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Indy 500: Storms hit, as Dragon call it a day

22 May 2011

With the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a standstill after a violent but very brief thunderstorm deluged the track, Dragon Racing finally came to the end of the road.

"What a disappointing day for Dragon Racing," came the announcement via the team's Twitter account. "Thank you everyone for your support this month! We will see you in Texas in a few weeks!"

That was the announcement from Jay Penske's team that they had come to the end as far as their campaign to enter the 2011 Indianapolis 500 goes. The team are already packing up and leaving the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It comes after the team drafted in veteran Champ Car driver Patrick Carpentier to help them with their set-up problems, only for the 39-year-old Canadian to plant the #20 into the wall during the Sunday morning practice/warm-up.

Their driver - F1 and NASCAR star Scott Speed - had reportedly badly fallen out with the team on Friday as relations had descended into a shouting match between team and driver. At the heart of it was the team frustrated with Speed not being fast enough, and Speed objecting to being asked to drive a dangerously loose car. Carpentier's accident rather proves his point, and Speed said that while he took no satisfaction in the morning's crash it had at least rekindled his faith that he knew what he was talking about when it came to race cars.

With the team's other car, the #8, destroyed in Ho-Pin Tung's qualification accident on Saturday afternoon, the team went on the hunt for anyone who could suddenly produce a spare car that they could use, such as Sarah Fisher Racing which has the driverless #57 still in the garage awaiting a decision by the team.

But the search came up dry and the team had to face the fact that there were simply no more spare cars available to them, and were left with no choice but to pack up and go home.

Meanwhile, qualification on Bump Day had been suspended after a powerful thunderstorm hit Indianapolis at 12.10pm local time, sending fans, teams and drivers scurrying for cover as torrential rain and lightning hit the facility. The storm was so powerful that the power to the media cetre was interrupted, and observers estimated that over half an inch of rain fell in just two and a half minutes.

Dreyer & Reinbold's Ana Beatriz and Chip Ganassi junior team's Graham Rahal were the only drivers to have undertaken qualification runs and by default they are now on the grid for the Indy 500, until they are beaten by faster times. All four Andretti Autosport drivers - including Danica Patrick and Mike Conway - are among those needing to make runs today.

Within minutes the storm had passed, and soon the skies were bright blue and temperatures back in the 80s Fahrenheit. But further thunderstorms have been detected in the area and may hit at any time.

The organisers now have to dry the track before qualification can continue. if there are further storms, and Bump Day can't be completed, then it will be finished tomorrow with teams limited to just one qualification run-through apiece. Up to 15 drivers are expected to compete over the remaining positions on the grid before the end of qualification at 6pm local time.


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