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Excited About May!
John Andretti, Indy 2009 Burzy file photo
John Andretti, Indy 2009 Burzy file photo
May 16th 2010 - INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY OPENS FOR MONTH OF MAY

By: Mark W. Theisen

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA MAY 15, 2020: The wait is over! The abbreviated Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is upon us!

And with that we also have rain, but the roar of engines returned to the venerable two and one half mile oval in Speedway, Indiana this morning and for the crowd that braved the threatening skies thatís what itís all about.

The first two days at the track were to be divided between veteran practice and rookie orientation as seven drivers must complete all four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program to become eligible for the Indianapolis 500. With the shortened schedule three phases must be completed today or tomorrow with the fourth to done later this week and prior to qualifications.

Takumo Sato, Ana Beatriz, Sebastian Saavedra, Mario Romancini, Bertrand Baguette, Jay Howard and Simona de Silvestro are the seven rookies with dreams of competing in this yearís 500 and the rain today slowed the rookie process where the drivers, under the watchful eyes of track stewards and 500 veterans must complete runs at accelerating rates of speed to prove they are capable of handling a car at the Speedway.

Defending and three time 500 winner, Helio Castroneves , could not have started off the month of May in any better fashion as he quickly established himself as the favorite to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears as the only four time winners of the 500.

Castroneves was the fist car on the track for the month of May, to claim that much sought after honor, and was the fastest throughout the shortened practice session for the veteran drivers ending the day with a top speed of 226.603 miles-per-hour.

Driving for Roger Penske, whose teams have won a record fifteen Indy 500 races and pole positions, Castroneves and his teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power are the odds of favorites to win the race this year with Castroneves jumping out ahead of his teammates today.

Right behind Castroneves on the speed chart today were the Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. Franchitti at 226.535 and Dixon at 226.237 were not all that far behind.

Dan Wheldon was alone in the 225 bracket, as being a former winner of the 500, helped him get his car up to speed faster than some of the others.

Tony Kanaan, driving for Michael Andretti Autosports, had a very busy afternoon taking all five of his team cars out for shakedown runs before turning them over to his fellow drivers for their use. Kanaan, who most feel is overdue for a 500 victory after being so close so often, is the senior driver on the Andretti team with the most knowledge of the track so his expertise was used to get the team all on the same page given the circumstances of a shortened month of practice for this yearís race and qualifying.

At the conclusion of the day 3 of the 5 cars set up by Kanaan were in the top 10. 27 veteran drivers and seven rookies took to the track with light rain falling most of the afternoon but shortly after the rookie portion of the day began, at 2:00 P.M., the rain began falling harder that the curtailed the rookie session until just after 5 P.M.

Speeds for the rookie portion are: Phase one 200-205 mph: Phase two 205-210 mph; Phase three 210-215 mph and Phase four 215 and above.

Rookie Jay Howard, driving for Sarah Fisher was fastest at 215...039 among all the rookies on the track today and felt he could have gone faster but was restrained by the limits of speed in the various phases of the rookie program.

Sunday will see veterans on the track at noon with the rookie program taking over the day at 2:00 P.M. but once again there is a chance of spotty rain all day.

Regardless of the sprinkles it was a good day to see all the cars on the track again.