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INDY 500 PRACTICE BEGINS, PENSKE CARS FAST
Author: Mark W. Theisen
photo: BroncosPistop.com/Steve Burzynski
photo: BroncosPistop.com/Steve Burzynski
May 11th 2014 -
     WEST BEND, WI May 10th:    It took just 12 hours to "transform” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back into the traditional counterclockwise rotation from the 2.49 mile road course and the track "officially” opened at noon today for practice for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25th.

     With the highly successful Grand Prix of Indianapolis in the books late Saturday afternoon, a large crew of men and machine worked through the night so that by morning teams were ready to begin preparations for the race on the 2 and one half mile oval course, the home of the 500.

     At noon Helio Castroneves in his Team Penske Pennzoil sponsored race car was first on the track and in doing so continued the current Penske streak of having the first car on the track when practice opened for the 500.  A tradition that dates back for decades, the honor is not what it once was because of the various track sessions that occur prior to the traditional first day but it is bragging rights and for Tam Penske it is important to continue the tradition.

     24 drivers took advantage of a clear day to get their oval track cars up to speed.  The Indianapolis 500 will be the first oval track race of the 2014 season and this time was a precious commodity for the teams in preparation for not only qualifying but for the 500 as well.

     731 laps were turned in the six hour session this afternoon with nary an on track incident and when the gun sounded at Six P.M. to end the day all three of the Penske entries were sitting atop the opening day speed chart.

     Current Verizon Indy Car point leader, Will Power, logged 82 laps today with his 223.057 being the fastest of the 731 laps logged.  Power, who one his first oval track race in the series last year continues his quest to be a master of not only the road and street courses but the ovals as well, thus he turned the highest number of laps today in sorting out his car.

     Juan Pablo Montoya, one of six former 500 winners in the field, was second at 222.502 in what was his "official” return to the Verizon Indy Car series.

     Castroneves was third at 222.373.  Castroneves, a three time 500 champion, continues his quest to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears as the only four time winners of the 500 and was pleased with his first day results.

     JR Hildebrand, making his debut with Ed Carpenter Racing was fourth at 222.200.  Team owner and driver, Ed Carpenter, was the pole winner for last years race and was 8th on the speed chart at the end of the day.

     The top four cars were powered by Chevrolet who has 15 cars entered in the race with their power plant.

     Ryan Hunter-Reay led the 18 car Honda contingent taking the 5trh spot at 222.134.  E.J. Viso was 6th at 222.105 in the car normally driven by James Hinchcliffe.

     Hinchcliffe, who suffered a concussion in yesterdays Grand Prix of Indianapolis, has not been cleared to drive so Viso, an Andretti Autosport driver from last year, was called in at the last moment to get laps on the car and assist the team in preparing the for qualifying and the 500.  It is unclear if and when Hinchcliffe will return and Viso understands his role and was very happy to help his former team out.

     Charlie Kimball, Townsend Bell and Tony Kanaan completed the top 10 in today’s session.

     Six hour practice sessions continue daily at the Indianapolis Motor leading up to the two day qualifying sessions this coming Saturday and Sunday when the starting line-up for the 500 will be determined and the coveted pole or P1 starting position awarded.

CELEBRATION OF AUTOMOBILES

     At a banquet last evening the prestigious awards were presented the owners of the fine classic and vintage automobiles that were on display at the Speedway yesterday.

     The concours de elegance type show saw a 1937 Cord and a 1927 Isotta win best of show honors at the Fourth Annual Classic/Vintage car event.

     The 2014 edition featured many of the world’s finest classic/vintage cars on display and judges had a very hard time in choosing the winners in the various classes of cars that competed for the distinction of winner the Indianapolis show.

     The 1937 Cord S/C Phaeton that won Best of Show-American is owned by Larry Hurn of Olney, Illinois and the 1927 Isotta was voted Best of Show-Foreign was entered by Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, N.J.

   In all 30 of the nearly 200 entries received awards that were awarded by a team of judges that included Unser Sr.

     The event started in 2001 in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 will reach its fifth anniversary next year and that should make the field of entrants even stronger.

     If you like to look at these classic make sure you plan to attend the event next year.