Indianapolis Motor Speedway is officially open for Race Day. The 5:30 am canon went off and early one the Media Center started filling on a steady basis. Outside the many gendarms and Yellow Shirts were directing traffic and the local TV stations are broadcast live, with traffic and weather reports.
The forecast keeps changing, and the possibility of showers seems to be increasing for the afternoon. But this is the Midwest. Wait and see. In the meantime, the clouds started to clear and the breezes were slight. So far, so good.
Thirty-five Boston Marathon runners will have the chance to complete their distaster-delayed race Sunday just prior to the start of the 97th Indianapolis 500 Race.
There have been some changes to the cars since Carb Day. BUDDY LAZIER/Lazier Partners Chevrolet has renamed his car name to The Spirit of Oklahoma to bring attention to the American Red Cross disaster fund relief for the victims of the Oklahoma’s recent tornado. Two more engine changes have occurred – RYAN BRISCO/Chip Ganassi Racing after his (then new) engine fire on Carb Day, and PIPPA MANN/Dale Coyne Racing after the vibration she suffered on Carb Day.
Race Day is all about tradition. There’s a real Celebrity Red Carpet, marching bands, vintage car parades, Driver Introductions, Military Parade Laps and various Memorial Day ceremonies. This year JIM NABORS will be on site in person to sing “Back Home in Indiana”. SANDI PATTY will sing the National Anthem, and MARI HULMAN GEORGE, IMS Chairman of the BOD will give the Command To Start Engines, to the four women and 29 men drivers.
The actual Green Flag is given at 12:12 pm ET after parade and pace laps.
Most IZOD IndyCar drivers had a 9 pm or so curfew Saturday night. Sunday morning they have special Egress Passes which allow for their police-escorts to drive them down certain blocked-off streets so they can make a timely entrance to the track.
Saturday night Media and others braved the cool weather and rain-delayed races out at Lucas Oil Stadium. For those who stuck out the two-hour rain delay, MATTHEW BRABHAM/Andretti Autosport won Round 5 of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires at Lucas Oil Raceway, as part of the bill for the traditional “Night Before the 500”. Brabsy is running the series on a scholarship for winning the 2012 USF2000 Series, both of which are part of the Mazda Road to Indy Program.
NEIL ALBERICO/Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing won the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races earlier in the evening.
The Mazda Road to Indy Program starts with karting, then Skip Barber School Programs, Pacific USF2000, Pro Mazda, Firestone Indy Lights and then IZOD IndyCar. Winners in each category earn a scholarship for the next series, and so it goes.
There are ten of the Mazda Ladder drivers running this year’s Indy 500, who came from one of the Ladder Series – 30 percent of the field, as per DEAN CASE, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Communications Officer. They are: MARCO ANDRETTI, 2005 Indy Lights Series; CONOR DALY, 2010 Star Mazda Series Champion and 2011 Indy Lights; SIMONA DE SILVESTRO, 2009 Formula Atlantic Series; J.R. HILDEBRAND, 2009 Indy Lights Champion; JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, 2009 Indy Lights Series; RYAN HUNTER-REAY, 2002 Forula Atlantic Series; JOSEF NEUGARDEN, 2011 Indy Lights Champion; SIMON PAGENAUD, 2006 Formula Atlantic Champion; GRAHAM RAHAL, 2006 Formula Atlantic Series; and TRISTAN VAUTIER, 2012 Indy Lights Champion.