Marco Andretti busts a 223.6 lap to lead fourth day of practice
American driver Marco Andretti has had a quiet 2012 season so far, but after leading the Tuesday time sheets at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a lap at 223.676 mph, the pilot of the No. 26 RC Cola/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet is confident of his chances to break through with an Indy 500 victory in a week and a half.
"I'm really pleased with where we are at with the race car so far," said Marco. "I have just been really working on the car in a pack, and just trying to stay flat in traffic. We have the car to the point now that I am confident to say we would be the ones to beat if the race was today.
"The speed on its own, I'm a little concerned about. I've said it before, I'll say it again -- if we start 33rd
, we can still win this race."
Marco led a Chevy-powered 1-2-3 on the sheets, with three-time '500' winner Helio Castroneves claiming the second-fastest lap of the day at 222.025 mph and another Andretti Autosport driver, James Hinchcliffe, going P3 at 221.864 mph.
Work on race setups and running well in the draft continued for teams on Tuesday, and in Marco's mind, the draft will play a key role on Race Day. But while the new Dallara DW12s can create a good tow for another car in its wake, it may also prove problematic if drivers are unable to resist the temptation to make a daring pass going into the tight corners of IMS.
"The thing I am concerned about is the last minute, because what happens is you get a decent tow, but then that last couple of car lengths, it really sucks you in, so a lot of guys are going to be, 'No, I can't get him, can't get him,'" he said. "Then they are going to feel [the tow], and they are going to be doing last-minute dive-bombs.
"That will be interesting, but you just have to be heads-up. That's all."
Chip Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal was the lone Honda-powered driver in Tuesday's "Fast Five" with a lap at 221.855 mph, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay (also of Andretti Autosport) and his best lap of 221.814 mph.
Race setups will likely be the main focus of teams on Wednesday and Thursday, but with 'Fast Friday' looming, you can bet that there's been some thinking around the paddock about the extra boost that all cars will be given for that day and this weekend's qualifications.
"You will be going into the corners 10 mph faster, or whatever it's going to be," said Chip Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal about the boost increase that should yield an extra 40 to 50 horsepower. "We expect the boost change to be a 4-5 mph lap average speed difference. That's a lot. That's a big change.
"Hopefully, the handling won't change too much because we've worked hard to get out car where's it's comfortable and fast. But I would think it would be a little bit different."
The boost increase will only take place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and will go back to regular levels for Race Day on May 27.
---Other cool stuff
Tony Kanaan will once again be slinging dirt next month in the Prelude To The Dream at the famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio. The former IndyCar champion will make his third appearance at the Late Model charity race, which also features stars from NASCAR, NHRA and the World of Outlaws. The race will take place on June 6 and will be televised on pay-per-view, with net proceeds going to Feed The Children...
Tickets for the 40th edition of the Indy 500 Last Row Party on May 25 are on sale for $50 per person and are starting at $450 for a table of 10. The event, which features the 31st, 32nd and 33rd place qualifiers for the '500' in a light-hearted roast, will take place at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course pavilion in Indianapolis. Go to IndyPressFoundation.org or call either 317-631-6400 or 317-701-1130 to get your tickets...
Seven teams have qualified for the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge on Carb Day, May 25, through their work in the first four IZOD IndyCar Series events. Those teams are: The Nos. 2, 3, and 12 squads from Team Penske (with drivers Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, and Will Power), the Nos. 9 and 50 squads from Target Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti), and the No. 26 and 27 squads from Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe). The rest of the 12-team Challenge field will be filled tomorrow morning at the Speedway through time trials...
---Quotes/materials taken from series trackside reports were used in the making of this article.