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2013 Indy 500 Press Snoop: The morning after the night before

19 May 2013

Ed Carpenter will start from pole position for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 next week alongside fellow front row men Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti, but outside the front three rows the grid is far from set just yet.

The back three rows - positions 25 through 33 - are all up for grabs, with ten drivers going for the nine spots. Someone is going to miss out, as Bump Day promised to live up to its name in 2013 after taking a year off in 2012.

It's even possible that some of the frustrated Honda teams such as Ganassi such in the midfield might gamble by withdrawing their existing grid times and trying for a better run on Sunday if conditions are looking promising and performance enhancements have been found overnight.

So, lots still to hold the attention at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the sun breaks over the 2.5-mile circuit on Sunday morning, which started with an hour-long free practice for all cars before the serious business of Bump Day qualifying laps gets underway.

The forecast for Sunday is sunny with some clouds and a high of 84F - it's already 63F as practice begins and rose to 74F over the ensuing hour. Whether and how long these favourable conditions hold is another matter, as we've seen over the last couple of days. With all the rainfall the past couple of days - including Saturday night long after Pole Day activities had concluded - there are huge areas of inaccessible grassy lots, making parking for spectators an even greater challenge.

But at least the garage area is warm and sunny and relatively quiet on Sunday morning, with very few fans to observe the several garages working away preparing cars for the practice and/or qualifying to come. It seems that more than a few teams are sleeping in.

Conor Daly was the first driver be be seen, suited up and ready to go in the AJ Foyt Racing garage. He didn't get any qualifying in on Saturday afternoon as the car blew a header, and the damage had proved more extensive than initially thought. However, the Honda engineers worked late into Saturday night putting the car back together, and Daly confirmed that there had been no enforced engine change - but he's eager for some power to go faster. He's one of the ten drivers who have to make or break it in Sunday afternoon's qualifying session.

“It's better now that we've got the full horsepower program," he said, after finishing fourth after 25 laps in the one-hour practice having been the only Rookie on course.

Over in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports garage, the crew was putting the final and finishing touches on the #81 Angie's List Honda for Katherine Legge, who was a last minute entry on Saturday and still having her seat fitting as Pole Day qualifying was going on.

“I've always wanted to do the Indy 500″ said Legge. She ran mid-pack in the Sunday practice session reaching 223.191mph during 24 laps. When asked about her feelings and comments about the problems with her former team, Dragon Racing, she said in essence that "I'm still bitter," and left it at that.

Surprisingly, Rahal Letterman Lanigan wasn't able to get Graham Rahal locked in to the top 24 on Saturday and are among those drivers who will have to set a new time today. "I'm really disappointed for Graham," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and Graham's father. "Every time we went out the car just went slower.

"The car handles well but we are just lacking," he admitted. "We're going to be in the race but you would like to have been able to focus totally on the race setup. But we will still be able to do a lot of that. I have no doubt that [Bump Day] will be quite fast. It almost doesn't matter where you start this race from."

The good news is that Graham was the fastest in the morning practice hour. "The session was good, he said. “She's better today. She was moody yesterday," he added, in reference to his car - he always refers to his cars as female.

"We had a good time running old tyres," he explained of Saturday's disappointment. "So we strapped on new ones thinking we'd go faster. Didn't.” Rahal said the warmer ambient temperature could have had something to do with the drop in speed, but not that much: "Look at Sato. He went faster."

The Bump Day Qualifying Draw was carried out by blind draw Saturday after Pole Day qualifying had finished. Each car will get two warm-up laps before the four timed qualifying laps. Once the starting field of 33 cars is set, any qualifying attempt that is faster than a qualified entrant in the starting field will 'bump' the slowest qualifier, regardless of which day the qualifying time was set. The 'bumpee' goes in is at the end of the grid, while the 'bumped' driver is removed from the field but has the chance to bump its way back into the starting field as time allows.

Each car is allowed three attempts, so the teams have to plan carefully when and how to run. The initial order (including slots for the spare 'T'-cars) is:

#91 Buddy Lazier (C)
#18 Ana Beatriz (H)
#6 Sebastian Saavedra (C)
#41 Conor Daly (H) *
#55T Tristan Vautier (H) *
#17 Michel Jourdain Jr. (H)
#67T Josef Newgarden (H)
#15 Graham Rahal (H)
#15T Graham Rahal (H)
#81 Katherine Legge (H)
#55 Tristan Vautier (H) *
#63 Pippa Mann (H)
#6T Sebastian Saavedra (C)
#67 Josef Newgarden (H)
#63T Pippa Mann (H)
#17T Michel Jourdain Jr. (H)
#18T Ana Beatriz (H)
#81T Katherine Legge (H)

Reporting from trackside by Lynne Huntting, PressSnoop.com


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