Saturday the crowds came back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Legends Day by Firestone – another lead-up for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. The weather was pcture-perfect, 75 degrees with just a few photogenic fluffy clouds and a very gentle breeze. There were fans and families everywhere, like a Saturday in the Park.
The Pit Lane grandstands were filled with eager fans to watch the public Indy 500 Drivers’ Meeting, where special awards were presented and each starting driver received his or her Starter’s Ring. Last year’s Indy 500 Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL and his Andretti Autosport team owner, Mario Andretti, received their Baby Borgs. These are smaller versions of the original Indy 500 trophy, which is now valued at $2 million.
This year, perhaps for the first time, the Last Row is filled with drivers who are in that order because they’re driving a car qualified by another driver. INDYCAR rules require cars with a driver change must start at the back despite the qualifying order. The order within that order is based on owner points. This year the Last Row drivers are James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda – for Tristan Vautier; Tristan Vautier/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda – for Carlos Huertas; and Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda – for James Hinchcliffe.
Left to Right: Ryan Briscoe, Tristan Vautier and James Davison. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.
Speaking of Davison, he will be sporting a new livery for the race. It was finished Thursday night and was on the car for Carb Day. He was towed down to Pit Lane Saturday, where his team did an Installation Check – to check some things after changing the engine and doing some settings.
In Gasoline Alley, all was fairly quiet. Very few teams were in evidence – most were closed up tight and the teams had the day off. Takuma Sato/No.14 AbC Supply AJ Foyt Honda was the only car seen going through the Tech Tent.
Everywhere there were tour groups of one kind or another, being led through the garage area with explanations for everything.
Co-team owner, Bobby Rahal/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, was giving a radio interview in front of Firestone. Arie Luyendyk was doing likewise in the Media Center TV booth.
In the Pagoda Patio area, there were mobs of fans queued up quite orderly and patiently for their turn in the Driver Autograph session, which preceded all 33 of the drivers heading downtown to be driven in the annual Indy 500 Festival Parade.
Just prior to the Drivers’ Meeting, vintage cars toured the course for an hour. The noise was quite deafening compared to the high pitched whine of the IndyCars. Afterwards, the cars were on display in the Patio.