we see the first real threat of rain at the Speedway. The forecast is calling for a high of 78 degrees with a 40% chance of rain. The chances for precipitation increase throughout the day, so it may come later in the afternoon. Practice on Thursday is scheduled from noon to 6 PM with the public gates opening at 10 AM.
I’ll be covering events at the Speedway for More Front Wing all month long. Follow me on Twitter at @IndyCarChad, and check for daily updates here at MoreFrontWing.com.