Rain Rain Go Away! Come Again Another Day!

Again, weather has been the focus of all things at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. Wednesday night the tornado sirens went off again signaling bad windy thunderstormy weather. And on cue, it hit long and hard and more than once.

Thursday mid-morning the track was dry enough for ten minutes. That gave all eighteen Firestone Indy Lights drivers enough track time to turn six-twelve laps before the rain started in again. Practice and Qualifying were on hold. Then Qualifying became the priority but didn’t happen. The grid for Friday’s Firestone Freedom 100 race was (finally) set by entrant points.

Rookie BRYAN CLAUSON/No.77 Mazda Road to Indy/CURB Records/Sam Schmidt Motorsports has the pole in a car he has never raced before this weekend. The entrant points are courtesy of CONOR DALY, who was leading the points after the last (third) race in Long Beach. At the time, Daly had said it would be his last Lights race until summer, because of his conflicts with the full GP3 series he is running in Europe with the Formula One races. Daly flew back and forth for awhile for Indy Lights and GP3 testing; but now he’s concentrating on his overseas formula career, which includes a full GP3 season. Daly had earned the full-season Indy Lights ride for winning the 2010 Star Mazda championship, which is part of the Mazda development ladder in open wheel racing, leading ultimately to Indycar.

Conor Daly
Conor Daly at LBGP
Daly is already here at the Indy 500, but just as an interested fan, not driver. His dad and manager, DEREK DALY, is doing race coverage for the local CBS affiliate, WISH TV.

Clauson was suitably thankful to his absent teammate for the pole position, which brought with it the Sunoco Pole Award of $5000.

Schmidt Motorsports also has the pole in the Indy 500 with driver ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 Bowers & Wilkins Sam Schmidt Motorsports. SSM has four drivers in the Lights race, all Rookies: Clauson, JOSEF NEWGARDEN/No.11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong SSM-P2; ESTEBAN GUERRIERI/No.7 Lucas Oil/SSM-P5 and VICTOR CARBONE/No.3 Nevi/SSM in P13.

Schmidt brought in two Indy Lights champions to coach/mentor his four drivers. ALEX LLOYD, who is racing in the Indy 500 for DALE COYNE, will coach Carbone, who just graduated high school in Miami, while Cunningham will coach the other three – including Garcia, who flew home to Spain for his finals.

Dario Franchitti's car
Dario Franchitti's car, in Quarter-Finals
Also on the schedule for Friday is the IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge. There’s big money to be had, not to mention bragging rights all around. The complicated (to me at least) bracket system starts out with 12 teams. Eight teams go at it in Round One, with those four winners competing with four different teams for Round Two/Quarter Finals. The teams get winnowed down further for the Semi-Finals, and the Finals have the two remaining teams going for the prize. The winning team gets $50,000, second place receives $30.000 and the third placed team gets $20,000.

The crews will perform the usual pit stop tasks of changing four tires, plus simulating a fuel hookup. Just like in real life, loose lug nuts, running over air hoses or other infractions gain time penalties.

HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske has won the last two years and five times total, and Team Penske has won 12 times, all records.

VERSUS TV will include the Pit Stop Challenge as part of its live TV Carb Day coverage, 11am-4pm ET.

While it was the E.J. Viso/No.57 PDVSA-KV Racing Technology-Lotus guys intently watching the Team Penske crews repeatedly practice their pit stops Monday, it is Viso’s KV teammate who will be in the competition: TAKUMO SATO/No.5 team, now renamed Monavie-KVRT-Lotus, acknowledging the brand new sponsorship of Monavie.

Fuzzy VodkaSpeaking of sponsorship, the Fuzzy Vodka sponsorship which had been on No.20 Dragon Racing before both team cars crashed, will now be found on the No.44 Panther Racing car driven by BUDDY RICE.