Carpenter Nails 230 on Short Fast Friday

story (with texts from press releases) and photos by Tim Hailey

Ed Carpenter nailed a 230 mph lap in a very short Fast Friday session. MORE PHOTOS

Ed Carpenter turned the fastest practice lap since 2003, as rain-shortened “Fast Friday” preparations for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carpenter’s lap of 230.522 mph, turned less than 15 minutes into the abbreviated “Fast Friday” session set the tone for a run at a 230 mph four-lap average speed in the May 17-18 qualifications. The last driver to top 230 mph in a practice session was Scott Dixon, who recorded a lap at more than 233 mph in the pre-Pole Day session in 2003.

Nothing Fuzzy about defending polesitter Carpenter’s speed at Indy. MORE INDY PHOTOS

“The car is definitely up to speed this year,” Carpenter said. “When it comes to predicting the pole, I think a lot of it will be figuring out what the weather is. If it warms up enough and the air gets a little thinner, certainly I think 230s are realistic, even up to 232 and 233.”

What’s that about a picture and a thousand words? MORE INDY PRACTICE PHOTOS

Rain has been the recurring theme at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500, and “Fast Friday” was no different as drivers had only 19 minutes of green-flag practice before rain moved in yet again. Rain plagued five consecutive days of Verizon IndyCar Series practice at IMS, and drivers were left scratching their heads heading into the first day of qualifying Saturday, May 17.

Four different teams were represented in the top five, seven entries posted a lap speed above 229 mph, and 10 more bettered the month’s previous best of 227.166 mph set a day earlier by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet.

The Roberto Benigni of racing, Helio Castroneves. MORE INDY PRACTICE PHOTOS

Castroneves was second fast (229.843 mph) in the session. Marco Andretti was third (229.419) in the No. 25 Snapple Honda for Andretti Autosport, while Carpenter’s teammate, JR Hildebrand, was fourth (229.384) in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet and Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing was fifth (229.276).

Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award last May with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car with a top speed of 229.347 mph on Lap 1. It was the best four-lap average since 2006 when Sam Hornish Jr. won the pole with a four-lap average of 228.985 mph.

Jacques is Bacques! I saw Villeneuve win at Indy soooo many girlfriends ago….PHOTOS

Jacques Villeneuve, returning to the Indianapolis 500 after a 19-year absence, turned only six laps on the 2.5-mile oval on Fast Friday. 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Villeneuve was 16th fastest with a lap of 39.5288 seconds, 227.682 mph. “We have no idea what to expect for tomorrow,” Villeneuve said. “We were on old tires in the few laps we got, and we hadn’t trimmed the car out yet. We haven’t even done a practice qualification run.”

Villeneuve is not feeling the stress of the new Indianapolis 500 qualifying format that awards more Verizon IndyCar Series championship points than ever over a two-day period. A driver who earns the top spot on both May 17 and 18 would earn 42 points in the season championship. “We’re not under any stress for qualifying because we’re not in the points battle,” he said. “Qualifying is almost meaningless for us, so there’s no point in taking a risk with anything. What matters for us is the race.”

The first round of qualifications will take place from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. (ET), with the 33 starting positions, including the Verizon P1 Award, determined May 18.

photo courtesy of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (above) will celebrate the life of his hero, three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna, in the Indianapolis 500 by wearing a helmet with a unique blend of Senna’s design and Pagenaud’s trademark red scheme. “Ayrton Senna has been the inspiration for my entire life, whether I’m in a race car or not,” Pagenaud said. “He was my hero as a child, my role model as a teenager and my example as a human and a race car driver.”

Pagenaud contacted the Senna family in Brazil several months ago with the help of 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran to discuss the idea of bringing the famous yellow helmet to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “This is not just for me, it is the whole racing community for what (Senna) did for racing,” said de Ferran. “He elevated the sport, which is one of the reasons he stands out. He did much for Brazil, for the kids in Brazil and for the world in general. He was an athlete the people could recognize. He inspired a whole generation His helmet, the one we have here today (that Pagenaud will wear in the 500) is something very personal. I remember designing my racing helmet in a history class when I was 14 years old.”

“Ayrton’s yellow helmet is recognized all over the world for the aura it had around one of the most special race car drivers we have ever known,” Pagenaud said. “After meeting people who knew and worked with Senna and realizing how blessed I am to have made a life in racing for myself, as well, I wanted to carry Ayrton with me to another checkered flag.”

The helmet will feature Senna’s familiar yellow design on its front and sides, mixed with Pagenaud’s traditional red design on the back. “I have always found myself in Senna’s explanation of what driving a race car feels like,” Pagenaud said. “I have read, analyzed and studied his racecraft. I’ve always found so much strength in the dedication he committed to driving to perfection.”

