For the first time since Opening Day, I drove towards the Speedway not knowing how much track time teams and drivers would see. Mother Nature has been relatively kind, despite the chilling winds of the first couple of days. Today, everyone had one eye on the race track and the other on the radar. The temperatures remained high, though, busting into the high 80s by practice time.
There are only two practice days left before Pole Day, and there will be a mad scramble to prepare these cars for qualifying. Any time lost due to rain would presumably be very costly, especially for the smaller funded teams. On top of that, it’s difficult to work on qualification setups with so many cars on track at the same time. Fortunately for everyone, we didn’t experience any periods of rain at the track.
When practice began today, the conditions couldn’t have been much better. The ambient temperature was 77 degrees and the track temperature was at 100. There were plenty of drivers heading out to begin their work for the day. The first couple of hours went by with a lot of small packs of cars mixing it up.
Then, just before 2:30, it happened.
Conor Daly was exiting turn 1 when the back end stepped out just a little. He then overcorrected the car and slammed into the outside SAFER barrier wall. With the right side of his car crushed, it spun clockwise with his front end parallel with the wall. He continued skidding down the short chute and nearly got airborne. He was perfectly perpendicular to the ground, on his right side. He slid to a stop in turn 2, but was able to get out of the car unharmed.
Daly was checked and released in the infield care center and was cleared to drive. He told Dave Furst that he thought the wind somehow shifted the car and knocked it out of balance. It was a scary looking crash, the first one of the month.
And it immediately got me thinking: how many DW12 crashes have we seen here at the Speedway where the car didn’t get off the ground at some point?
It was announced later in the day that the AJ Foyt Racing crew plans to repair the damaged car rather than roll out the backup.
Practice continued, and things picked up in a hurry. There was a group of nine cars that began mixing it up, swapping positions like it was the last 10 laps of the race. Most of them came from the Andretti Autosport camp. It was interesting to hear that James Hinchcliffe received a black flag for repeated pit road speed violations.
The last 20 minutes of practice provided plenty of excitement. Things were especially good for the Andretti team, who had four cars in the top five. Just before practice ended, rookie Carlos Muñoz posted the fastest lap of the month at 225.163 mph. The Chevrolet machines were once again at the top.
Despite the weather forecasters calling for a 60% chance of rain, we didn’t have any here at the track. The looming threat of rain didn’t scare off any of the fans from attending today’s practice, either. The crowd was about the same as it was yesterday, which was very impressive. There seemed to be a lot more corporate people in attendance today, but it was easy to tell they were having a blast given their facial reactions to what they were seeing.
Tomorrow is Fast Friday at the track, where teams will receive an extra boost in horsepower. The forecast as of now says a few showers are possible in the morning with scattered thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. The public gates open at 10 AM with practice beginning at noon and scheduled to run until 6 PM. At 6:15, the Pole Day Qualifications Draw will take place at the Pagoda Plaza.
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.