News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 15, 2011

Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens for practice

Lori Wood
Tribune-Star Correspondent

SPEEDWAY — True to form, Mother Nature announced her arrival at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday, cutting short opening day of practice for the running of the Indianapolis 500 during the Centennial celebration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rain stopped practice shortly before 3 p.m., but not before 32 cars logged over 500 laps.

Ed Carpenter, making his IZOD IndyCar Series season debut with Sarah Fisher Racing, turned in the fasted time of the day with a 224.786, followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon with a 224.491 and Panther Racing’s JR Hildrebrand with a 224.433.

Dixon’s teammate Dario Franchitti followed with a lap of 224.107 and  Andretti Motorsport’s Marco Andretti rounded out the top five with a 223.927. With the exception of Carpenter, the top five went out in their backup cars.

“Today was one of those days when everything went right,” Carpenter said. “Hopefully we can keep that rolling. This is my eighth go-round. It’s so much fun being in an IndyCar at this track.”

Car owner Sarah Fisher retired from racing last fall, to allow her more time to concentrate on ownership. She and husband Andy O’Gara are expecting a child in September.

Following the heavy downpour crews were able to dry the track, allowing drivers another chance to hit the bricks at around 4:50 p.m., but that was short-lived as well with the rain returning about 30 minutes later.

Most teams opted not to return, but a few including Vitor Meira and teammate Bruno Junqueira, driving for A.J. Foyt, took advantage of the short session. Meira turned in the seventh fastest time of the day with a 223.192.

 Ryan Briscoe led Team Penske with the sixth fastest lap of the day. His quick lap was nearly 224, with a 223.811.

“It’s definitely to be running at more than 222 mph. It’s been a long time since we’ve felt that exhilaration,” Briscoe said.

Helio Castroneves, followed with a lap of 222.755, ninth fastest and Will Power managed a 221.837 to put him in 15th.

Danica Patrick’s last lap was her best at 222.232, while Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay clocked a 221.296.

Practice resumes today at noon. Public gates open at 9 a.m.