INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, May 16, 2011) – Three hours before the green flag flew to start the six-hour practice session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Alex Tagliani bounded into the Sam Schmidt Motorsports garage and started preparing for the day’s activity.
“He’s amped up,” team owner Sam Schmidt laughed following the daily engineering meeting.
Stretching out the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time was the best remedy for two weeks of on-track inactivity since the IZOD IndyCar Series race in Brazil for the Quebec native, and he enjoyed the ride. Tagliani topped the speed chart with a best lap (of his 17) of 225.878 mph — the best of the nine-plus total hours of track time.
Seven different teams were represented in the top 10 as 39 drivers recorded 1,379 laps in a stiff, cool breeze without incident. Rookie Jay Howard was the lone entrant not to make an appearance — by design based on tire management. The field was separated by a scant 1.2 seconds.
Scott Dixon (225.124) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Graham Rahal (225.071) of Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing, Ryan Briscoe (225.016) of IZOD Team Penske and Oriol Servia (224.903) of Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing filled out the top five.
A year ago, preparations for the Indianapolis 500 didn’t kick off as Tagliani would have planned.
As the one-day snapshot of track activity revealed, there will be a number of strong teams rising for Pole Day/Tom Carnegie Day (May 21) and the 100th anniversary race May 29. Dixon, Rahal, Briscoe, Dario Franchitti — the reigning Indy 500 champion of Target Chip Ganassi Racing — Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport, Vitor Meira of A.J. Foyt Racing, and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves have been in the top 10 both days of practice as teams progress through their test programs.
FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF PRACTICE:
Fastest rookie: #4 JR Hildebrand, 20th, 223.201