How dry I am. So far, so good at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Indy Racing League’s Indianapolis 500 Fast Friday practice. The skies are heavily overcast with a stiff breeze which feels stronger than six mph. The temperatures are in the high sixties.

At the half way mark in the six-hour session, RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske is fastest at 225.981 mph/39.8263, closely followed by team mate, HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 at 225.438 mph/39.9223 – the only two drivers in the 225’s.

There were two accidents into the Turn Two SAFER wall in the first half of practice. Both drivers have been seen and released, cleared to drive. ROBERT DOORNBOS/No.06 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing incurred moderate car damage. Sharp spun this way and that before right side hitting the  wall. Turn Two has been the scene of all hits so far this week.

SEEN SCENE: Among the drivers looking for rides this week so far: BRUNO JUNQUEIRA,  JAQUES LAZIER, DARREN MANNING, ROBERTO MORENO, and some expect JIMMY KITE and ROGER YASUKAWA to come on campus.

Honda has been the sole engine supplier in Indy Racing League since 2006 and this year could be the best-ever year for Indy 500 engine leases. Last year there were 36 combinations, and this year’s 34 could increase by race day. The first week engine leases cost more than the second due to more on-track time/days.

The higher cost for engine leases the first of the two Indy 500 practice/qualifying weekends is based on “expected mileage and Honda’s direct operation costs (the number of people Honda must have on site, shipping, etc.) It is not based on the number of days run, so as far as Honda knows, it is not ‘discounting’ the first week lease cost for any rain days

An engine usually lasts 1400 miles. After that, the team can lease a new one. A team can request a change before that milestone; but if the engine is rebuilt and nothing wrong is found, the rebuild will cost the team. If there is a problem, then it’s like ‘under warranty.’

There were no Honda engine failures during any 2008 race, although there were two in practice. This year so far, the only engine problem was at Kansas Speedway last weekend during practice. Not having engine failures in a race means a lot to Honda, which doesn’t want to affect the outcome of a race or championship.

Honda doesn’t relish the role of sole engine supplier, and welcomes competition in 2012 – the year for which IRL has solicited bids. So far there have been two meetings with interested parties. The first meeting had a dozen or so manufacturers and engine tuners. The second meeting was with engine manufacturers only, including VW-Audi group which now includes Porsche which was just bought out by VW; and the Fiat group, which includes Ferrari, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo – which is only sold by Maserati dealers in the United States. Fiat is involved now in the Chrysler problems and may or may not buy into or out Chrysler.

The evolutionary IRL car changes for 2009 include a new exhaust system which is quieter, and carbon clutches designed to last longer. The changes are polishing and refining the product, keeping down the cost while increasing reliability.