Weather continues to be the overriding factor for many things at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the days leading up to Sunday’s 100th celebration of the Indianapolis 500. Wednesday, for fan-friendly Community Day, it started out warm and breezy. It turned mid-afternoon and for the first time in my life, I heard a Tornado Siren. The wind had already turned fierce, and the clouds were moving in; and they weren’t little nice, white fluffy ones. But, only a few drops of rain.

The loudest thing heard Wednesday was the tornado siren, something I’ve never before heard. We don’t have them in the SF Bay Area.

Not very many of the fans seemed to be concerned – despite the PA announcements about when to take shelter. They were more interested in retaining their places in the long queue for the three autograph sessions with all of the Indy 500 drivers. They had to get a wrist band, which was good for all three sessions, but no guarantee that they would be able to get signatures from all 33 drivers. Large signboards indicated which drivers were in which session.

However, discretion being the better part of valor, I left from the furthest away spot in the garages and headed for the four-story Media Center. I learned the safest place was in the tunnel behind the Media Center.

No cars on course Wednesday, and not even a running engine was heard. Even if noise was allowed, the teams didn’t yet have their new Honda race engines. Those will be delivered late Wednesday, in time for installation and preparation to run them on Friday’s Carb Day.

Meanwhile, most teams have their tubs up on jacks, looking lonely, awaiting their new race parts. Honda has a lease engine program of one kind or another with each team. The IZOD IndyCar drivers have practice 11am-noon on Friday; and from 1:30pm-3pm is the Pit Stop Competition.

RHR car
RHR car

Fans had free run of the place Wednesday, so they were all over the garage area seeking sights and signatures of their faves. Some drivers were tied up in meetings, others not available, or not present. One driver, RYAN HUNTER-REAY, was briefly made available for local TV, in the Andretti garage. He said: he had sleepless nights before Bump Day, but intimated not since; was proud to be with this (Andretti) team; was just about to learn exactly how the team/pit crew staffing was to be for his race; the driver/car swap had nothing to do with points; and it had to do with the betterment/business of the team. RHR stressed emphatically that “It’s NOT about me!”

The bright yellow No.28 Sun Drop/DHL race car very visible in the Andretti Autosport garages is RHR’s car for the race at Texas Motor Speedway.

2012 Concept car
2012 Dallara Aerokit Road Car Concept
The current IndyCar rules allow for all kinds of driver swaps and it is the car which qualifies for the Indy 500, not the driver. IndyCar wants to be able to have driver substitutions in case of a driver injury (such as the burned hands of SIMONA DE SILVESTRO/No.78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Racing), driver accidents, or other reasons why a driver can’t compete as planned. The rules are written/rewritten over the winter by BRIAN BARNHART, President, Competition and Racing Operations, and TONY COTMAN – a man of many titles such as Consultant for the 2012 IndyCar car, Race Director for Indy Lights, etc. Barnhart and Cotman work with a group of people on the rules, which are presented to the drivers at the January pre-season meeting. While the drivers haven’t had much input in the past, now that there’s an IndyCar Drivers Committee (DARIO FRANCHITTI, TONY KANAAN and JUSTIN WILSON), they will be asked for input.

Thursday morning IndyCar officials will have their meeting with the pit stop crew chiefs to select the brackets for Friday’s/Carb Day pit stop competition.

As of this writing the Tornado has either come and gone, or skipped the Speedway.