Dixon tops Friday practice at Indy
|By Jeff Olson||Friday, May 9th 2008, 23:27 GMT|
The rain has had its say on the preparation for pole qualifying for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. Now it's time for the drivers and machines to have their say.
Working on as little as 12 hours of practice after Friday's session was washed out halfway through, top teams will take their shot at the first 11 positions for the May 25 when qualifying begins Saturday at noon ET.
The big prize, of course, is the pole position and the $100,000 that goes with it, and that appears to be firmly in the grasp of three familiar teams - Andretti Green Racing, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske.
Among the favourites from that list are Helio Castroneves, who won the pole last year; Tony Kanaan, who won the pole in 2005; Scott Dixon, who had the fastest lap during Friday's session; and Marco Andretti, who has been at or near the top of the timesheets throughout the rain-shortened week.
Their choice Saturday - especially with the additional entries provided by unification - will be whether to make a serious run at the pole or lie back and accept another spot on the first, second or third row of the grid.
"You're going to know early on whether you're in the range to go for the pole," Dixon said. "There's no point in throwing the thing into the wall trying to get pole. I don't think it makes much difference if you're on the first row or the fourth row."
Dixon's best lap Friday - 226.968 mph - in the No. 9 Ganassi Honda/Dallara was just slightly better than Andretti, Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe, who has been fast throughout the week in the No. 6 Penske Honda/Dallara.
Others showing speed during Friday's three hours of track time included Dan Wheldon, Vitor Meira, Danica Patrick, Tomas Scheckter and Castroneves.
"We're in good shape for tomorrow," Castroneves said. "I'm not concerned with the other drivers' speeds today because a lot of them were getting tows. It will be interesting to see who has what."
Wheldon took the opposite approach of his Ganassi teammate, indicating he'll put it on the line to win the pole. "Everybody worked hard to get good race cars and fast race cars in order to get us up front," Wheldon said.
"We'd be letting those guys down if we didn't really go for it. We definitely feel we have a car capable of the pole."
Two drivers who aren't among the AGR/Ganassi/Penske stronghold - Vitor Meira and Tomas Scheckter - appear to have an outside shot at the pole. Meira has been fast during the limited practice time this week, notching the seventh-quickest lap overall in the No. 4T Panther Racing Honda/Dallara.
"I know we're going to be quick tomorrow," Meira said. "I don't know where we'll end up because there are a lot of fast cars out here, but we feel like we can get in the show."
Two incidents marred Friday's session. Alex Lloyd hit the wall and remained hospitalized late Friday with a possible concussion, and Danica Patrick's car struck and injured a member of the Dale Coyne Racing crew.
Chuck Buckman was not severely injured, but he was being treated at Methodist Hospital for a concussion and cuts to his face and scalp.
Also Friday, Jay Howard drew the No. 1 position in the qualifying order, with Briscoe in the No. 2 spot. Sarah Fisher drew the 61st and final spot.
The top 11 qualifiers at the end of the day Saturday will be locked in to the 33-car field. After 11 positions are filled, the bumping begins. With a full day of sunshine forecast, the final hour of the qualifying session could get interesting - and extremely busy.
"This is going to be such a mess," Dixon said. "The problem isn't running for the pole. The problem for those of us running for the pole is going to be the 20 or so cars running for the 11th spot. They're going to clog up the lines, so we're going for a safe one early on."
Action begins Saturday with one final practice session at 9 a.m. ET. The qualifying session starts at noon and ends at 6 p.m.
Pos Driver Team Speed 1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 226.968 mph 2. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 226.710 mph 3. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 226.688 mph 4. Ryan Briscoe Penske 226.143 mph 5. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 225.990 mph 6. Dan Wheldon Ganassi 225.674 mph 7. Vitor Meira Panther 224.811 mph 8. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 224.744 mph 9. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon 224.712 mph 10. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 224.125 mph 11. Helio Castroneves Penske 224.016 mph 12. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold 223.593 mph 13. Alex Lloyd Rahal Letterman 223.549 mph 14. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold 223.518 mph 15. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 223.291 mph 16. Oriol Servia KV 223.023 mph 17. A.J. Foyt IV Vision 222.980 mph 18. Darren Manning AJ Foyt 222.750 mph 19. Ed Carpenter Vision 222.559 mph 20. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 222.459 mph 21. Will Power KV 222.311 mph 22. EJ Viso HVM 222.095 mph 23. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 221.978 mph 24. Davey Hamilton Vision 221.026 mph 25. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne 220.923 mph 26. Max Papis Schmidt 220.429 mph 27. Marty Roth Roth 219.268 mph 28. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 219.030 mph 29. Jay Howard Roth 218.971 mph 30. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 218.293 mph 31. Mario Dominguez Pacific Coast 217.918 mph 32. Jaime Camara Conquest 216.138 mph 33. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest 214.808 mph