Friday’s Miller Lite Carb Day crowd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the largest locals have seen in a long time. It was a mob scene everywhere, inside and outside the track. Teeming masses of humanity as far as the eye could see. Getting into the track was a long and laborious process, even for those with the right credentials, parking passes and insider knowledge of secret ways into the track.
The Friday activities included an hour-long IndyCar practice for the Indianapolis 500 drivers, the hour-long Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 Race, the Pit Stop Challenge, and exhibition laps of vintage Indy 500 cars…among other things. A myriad of other activities kept folks busy all day.
The weather was warm and muggy with little in the way of a breeze. The skies were somewhat blue but mostly cloudy, but there were bare bodies everywhere.
It was a Red Letter Day for HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske. He was fastest in the morning practice session with a time of 223.920. “It felt really good. It felt awesome. I’m very confident and comfortable in the car. It was nice to have that right before the race. The weather on Race Day is going to be very similar to what it was today. It was important for us to run today. I feel very confident. I can’t wait for Sunday, I’ll tell you that. It’s going to be a long race and a lot of things can happen, but I can’t wait for Sunday.”
Moments before the Pit Stop Challenge, HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske was told by his father and sister that federal government prosecutors dropped the final and remaining tax evasion charge of conspiracy. When asked about it, Castroneves gave a hugh sigh, paused and got emotional. “It feels awesome. I have to thank the team who were behind me all the time. With this news as well, I’m thankful. I had a fair trial and this is the last page of my book.” He wasn’t sure just when the news would really sink in – later today, after the race, or ???
After learning the good legal news, Castroneves and his crack over the wall crew led by Chief Mechanic RICK RINAMAN went out and aced the annual Pit Stop Challenge. “This one is for them. It’s so special. If I screw up, I’ll hear about it until next year. They know my style, what I like and what I don’t like. I can trust these guys.”
Castroneves/Rinaman’s winning time in the last round was 7.962 seconds, the fastest ever time in the competition. He bested MARCO ANDRETTI/No.26 Andretti Green Racing, whose time was 9.456 seconds.
Castroneves pointed out afterwards, that during the preceding rounds leading up to the finals his team did a 7.6-second stop. This was the third straight Pit Stop victory for Castroneves and Rinaman and his crew. Castroneves estimated that during the rounds his team changed forty tires with nary a mistake.
In the 32 years of the contest, Penske Racing has won eleven times, including the last four. Last year’s contest was rained out.
Rinaman, who is also the outside front tire changer, said “It was the most gut wrenching thing I do all year. This is what we do. This one is for Roger.” Other members of the crew include Inside front tire hanger, MATT ROSENTEL; outside rear changer, ERIC PRENTICE; inside rear changer, CORY ODENBRETT; jackman PAT HOZZA; and fueler, JOHN HASLETT.
The winning team receives $40,000 of the $90,000 purse.