News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 19, 2012

Fast Friday lives up to its name at Speedway

Tom Reck
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Fast Friday lived up to its name at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as drivers tuned up for Pole Day runs today for the Indianapolis 500.

The fastest speeds of the week were run with Marco Andretti being fastest of the field with a top lap of 227.540 miles per hour turned around 4:30 p.m. for the top speed of the week.

Ryan Briscoe was second with his mark of 226.835 followed by Helio Castroneves 226.716, Ryan Hunter-Reay 226.400 and Scott Dixon 226.224.

Twenty-four spots will be filled in today’s qualifying with the final slots filled Sunday followed by bumping if the need exists for that action. Qualifying begins at 11 a.m. following practice time for all drivers. Gates open at 6:30 a.m.

Pole Day is a bit different these days with all drivers attempting to qualify with four-lap runs following warmups. Each driver may have as many as three attempts each day.

At 4:30 p.m., the drivers with the nine fastest times will run again in reverse order of speed average to determine the pole winner and the first nine spots in the race. Alex Tagliano was the pole man a year ago and was joined on the front row by Dixon and Oriol Servia.

For the first time this week, drivers had a boost in power for Friday's practice; it will remain in effect today and Sunday for qualifying but not for the race.

With the boost in speed, many speed averages were about three miles faster than the fastest lap turned earlier in the week in practice.

“Our car woke up today . . . and we’ve been working hard to get fast. Consistency will be the difference in qualifying,” he said.

He said it would mean “the world to him” to be on the pole. He has started in the third row in four races.

“Last year, we were just trying to get in the show. Now, we have a chance to be on the pole. I will just try to do the same thing I did today,” he said.

He recalled that his grandfather [Mario Andretti] started on the pole in 1987.

Briscoe said he could make a run for the pole. “I feel we’re making progress,” said the Team Penske driver who will be in his seventh race.

He said it is hard to really know where drivers ranked because it was difficult to get a clean run. Andretti said the added boost made tows less relevant.

Simona de Silvestro had the slowest speed of 212.516 and Jean Alesi was a tad faster at 213.423.

More than 1,200 laps were run in Friday’s practice and more than 1,200 have been run in practice.

Pit passes – Curb/Agajanian has been a sponsor and entrant of cars in the race for 40 years, and has signed on as associate sponsor for the No. 39 Fisher Hartman Racing car to be driven by Bryce Clauson.

• Parnelli Jones, winner of the 1963 race, was at the track. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his being the first driver to run a 150-mile lap in 1962 when he won the pole.

• U.S. Auto Club sprint cars ran at Bloomington Speedway on Friday in the Larry Rice Classic. Silver Crown cars will be on the track at Indianpolis Raceway Park at Clermont tonight.

USAC sprint cars will be in Terre Haute next week for the Hulman Classic.