Carpenter Kicks Off 100th Indy 500 With Fastest Lap
Practice got under way Saturday for the 100th anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500 and it was an unlikely driver and team that led the way.
Ed Carpenter, driving for Sarah Fisher Racing, posted the top speed on a day that was cut short by rain.
Sunday’s second day of practice was completely washed out by rain.
Carpenter was quickest of the 32 entrants to get on the 2.5-mile oval with a lap of 224.786 mph (40.0380 seconds).
The lap came on the first day in which Carpenter has climbed into a car in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season.
“We have a different respect for each other than probably other people around because of the way we got here and what it means to us,” Carpender said of working with Fisher for the first time. “It’s just a good group to be around. Sarah and Andy (O’Gara) have done a great job building their team. They do everything they can to get better. The guys work really hard, and today’s a product of that.”
Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner and IZOD IndyCar Series champion, was second in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and JR Hildebrand, who was quickest in breezing through the Rookie Orientation Program on May 12, was third (224.433 mph).
“Today was short and sweet, as we only turned four laps at speed,” Dixon said. “Always great to be back at IMS. Team Target prepped the cars to their usual high standard. Early days, but I can’t wait to get back in the car tomorrow.”
There were 669 laps recorded without incident. Second day track activity, with a more favorable weather forecast, commences at noon May 15.
Reigning Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti (224.107) was fourth in the No. 10
Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, and 2006 race runner-up Marco Andretti (223.927) was fifth in the No. 26 Team Venom car for Andretti Autosport.
Whether shaking down their primary or backup cars, working on running in traffic or seeing how quick they were off the truck, drivers enjoyed the work on the oval. For full-time competitors, their previous track time has been on four road and street courses.
Carpenter, competing in his first IZOD IndyCar Series event of the season – and first for Sarah Fisher Racing in the No. 67 Dollar General car – has a best start of eighth (2010) and finish of eighth (2009) in seven starts. Carpenter, stepson of Indy Racing League founder Tony George, covets a victory in the ‘500′ more than any other.
“It’s only day one, but it’s really exciting to see hard work pay off and see progress,” he said. “We’re going to have to keep up the effort because it’s a long week heading into qualifying, but I definitely like the start that we’re off to.”
Added Fisher, a nine-time Indy 500 starter who announced her retirement from the race car in November: “I was really proud of the boys for starting the month off with little to no error. It was a bonus for Ed to top the charts, but we know we still have a lot more work to accomplish. For this being our first race of the season, we know we have to hit the ground running, and to see the team gelling already is a great testament to our people.”
Other notable Opening Day speeds were posted by 2009 race runner-up Vitor Meira (seventh at 223.192); Paul Tracy (11th at 222.295), who didn’t qualify for the 2010 race; Danica Patrick (12th at 222.232) and 2004 race winner Buddy Rice (14th at 221.461), who’s returned to the track for the first time since 2008.
“We’re really happy with how the day went,” Hildebrand, who is working for the veteran Panther Racing team, said. “I probably could have pulled off an even better lap there, but for me it’s still a matter of understanding what I’m expecting to happen compared to what is actually going to happen when I’m out there. The National Guard car felt good, and we didn’t have anything out of the ordinary, and we understand it’s going to be a whole different gig when there are a bunch of different cars out there, as that creates a lot more turbulent air. Thankfully, through Rookie Orientation and again today we’ve been able to make positive steps every time by making small steps every time. If we can keep up the pace of what we’re doing, then it should be positive as we continue to move forward.”
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