Indianapolis 500: Busy Day on Track Highlighted by Simona's Crash, Power's Speed

No NameAnalyst IMay 19, 2011

Will Power Fastest on Thursday
Will Power Fastest on Thursday

With no rain in sight, the speedway at the Indianapolis 500 saw a lot of action today as teams made sure they got plenty of practice time in.

There was an early yellow flag though, as something appeared to break on Simona de Silvestro's car, sending her into the wall of the short chute between turns three and four.

She got a couple of feet off the ground before slamming the wall, going backwards. As she continued to slide, she ran over more debris, which lifted her once again into the air. This time she was standing straight up, and the nose of her car slammed head on into the catch fence. She landed upside down on the track, where a fire soon erupted.

Simona was able to get out of the car and walk to the ambulance, but she was taken to Methodist Hospital for further evaluation. She suffered second-degree burns on her right hand, and superficial burns on her left hand.

Silvestro's primary car was destroyed in the crash, with tears in the side pods, a smashed roll hoop and major damage to both the front and rear ends. The backup car is expected to be rolled out for a qualification attempt by either Simona or a replacement driver, if she can't go this weekend.

The only other caution of the day was for a quick track sweep, resulting in more than five hours of practice time for the teams.

Will Power topped the speed charts late in the day with a 227.778 mph lap (with a tow) with just 10 minutes left in the practice session. Alex Tagliani ran a 227.652, while Ryan Briscoe had a lap at 227.217 mph. These three drivers were the only ones to reach the 227-mph barrier.

Team Penske flexed their muscle towards the end of the day and eventually got all three cars in the top four when practice ended. Helio Castroneves finished the day in fourth, while Townsend Bell came in a surprising fifth.

JR Hildebrand and Oriol Servia continued their impressive runs, finishing in sixth and seventh, respectively, on the speed chart today. Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter and Danica Patrick rounded out the top 10. The next five were Graham Rahal, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson. Defending champion Dario Franchitti was just behind them in 16th.

While the Ganassi boys weren't at the top today, I think we can expect them to be there when it counts this weekend. Andretti Autosport, on the other hand, looks like they have a lot of work to do.

Danica did well enough to finish with the 10th fastest lap today, but the other four drivers all struggled mightily. Marco, Ryan and John finished the day in positions 22, 23 and 24 respectively. Mike Conway, who seems to be struggling the most this month, finished the day in 36th, with a best lap at just 222.359 mph.

It might be too early to say they could be in trouble this weekend, but Conway has yet to show that he has the required speed to make the field. Not getting all five Andretti cars in the race would be a disaster for this team. With 40 cars gunning for 33 spots this weekend, they have just one day left of practice to get things right.

Tomorrow is Fast Friday, and teams will likely be working on their qualification setups. Most of them were testing out their race setups today. Practice is scheduled to get underway at noon and will run until 6pm. They will have one more short practice session on Saturday morning before qualifying begins, but the weather looks like it could make a mess of things once again.