Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Open the gates and let the Speed start flowing - ROP / Opening Weekend Preview

Open the gates and let the Speed start flowing – ROP / Opening Weekend Preview

The 95th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, May 29th, and the preparation officially starts Thursday May 12th. Officially opening day is Saturday May 14th, but Thursday May 12th will mark the first day cars take to the track, with eight rookies expected to complete Rookie Orientation Process. IndyCar Garage tells you what to watch for the first weekend of track activity.

1. Eight Rookies highlight a strong crop of newcomers

Eight rookies will try and complete ROP two days before the track officially opens for practice. Jay Howard, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Man, Scott Speed, James Jakes, Ho-Pin Tung and J.R. Hildebrand all will take laps at the 2.5 mile oval. Only Jay Howard has completed laps in the current IZOD IndyCar, as he failed to qualify for last year’s race with Sarah Fisher Racing. Rookies that struggle during ROP could be an early indicator of drivers on the hot seat to make the field of 33.
2. The search for speed will be immediate

Over 40 driver/car combos are confirmed, and there could possibly be one more if Sarah Fisher Racing decides to run the #57 entry. 40 represents the highest number of car/driver combos entered for the race since 2002, the year before the current car was introduced. Milka Duno, Paul Tracy, Jay Howard, and Jacque Lazier all failed to qualify on bump day, and this year that list will grow to seven, possibly eight drivers. The current car hasn’t changed much over the last year, so finding every second of speed will be very important for all teams.

3. The Weather can’t be an issue

The weather forecast looks spotty for next week, but there should be enough track time for everyone to figure out the nine year old Dallara. With the condensed, but action packed schedule in year two, (one weekend of qualifications) a big weather front that moves in could drastically impact the rookies and the hype of Pole Day/Bump Day weekend.

4. Pole Speed?

Helio hit 227 during the fast 9 shootout last year, could we see 228 or higher this year? It would be cool to see 230, but I just don’t think we’ll see much past 227 or tops 228. I am sure some of the cars will pull some high numbers in ideal temperatures and with a toe, we could possibly see 229, but for pole speed.,Expect about what we saw last year.

5. Several new livery’s will debut

With the expanded entry list of 40 car/driver combos, several cars will be sporting different looking rides. Helio Castroneves will the Shell designed car, Ryan Briscoe will be back with the IZOD car, Bruno Junqueira will carry the orange coyote colors from A.J. Foyt’s 1977 winning car, Tomas Sheckter will show off the Redline Extreme colors, Scott Speed will bring back Fuzzys Vodka on his Dragon Racing car, and Ed Carpenter will show off Dollar General for the first time in 2011. Find a spotter guide when you get to the track!

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