Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rain, Rain Go Away!

There's nothing more depressing than rain at the racetrack, and when it rains on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's doubly bad.

For the first time since 1983, Opening Weekend at the Brickyard passed without a polesitter being determined for "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing." Three days of virtually non-stop rain forced Indy Racing League officials to postpone qualifying until this Saturday; a full week behind schedule. Under the revised format, all 33 positions in the `500' field will be determined Saturday, allowing the remainder of the month to run according to original plans.

"You can't control it," moaned IRL President Brian Barnhart Sunday. "You take the situation as it's dealt to you, and make decisions based on what's in the best interest for everybody." Barnhardt and Track President Joie Chitwood initially considered bumping qualifying to Monday, but problems with staffing (apparently, you can run a massive racetrack like IMS without employees) and TV commitments -- not to mention forecasts for another three days of rain -- made the idea unworkable.

Thus, the entire Indy 500 field will be filled Saturday, in a chaotic day that will potentially feature at least 99 qualifying attempts; three each for a minimum of 33 teams. The track is closed today, with practice scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. "Bump Day" is set for Sunday, with the field for the May 28th race locked-in at that point.

While the rain threw a proverbial monkey wrench into most teams' plans, last weekend's postponement may actually work in favor of a few low-buck operations. A handful of teams had already delayed their Indy debuts until this week, taking advantage of a cut-rate Honda engine lease program that allows them to compete only in Week Two, for about half the price of a full "Month of May" deal.

A number of teams are now poised to take advantage of that opportunity. John Andretti is rumored to have a deal afloat to run the `500' with a yet-unnamed team (tune into today's show for more on this), while Team Leader Motorsports owners Greg Beck and Kent Baker will field a team car to Stephan Gregoire's entry, with P.J. Jones at the wheel. Old friend Davey Hamilton is also rumored to be in line for a second Eddie Cheever Racing seat; his first IndyCar start since that horrifying crash at Texas in June of 2001.

Those late arrivals can -- theoretically at least -- make a run for the Indianapolis 500 pole, if they can overcome a severe lack of testing and practice time. Most likely, however, the pole will be decided between Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon, and Marlboro Team Penske teammates Sam Hornish, Jr., and Helio Castroneves. Hornish has been the fastest man on the property all month, but Wheldon stole his spot at the top of the speed charts in a brief, rain-free period Sunday, ripping off a lap of 228.663 mph -- nearly two mph faster than Hornish's previous best. Hornish also improved to 228.220 in the session, and expressed little concern with Wheldon's sudden burst of speed, saying, "He was (drafting) us. That's OK. We know what we're capable of doing by ourselves."

The ever-confident Wheldon disagreed, saying, "The way we've gone about qualifying differs from Penske. I think it'll be a race for the pole."

It's shaping up to be an interesting few days in Indianapolis, especially if you put any stock in rumors of a reunification announcement by Indy Racing League CEO Tony George and Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. The railbirds say the announcement -- if it comes -- is scheduled for the week before the `500' itself.


  1. Anonymous12:47 PM

    I think the rain did what IMS officials should have had the guts to do in the first place - push back qualifying one week and get everything done in two days. It's ridiculous to try and stretch this out over two weekends when there are barely enough cars to fill the field.

    As far as John Andretti goes, I think the title "Busch series rookie" would be more approprate than "Star". While he has "stared" in many of the Busch race highlights on TV, it's usually been because he was in the middle of a wreck. I'm not sure if "star" can be applied to someone who has yet to finish in the top 5 for a race in that series.

    I think his potenial deal at Indy is for field filler material at best.

  2. Finally, someone who thinks John Andretti shoud qualify as a Busch Series rookie!

  3. Anonymous2:01 PM

    Recall the percentage rule? It may be thrown under the rug from whats being said, also look at the time charts and start at the leader then break the undercrust, ridebuying TG suckup schhhleps may just make them greatest 33! Today, race trim, take a look. Before when they were running flat out? look at the charts. Seems theres some bottom dwellers that break the rules when trying to uphold the percentage rule, and as I've looked tonight, infact thats the case.

    Tony did say 33 is just a number. He's financed 10 cars, the bottom of his spree is under the percentage (note: not all), anyone wanna bet these puke bags don't force the rule?

    Indy is so tarnished, so lost and guideless that these yellowshirt totting jacktards along with the heads up above that they dont even see how far this bit** has fallen. Break another rule IMS, lets see it. Tradition means shi* to the head gomer in charge, if it did even by a shread or even by the rules, Indy would never make the cut, well atleast getting 33. Pathetic. Good example below, what a pathetic sham, heres hoping the media gets a grip of this, in which they will. Robin Miller wasn't scribbling chaulk on the wall, he's dang close to the number of cars funded, he nailed it.

    The depth that Michael Andretti boasts about? What a pathetic piece of old news you are. See you in ALMS, and Kanaan is ready to go back road racing. and umm, so is Danica. The whole upper crust of the league is plagued with CART/CC drivers and owners and I cant wait for the mergers to dissolve. Enjoy.

    Practice session1:
    P1 - 224.811
    P26 (last car out) - 213.225

    Practice session2:
    P1 - 226.056
    P23 - 213.007

    Practice session6(gap from rain):
    P1 - 228.663
    P24 - 215.792

    Practice session7(race trim)
    P1 - 224.381
    P31 - 204.824

    Practice session8(race trim)
    P1 - 224.951
    P30 - 203.629

    What a pathetic over the shoulder pitch of status, whata shame. QUestion is will the irl plow down on Indy rules? I hear "no". This is a recipie for dissaster, death and injury and by looking at time this year, the bottom 1/3 of the Indy field is filled full of drivers that could invite the grim reaper, its pretty sad stuff, but I hope for one thing, nobody that supports this pathetic league moans when something bad happens, theres some big folks at the Speedway that feel that way. What a shame and its truely sad in my heart what once was the greatest race is merely filled with IRL regulars with a bunch of check cashing morons thinking they'll hit the front row (yes, Marty Roth did say he thinks he could be there).

    Internaly sad, rebuild it or kill this once great tradition.