INDIANAPOLIS (May 20, 2011) – Seven days of practice seemed like a lot of track time as preparations began last week for this year’s Indianapolis 500. And while rains washed out nearly half of the scheduled practice time, it didn’t make a dent in tomorrow’s qualifying schedule, leaving teams just one more day to get their Indy cars ready for pole qualifying. With that in mind, Rahal Letterman Lanigan went out and got ready, topping 228 mph for the first time all month in Friday’s practice session.
Both Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) their best days of the month as they got ready for their four-lap qualifying attempts around the 2.5-mile IMS oval tomorrow.
Baguette carded his best lap ever here at Indy as the Belgian clocked a top time of 228.028 mph (39.4688 seconds). The time, which was the team’s best of the month on either of its two cars, put Baguette in the fifth spot on the speed sheets after today’s six-hour practice session. He ran 49 laps in all today, and posted his best time on the 48th of those 49 laps.
“We are extremely pleased with how things went today and I think that we had a really good day,” Baguette said. “We worked a lot on our qualifying setup and we found many good things in the car. At the end of the day, the car was really quick and consistent and that’s what we were looking for. Now we just have to do it again tomorrow.”
Howard, who is looking to earn a berth in his first Indy 500, fought all day long again, and again reaped the rewards late in the session carding a best lap of 225.360 mph (39.9361 seconds). He turned 37 laps, with his top effort coming on the last of his 37 passes
“We tried a lot of things with our car today, some of them worked, some of them didn’t, some of them we will use tomorrow as well,” quipped Howard. “We have decent speed, but we can’t get comfortable yet. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow and we hope to do as well tomorrow as we have all week.”
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars will spend the night working on the cars, getting them ready for tomorrow’s qualifying. The team will have the benefit of 90 minutes of practice tomorrow morning, prior to the 11 a.m. start of single-car qualifying. Each team will have a place in line based on a random draw, which sets the order for the first round of qualifying only. After a team makes its first run, it can get back in line for another run as conditions warrant, up until 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., the fastest nine cars will then re-qualify in a shootout style competition to determine the polesitter and the front row for the May 29th 100th anniversary running of the Indy 500.
Today’s 100th anniversary Indy 500 fun fact
In 1960, Jack Brabham became the first F1 World Champion to run the Indy 500. Alberto Ascari ran Indy in 1952, which was the year he won the F1 championship, but he had not yet been crowned champion. Ascari finished 31st at Indy — the only race he failed to win all season long!