After the Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud will auction the commemorative Senna helmet to benefit the Ayrton Senna Institute, which promotes children’s literacy efforts. “Senna inspired people throughout the entire world, and his legacy lives on through the Ayrton Senna Institute, which was established by his sister, Viviane,” Pagenaud said. “I’m truly honored that Viviane and her son Bruno Senna have allowed me to be part of this special opportunity to commemorate Ayrton’s memory at the Indianapolis 500. I’m so excited to have this opportunity to thank Ayrton for what he has taught me up to this day and what he will continue to teach me in the future.”

Senna, from Brazil, won the Formula One World Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991 and is universally considered one of the greatest racing drivers in history after scoring 41 victories, 80 podium finishes and 65 pole positions in 162 F1 races between 1984 and 1994. He lost his life at age 34 in a racing accident May 1, 1994 at Imola, Italy.

“We are really pleased to receive this special homage,” said Bianca Senna, Ayrton Senna’s niece and Director of the Ayrton Senna Institute. “In 2014, celebrating 20 years of Ayrton’s legacy, we are happy with all the tributes that he is receiving around the world. I also want to thank Simon Pagenaud for creating and auctioning off this special helmet. It will help us in our projects at the Ayrton Senna Institute which benefit two million children and young people each year.”

To learn more about the Ayrton Senna Institute or make a donation click here

EARLIER: Kurt Busch crashing hard at Indy

Kurt Busch’s turn 2 crash….he’s lucky

EARLIER: Engine Parity Leads the Way at Indy

Simon Pagenaud’s loving Indy this particular May. MORE INDY PRACTICE PHOTOS

Saturday’s Indy Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud is quickest so far after four days of practice for the May 25th Indianapolis 500. Pagenaud clicked off the only lap over 226 mph so far in a severely rain-shortened session on Wednesday. Pagenaud’s lap around the 2 and a half mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was 39.8016 seconds—that’s 226.122 mph.

Jack Hawksworth hits it hard in turn 3 Wednesday afternoon

At 6:01pm (Wednesday’s session was extended to 7pm—a historical no-no—after extensive track drying efforts), the No. 98 car driven by Jack Hawksworth, who qualified on the front row for and led the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, made BIG contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier. He was checked and cleared to drive. “I have no idea what happened to be honest,” said Hawksworth. “We just went into [Turn] 3 and it just snapped, so we’ll have to look into it. I don’t know if it’s – honestly, I wouldn’t want to comment just yet because I have no idea. Suddenly it just snapped.”

Courtney Force checking me out while her boyfriend Graham Rahal is looking the other way…..obviously, she’s seen my #‎coldwaterdragbike video

JR Hildebrand leading Juan Pablo Montoya through turn 1. MORE PRACTICE PHOTOS

JR Hildebrand, runner-up after pounding the last turn wall as a rookie in the 2011 Indianapolis 500, posted the second-fastest lap (225.854 mph; 39.8488 seconds) in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer car. “Obviously we’d rather be on the sharp end of the stick than not,” said Hildebrand. “I think there’s two takeaways I guess from looking at this. One, the Chevys and Hondas seem to be quite evenly matched, which I think is a good thing generally for the series. Two years ago when the engine competition first started, there was a pretty definitive difference that the Hondas were better on race day, the Chevys were better in qualifying. Last year the Chevys had a little bit of the advantage across the board. It seems like we’re in for a bit of a fight, so that’s always good to make sure that everybody’s in contention out there.

“I don’t care about putting up a big lap time, I care about how the car feels. It’s great to see that the car has the speed in it because at the end of the day you rarely go through practice with guys that are capable of setting those fast times, they end up being the guys that have the quicker cars. Certainly our focus is trying to make sure not that we can put in a big tow lap, but that we can catch up to that guy and pass him, and leapfrog through the next few guys ahead of him. So that’s what we’re working on right now. I think with myself and Ed (team boss Ed Carpenter), we’ve both had experiences over the last few years that have I think make us really that the priority really is race day and that’s it. So far it’s going well. Glad we were able to get out today, we definitely learned a few things with the conditions being quite different than they were over the last few days, and we’ll continue plugging away.”

Defending IndyCar champ Scott Dixon is third on the speed charts after Wednesday, his Target/Chip Ganassi car sporting a new “Silver Arrows” livery

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and ’08 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was third (225.494) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. “We worked on just a few things today really, given the limited track time,” said Dixon.” A lot of our focus today was on dampers and spring combinations. We made some changes, but again very limited time on track today for Team Target and everyone else.”

Kurt Busch sitting low and lapping during Happy Hour on Day 1 of Indy 500 practice. Heading into Wednesday, Busch was still third on the cumulative chart.

