Indianapolis 500: Recapping a Busy Opening Day at the Speedway

No NameAnalyst IMay 14, 2011

Paul Tracy back at Indy
Paul Tracy back at Indy

Mother Nature showed some respect for Opening Day at IMS, holding off the rain showers for the majority of the day.

As I pointed my car towards IMS earlier this morning, I checked the radar a couple more times, hoping not to see any green. As I pulled into the speedway, there were clouds, but nothing was falling. Most of the guys I spoke to in the garage were really surprised by how nice the weather actually was today.

There was about a 10 minute delay to the official start of practice, but that was just for some debris on the back stretch. That got cleaned up, and the cars were out on the track for nearly three hours before we saw any precipitation.

There was some rain that fell late in the afternoon, but practice was able to resume around 4:50. About 25 minutes later, we had another yellow for rain, which resulted in the end of practice for the day. The rain was falling at 5:30, and practice was scheduled to end at 6:00. It was surprising that we got as many laps in as we did today, considering what the forecasters were predicting.

Just a few minutes before the first rain fell, Ed Carpenter posted the fastest lap of the day, at 224.786 mph. He did this in the preliminary car, while the next five cars were all using their T cars. Scott Dixon was second fastest, posting a speed of 224.491 mph on his fourth lap of the day. He went around twice more, putting in just six total laps on the day.

Teammate and defending champion Dario Franchitti only ran one more lap than Dixon, with seven. He had the fourth fastest lap on the day. Rookie JR Hildebrand took his Panther Racing machine and put it in between the two red Ganassi cars, with the third fastest lap of the day. Marco Andretti and Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top six.

The majority of the big guns wrapped up their practice sessions within the first 90 minutes. All three Penske cars and both Ganassi cars got their runs in, and called it a day.

Rookie James Hinchcliffe put in 43 laps on the day, which was the most of any driver. Oriol Servia, Alex Lloyd and rookie James Jakes each took 42 laps around the track. Coincidentally, 33 cars were on pit lane today, although Davey Hamilton never officially turned a lap.

It was nice to see guys like Paul Tracy, John Andretti, Buddy Rice and Tomas Sheckter out on the track today. I tried to work my way into every pit stall, trying to see who was really working hard today, and who was just brushing up on a few things. It was clear that the Penske and Ganassi cars weren't planning on doing much today.

Even though rain ended the Opening Day practice a half an hour early, there was plenty of action out on the track, which is more than any of us could have hoped for before today. Tomorrow's weather doesn't look any better, but practice is scheduled from noon to 6:00 p.m. again. I will have more from tomorrow's sessions, rain or shine.