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2011 Indy 500 practice sessions // Preparations begin for the highlight event of the IndyCar season

Published by Pat W

Hello and welcome to the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race!

Introduction

This post is for comments and discussion during the rest of what locals term 'The Month of May', as the anticipation builds towards the biggest and most important Indy 500 since the dark days of 'The Split'. Here we'll be talking about practice sessions over the coming week, with lap speeds and all the gossip and chatter from Gasoline Alley - the fabled paddock area at Indy. Next week there will be a follow-up post for the two qualifying days, and the week after that comes the race itself.

Rejuvination

Why is this the most important of recent times? Well, there are a reported 41 car/driver combinations plus backup cars, which is easily the most since 1995 when Indycar racing split into two camps, diluting the field.

A great many of those in the middle-to-bottom half of the field are quality drivers too, unlike the 'field fillers' we've seen in recent years. Not only will there be a battle for pole (almost certainly between Ganassi and Penske cars), there will also be a real scramble just to qualify for the race. As relayed by James Hinchliffe in a tweet, at the drivers' meeting earlier today, INDYCAR's Chief Steward Brian Barnhardt told the drivers: "41 cars for 33 spots will be tough. You have to beat 8 cars just to be last".

The unified IZOD IndyCar Series certainly is getting back on its feet and getting noticed again and one day soon the Indianapolis 500 will regain its rightful place as one of the great events in world motorsport. Perhaps that day will be the 29th of May, 2011.

Quote of the day from BB in drivers meeting. "41 cars for 33 spots will be tough. You have to beat 8 cars just to be last". That sums it up!

Hinchtown Hinchtown

Entrants

There is a PDF entry list here (including backup cars).

Most of the series regulars will be taking part and you can expect Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske to top the timesheets. Franchitti, Dixon and Castroneves in particular run very well at Indy.

If it is no surprise to see those guys at the front, what about the interest elsewhere? There are a tonne of storylines to develop over the next week or so and we should hopefully see some answers to these questions:

  • How fast will Andretti Autosport be this year? They've got Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and this year they've brought in Mike Conway, who had that spectacular and shocking crash in last year's '500'. Mike is up to full fitness again but will he be spooked? RHR is fast but he's had a terrible start to the year, getting caught up in all sorts of accidents and reliability problems, he'll be looking for a solid run this week.
  • Will Paul Tracy qualify this year? He'll hope to post some fast times in the week to make sure of it, after being 'bumped' out of the field at the last minute in qualifying in 2010. He's with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for this event.
  • Dragon Racing, run by Roger Penske's son Jay, did a deal to run Tracy for the season but that came after the DRR ride was signed. Who does Dragon call to fill-in for Indy? None other than Scott Speed, the former F1 Scuderia Toro Rosso and NASCAR Red Bull Racing driver makes his IndyCar debut at this event. He has never raced a fast open-wheel car on an oval before but with his experience and with this fast team, he should be one to watch. His team-mate is none other than Renault F1 reserve and former GP2 driver Ho-Pin Tung who is completely new to ovals.
  • Newman Haas has been improving all year over their form of recent years, aiming to recapture past glories after a barren spell. Can underrated old hand Oriol Servia and newcomer James Hinchcliffe run fast enough to spring a few surprises?
  • Sebastién Bourdais will sadly not be racing, Alex Lloyd returns to the series and will run the oval events in the Dale Coyne entry alongside newcomer James Jakes, who moves up from GP2 and hasn't raced an oval before.
  • Plenty of rookies in the field, some up from Indy Lights and some new to ovals completely. How many of those will get up to speed? This week we'll see what sort of times they are capable of.

There are a lot more stories, far more than can be covered here. I'm sure we'll talk about several of them during the week.

How to watch?

Just head to IndyCar Race Control for a live video feed as well as live timing and a live track map. You don't even need an account, it has been opened up to everybody for Indianapolis practice sessions! You will need to sign up for qualifying and the race though.

Do also keep an eye on Twitter for the hashtags #Indy500 and #IndyCar, the IndyCar community - both participants and fans - were early adopters of social media and they cover everything comprehensively.

Qualifying and the race will be much harder to follow as they are controversially not online this season, only live timing is online, and qualifying is only televised live in North America on the Versus and TSN networks. The race will be ABC in the US and Sky Sports in the UK. There will be more details about race and qualifying coverage next week.

Enjoy the week!




Hello and welcome to the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race!This post is for comments and discussion during the rest of what locals term 'The Month of May', as the anticipation builds towards the biggest and most important Indy 500 since the dark days of 'The Split'. Here we'll be talking about practice sessions over the coming week, with lap speeds and all the gossip and chatter from Gasoline Alley.

Event start

17:00GMT +01:00

14 May 2011