Anticipating a rainy day in Indianapolis, Kurt Busch went to Charlotte today for preparations with Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch, who will attempt to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on May 25, will return to Indianapolis for practice Thursday and Friday before qualifying his No. 26 Suretone Verizon IndyCar Series car on Saturday morning. Saturday evening, Busch will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR All-Star Race before returning to Indy on Sunday for more qualifying and practice.

But starting out on Wednesday, Busch was still third on the cumulative speed chart. “It definitely wasn’t on my radar,” Busch said about his high placement. “But what I’ve been able to do as a student is each day progress at a strong rate, and progressing is being able to digest the information and then being able to apply it the next day. Each day out, the Andretti Autosport team has helped me with a game plan on what’s next, so it’s nice when you can have a solid forecast of what to expect.

Famous bad boy Busch was incredibly attentive, focussed and gracious in his Monday press conference

“As far as guys getting tows and posting those good laps, some of my drafting experience helps from what I’ve seen at Daytona and Talladega. Indianapolis has a little bit of Darlington characteristics into it. What I mean by that is you have to be single file and you have to know which corner you are approaching at all times, and it’s a matter of give and take with the other drivers out on the track. I haven’t been around many guys, mostly the Andretti guys, but it’s been thumbs up right now. It’s been nice to continue to find speed and to feel more comfortable in the car in the traffic.

“The biggest thing that’s been a surprise is honestly just the open arms that everyone has had here and supportive of me being here and just kind of rooting me on. It’s nice to talk to Rick Mears or to bump into Juan Pablo Montoya and we’re talking NASCAR and the crossover to IndyCar. Then again Michael (Andretti) has been amazing. He’s a great owner to drive for and even the camaraderie with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Marco (Andretti); it’s just been neat to experience it all.

“I think it’s a nice point… sometimes to just have a reset and have a day when we’re not continuing to feed information and just have a day to digest,” Busch said about Wednesday’s rain. “Once the track is good to go, we’re going to have cooler conditions and it’s going to be more ideal for qualifying trim anyway. We’ll have qualifying (practice) Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then come back around and work on race trim again Monday.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay leads temporary teammate EJ Viso through turn 1 in practice at Indy

Ryan Hunter-Reay led a trio of Andretti Autosport cars at the top of the charts on Tuesday, but dropped to eighth on Wednesday. Juan Pablo Montoya sits 7th with a 225.134

A fenderless Juan Pablo Montoya. MORE INDY PRACTICE PHOTOS

“I put a spell on you!” EJ Viso, sitting in for the concussed James Hinchcliffe at Andretti Autosport, is 12th so far. Hinchcliffe was cleared to resume driving duties after being re-evaluated Thursday afternoon by the INDYCAR medical team and passing the post-concussion ImPACT test, according to INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger. Will Viso find a seat?

Sebastien Bourdais rolls through the pits as rain ends Wednesday practice. MORE PHOTOS

Sebastien Bourdais is one of many who could have used more track time on Wednesday. He talked about the down-time. “You try to get ahead, but there’s not much to do, really. We didn’t run Sunday, and we didn’t get much running Monday and clearly didn’t get anything done yesterday. It’s a bit a shame, but that’s what Indy is. Sometimes you get to qualifying and you haven’t done anything yet. Everybody was (complaining) that there’s an extra practice day on Monday, but maybe everyone will be glad in the end. There’s a lot of downtime in Indy and you have to find ways to use it in a positive way and keep your head in the game.”


102 year old laps with Mario

“Let’s do that again,” said Edith Pittenger as she leaned into the cockpit to thank Mario Andretti for the high-speed two-seat Indy car ride around the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s a date,” the auto racing legend replied.

Nearly 40 family members gathered trackside May 13 to cheer on the resident of Muncie, Ind., and mark the special occasion. “She did this when she was younger … 96,” said her son, Jay Pittenger.

That was 2008 with two-time Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Arie Luyendyk behind the wheel of the stretched Indy car to set an unofficial record for the oldest person to take a lap on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Now, at 102 years old, the spry great-great-grandmother sent a message to potential challengers. “That was fun; come and try it,” said Pittenger, who raised her arms as Andretti sped over the Yard of Bricks that mark the start-finish line.

The two-seater ride six years ago was a Christmas present from family members, while this excursion was organized by Indy Racing Experience co-owner Scott Jasek. “My family knew it was something I wanted to do back then, and it was so much fun I wanted to do it again,” Pittenger said, “and it was just as much fun this time.”

Pittenger, who attended her first Indianapolis 500 in 1948 when her son, Lynn, was an usher, returned for more than two decades with a gaggle various family members in tow. The 1969 race stands out in her memory – the year Andretti led 116 laps en route to victory for car owner Andy Granatelli. Andretti, who will be recognized on Legends Day (May 24) on the 45th anniversary of his victory, joined Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles and the large family contingent in congratulating Pittenger. “It just shows that you can be too young to ride but you’re never too old,” Andretti said.