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FIELD COMPLETE FOR THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
Author: Mark W. Theisen
Photo by  Brady Whitesel - BroncosPitstop.com
Photo by Brady Whitesel - BroncosPitstop.com
May 20th 2012 - INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA May 20, 2012:    With only 33 engine programs available for the Indianapolis 500 this year today’s “bump day” qualifications was somewhat anticlimactic but none-the-less the teams had to go through the program to officially qualify for the 96th running of the Indy 500 next Sunday.

     With the warmest temperatures of the month predicted for today it was all business for the 9 cars that remained to run the qualifying program and eight of the nine cars were on the track for the 9:00 A.M. practice that precluded the noon start time for the qualifying runs.

    The eight cars included those of Bryan Clauson and Oriol Servia that were severely damaged in accidents yesterday and necessitated yeoman type repairs to get them in race trim for today.

     The crews of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing worked all night long to ready the cars for today.  The third car that was damaged yesterday was that of Ed Carpenter whose team elected to not rebuild the primary car and went to the back-up or “T” car.

     As soon as the cars of Clauson and Servia were returned to the garage yesterday damage was assessed and re-builds were commenced that resulted in overnight work just to be ready for today and they were.

     Simona de Silvestro was first out in her Lotus and she completed her four lap run with an average speed of 214.393, which was consistent with the speeds she had posted in practice runs leading up to qualifying.  The Lotus program and its problems have been well documented and for the idea of just making the race was a major accomplishment.

     Mike Conway in the A.J. Foyt primary car was second out to qualify at 222.319 followed by Sebastien Bourdais at 223.760 which turned out to be the quick 4 lap average of today’s qualifying efforts.

     Katherine Legge, Servia, Wade Cunningham and Jean Alesi followed quickly with attempts that locked them into the 500 field.  Lotus’ Alesi was the slowest qualifier of the day at 210.094 some 16 miles-per-hour slower than Ryan Briscoe’s pole winning speed yesterday.

     That left Clauson and Carpenter left to make the race.  Clauson took to the track at 12:56 P.M. but left the track before completing a lap with some additional mechanical gremlins following the overnight repair of the car.

     At 1:15 he was ready to make his run and rather than risk an all out assault was content with four laps in the mid-teens to average 214.455 and make the race just ahead of the Lotus entries.

     Carpenter filled the field with a 222.324 miles-per-hour average in his back-up car and was elated to have this all behind him.  “It’s been really hard then past twenty-four hours,” said Carpenter, “I never really liked the four-lap qualifying here at Indy, even though it is part of the tradition.  Now that we finally have this behind us we can work on our race set up.

      And that is what exactly filled the rest of the day at the Speedway, work on race day set-ups for all the teams remembering that the new Dallara DW-12 chassis is still very much a work in progress.

     Advance weather forecasts for race day next Sunday are for temperatures in the 90’s with higher humidity readings that have been seen thus far this month.  Today’s’ temperatures mirror those of the forecast so it became a rare opportunity to test for what is perceived to be the exact same conditions.

     Today was also costly to the Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Team as he lost control of his car in the first turn and struck the Safer Barrier in the short chute damaging his primary car.  The good news is that they have time to rebuild the car, the bad news; they missed out on valuable practice time.

     Teams were back at the mandated 130 kPs boost level after going through the additional boost added for qualifications and it became important to continue work on how the new chassis pokes holes in the air and what the turbulence created will do once in race conditions.  To simulate that teams had there drivers run in tandem around the track to simulate what would happen during the race and after analyzing the results determine their race strategy.

     Practice now ends until Friday when the teams get one additional hour to tweak their cars for the final during the traditional “Carburetion Day” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    I will be at the track next Friday to give a final report before the big race next Sunday.