LIVE BLOG: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on May 16, 2014 1:56 pm


7:11 pm ET — So much for getting much in the way of track activity this afternoon.  When the track was finally opened for practice at 2:50 pm, 31 cars turned 168 laps in 18 minutes, 56 seconds before the rain (and hail) returned again.  At approximately 4:20, the track was officially closed for the day.

During those 19 minutes of green flag time, Ed Carpenter turned what we believe to be the first 230+ mph lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Helio Castroneves’s pole-qualifying run in 2003.  Afterwards, Carpenter conceded that he caught a tow from Sebastien Bourdais for the better part of a half lap.  Nonetheless, the increased speeds across the board suggests that tomorrow’s speeds will likely eclipse the 229 mph mark and we may even see a few laps above the 230 mph mark if conditions are good.

Marco Andretti was brought to the media center following the abbreviated practice session.  Marco truly seems to be more relaxed than ever and to have finally grown comfortable in his position.  It seems unbelievable that this will be Marco’s ninth race here at the Brickyard after exploding onto the scene as a 19-year old rookie in 2006.  Given the lack of practice time, Andretti says he and his Andretti Autosport team really don’t know what to expect during qualifications tomorrow.  Most teams have worked on race-day setups all week, so no one is quite sure where qualifying speeds will settle.  Andretti also mentioned that he will likely not take much advantage of the morning pre-qualifying practice session, instead opting to use one of his three qualification attempts to gauge exactly where the car and track are.

From a facilities standpoint, a number of things have changed here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since last May.  One of the most talked about has been the change in concession operators.  IMS contracted Levy Restaurants to run the concession stands this past off-season, and along with that came a promise to upgrade the offerings.  While the quality of the food may have been upgraded (and given the pushback on the new tenderloin, even that is debatable), the prices and wait times for service have also been upgraded in the wrong direction.  Prices have increased $2-3 across the board, and the new cook-to-order offerings are resulting in much longer waiting lines this year.  If the lack of pre-cooked offerings continues through race day, trying to eat at the main concession stand behind the Pagoda will be an exercise in frustration come race day.

I also took a moment to browse through the gift shop immediately south of the Pagoda.  All in all, it was the standard fare of t-shirt, caps, and other collectibles.  On thing that stood out, however, is that INDYCAR’s contract with Green Light seems to have expired and a company called Auto World is now making the larger scaled die-casts.  The new models, however, are only 1:24 scale rather than the old 1:18.  Sadly, the oval trim cars still do not have accurate rear wings either.  One would have hoped that an accurate model could have been produced now that the DW-12 is into its third year of competition.  No such luck.

That pretty much wraps up a very abbreviated day here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Practice starts tomorrow at 8:00 am before qualifying begins 11:00.  We’ll be back with more in the morning.


2:49 pm ET — After a morning of rain showers (and actually some hail in Turn 3), the 2.5-mile track is almost dry enough to receive race cars on what should be an exciting and fast afternoon of practice.  Yesterday’s rain kept several teams from mileaging out their engines, so that will be at the top of the agenda for many teams today.

Additionally, all teams will be looking to get a handle on the effect of the additional 10 psi of boost made available to them for this weekend.  In the past couple years, the twin-turboharged Chevrolet engines handled the additional boot much better than the single-turbo Hondas.  With Honda also running a twin-turbo configuration this year, the difference will likely not be as dramatic.

Before I arrived this morning, Jonathon Byrd’s Racing announced that three-time USAC National Driver’s Champion Bryan Clauson will drive for the team in the 2015 Indianapolis 500.  The team had previously announced its intention to participate in the 100th running of the race in 2016 but decided an effort in 2015 was feasible.  With a long history of cars carrying the famous name of Jonathon Bryd’s Cafeteria, including names such as Rich Vogler, Stan Fox, Buddy Lazier, and Arie Luyendyk, it will be nice to see the name return back to the Brickyard.

Also announced this morning is that Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner Simon Pagenaud will wear a special helmet in the Indianapolis 500 as a tribute to the late Ayrton Senna on the 20th anniversary of the 3-time World Champion’s passing.  The helmet, which features a blending of Senna’s famous helmet design with Pagenaud’s red scheme, will be auctioned off after the race, and the proceeds will be donated to the Ayrton Senna Institute, which promotes childhood literacy efforts.

Cars have now been pushed to pit road, and we are expected practice to begin before much longer.  Back with more later.

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