Friday, May 18, 2012

Before Indy 500 Pole Day: Fastest in Brickyard Practice


For the past week, open wheel racing drivers and teams have been lapping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in order to find the key to winning the 96th Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day Sunday.

This year's Indy 500 practice was more important than it has been in years at the 2.5-mile speedway oval with brand new Dallara DW12 chassis race cars and turbocharged engines set for their first Month of May. Through the course of the week, average speeds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway crept over 223 miles per hour. Slower than the 2011 cars, there was some disappointment that the 2012 contenders at the track were not up to the same pace as last year. For "Fast Friday" practice, the INDYCAR sanctioning body permitted teams to increase the turbo boost pressure by 10 kPa which allowed the V-6 engines to produce around 40 horsepower extra.


Because of the additional power, 32 of the 33 active drivers in practice posted their best track times for the Friday practice session. For what proved to be the highest speeds recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the fastest one-lap run was posted by Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti. Jetting around the 2.5-mile oval in 39.5535 seconds, Andretti's "Fast Friday" effort equates to an average speed of 227.540 miles per hour. Over a tenth of a second slower than the #26 of Marco Andretti, Team Penske's #2 car of Ryan Briscoe recorded a 226.835-mile per hour average speed. With Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay behind Briscoe on the time sheet, the the top-four fastest times were all set by Chevrolet-powered cars. In the entire top-10, Chevrolet's surge for Indy 500 Pole Day success is solidifed by the 8 IZOD INDYCAR DW12 Dallaras powered by the Bowtie brand.  

The leading Honda-engined car after "Fast Friday" is the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car driven by Scott Dixon who posted a 226.224-mile per hour speed around the 2.5-mile oval. Dixon's teammate Dario Franchitti was the second Honda runner in the top-10 placing 9th fastest on Friday.

For the first time since 2005, the Indy 500 will be contended by more than a single engine brand. With Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus supplying powerplants for the 2012 Indy 500 race, the week preparing for Pole Day resulted in Chevrolet and Honda strengthening their numbers as a result of the ailing situations with Lotus' INDYCAR program. On Wednesday, Dragon Racing was finally approved to install Chevrolet engines into their team cars driven by Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge. The engine politics played havoc with Legge's Rookie Orientation. The two remaining Lotus engined Dallara DW12 race cars are buried at the bottom time chart. Nudging a lap above 213 miles per hour, former Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi was 2.5 seconds slower than Marco Andretti's fastest time. The slowest driver over the course of 7 practice sessions was Simona de Silvestro who is still struggling to find speed with he HVM Racing team during the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series season.


Indy 500 Pole Day is set for tomorrow with a qualifying draw settling the order that cars position themselves for a four-lap time trial run. Saturday's qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will determine the top 24 spots of the 2012 Memorial Day race. Consisting of two segments, the top nine fastest cars on Saturday will advance to a final qualifying session.

The following list of speeds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the top runs of the 33 drivers at the track. It is not unusual that additional competitors may be posting times either on Saturday's Pole Day or Sunday's Bump Day.

Indianapolis 500 Pre-Pole Day Practice Times

1 26 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Chevrolet 227.540
2 2 Ryan Briscoe Team Penske Chevrolet 226.835
3 3 Helio Castroneves Team Penske Chevrolet 226.716
4 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Chevrolet 226.400
5 9 Scott Dixon Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 226.224
6 27 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport Chevrolet 225.974
7 25 Ana Beatriz Andretti Autosport/Conquest Racing Chevrolet 225.653
8 4 JR Hildebrand Panther Racing Chevrolet 225.571
9 50 Dario Franchitti Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 225.370
10 11 Tony Kanaan KV Racing Technology Chevrolet 225.322
11 12 Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet 225.288
12 5 EJ Viso KV Racing Technology Chevrolet 225.137
13 67 Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda 225.021
14 83 Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 224.964
15 19 James Jakes Dale Coyne Racing Honda 224.960
16 20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet 224.946
17 15 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 224.825
18 38 Graham Rahal Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 224.789
19 17 Sebastian Saavedra AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet 224.661
20 14 Mike Conway AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda 224.333
21 8 Rubens Barrichello KV Racing Technology Chevrolet 224.272
22 18 Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing Honda 224.258
23 39 Bryan Clauson Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda 224.224
24 98 Alex Tagliani Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Honda 223.576
25 41 Wade Cunningham AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda 222.898
26 77 Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda 222.736
27 99 Townsend Bell Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda 221.738
28 30 Michel Jourdain Jr Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 221.396
29 7 Sebastien Bourdais Lotus-Dragon Racing Chevrolet 221.191
30 22 Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet 220.643
31 6 Katherine Legge Lotus-Dragon Racing Chevrolet 219.430
32 64 Jean Alesi Lotus – FP Journe – Fan Force United Lotus 213.423
33 78 Simona de Silvestro Lotus-HVM Racing Lotus 212.516

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