Monday, May 17, 2010

Countdown to Indy (#14): Day 2 Practice at Indianapolis

Photo Credit: Bret Kelly

The second day of Indianapolis 500 preparations started with a final three-hour session for first-time race competitors through Rookie Orientation. As the 7 rookies prepare to earn official accreditation to qualify for the Indy 500 event, rain fell only a few minutes into the session delaying the drivers. When the track dried roughly half an hour later, Sarah Fisher Racing driver Jay Howard and the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing #25 pilot Ana Beatriz swiftly concluded their Rookie Orientation by finishing the final two stages just a little past noontime. Howard would leave the Rookie Orientation period with the fastest lap amongst the 7 rookies and the remaining Refresher Test drivers with a 222.789 mile per hour average speed. 19 minutes later after Howard and Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro completed her final speed stages in the #78 car. The Conquest Racing teammates Mario Romancini and Bertrand Baguette were next to finish with Takuma Sato becoming the final driver to complete all four stages within the Rookie Orientation period.

The only rookie left to finish his orientation was Sebastian Saavedra. With his #29 Bryan Herta Autosport sidelined due to a fuel pump issue after completing the first-half of his Rookie Orientation, Saavedra was granted time within the veteran practice session to log his final two stages. Successfully obtaining blessing to compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Sebastian Saavedra stated afterwords "I am looking forward to tomorrow. It was great. It was very exciting. It is something I was looking forward to for a long time."

After 2:15 P.M. eastern time, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was opened to the veteran drivers for the second day of practice. While a greater number of drivers took to the track for Sunday, Helio Castroneves continues to reign fastest on the speedway bettering his previous best from Saturday with a 227.046 mile per hour average speed. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti continue in hot pursuit of the Verizon-sponsored Penske Racing #3. The other Penske Racing team car were demonstrating a more aggressive pace on Sunday as Will Power vaulted to 4th on the day and Ryan Briscoe also improved his day 2 standing.

Photo Credit: Mike Harding

Like the Rookie Orientation session, the later practice was also interrupted by a light rain shower. When the track was placed back under green following the rain, the yellow flew twice within 27 minutes. The first caution came off when the IZOD #37 of Ryan Hunter-Reay half-spun out of turn 1. Without resulting in any contact, the second incident involving the National Guard #4 car of Dan Wheldon did result in minor damage to his Dallara-Honda. "It's obviously not the way you want to start the second day at Indianapolis. I think the team are very well prepared for this month, and everyone could see the National Guard Panther Racing car's pretty quick." the disappointed Englishman said. Wheldon also suffered a bruise to his foot but he assures it is "Nothing big."

Though the harm done to Wheldon was not serious enough to require deep medical attention, the same couldn't be said for Alex Tagliani last week. Enduring a nasty bout of bronchitis which required the Canadian native to be hospitalized, Tagliani and the FAZZT Race Team #77 enters the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday for their first laps. 24th of 33 cars, Tagliani was nonetheless very happy with the handling of his #77 race car. "I'm very, very proud of the boys. They did a fantastic job. I think the car is great."

Through the upcoming week, 6 hours of practice per day will be available for the IZOD IndyCar teams in preparation for Indy 500 qualifying set for Saturday.

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