INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, May 14, 2011) - How appropriate for Opening Day of the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 that a veteran, a champion and a rookie topped the speed chart.
On a day cut short 45 minutes because of showers, Ed Carpenter was quickest of the 32 entrants to get on the 2.5-mile oval with a lap of 224.786 mph (40.0380 seconds). Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner and IZOD IndyCar Series champion, was second in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and JR Hildebrand, who was quickest in breezing through the Rookie Orientation Program on May 12, was third (224.433 mph).
There were 669 laps recorded without incident. Second day track activity, with a more favorable weather forecast, commences at noon May 15.
Reigning Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti (224.107) was fourth in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, and 2006 race runner-up Marco Andretti (223.927) was fifth in the No. 26 Team Venom car for Andretti Autosport.
Whether shaking down their primary or backup cars, working on running in traffic or seeing how quick they were off the truck, drivers enjoyed the work on the oval. For full-time competitors, their previous track time has been on four road and street courses.
Carpenter, competing in his first IZOD IndyCar Series event of the season - and first for Sarah Fisher Racing in the No. 67 Dollar General car - has a best start of eighth (2010) and finish of eighth (2009) in seven starts. Of course, Carpenter, stepson of Indy Racing League founder Tony George, covets a victory in the '500' more than any other.
"It's only day one, but it's really exciting to see hard work pay off and see progress," he said. "We're going to have to keep up the effort because it's a long week heading into qualifying, but I definitely like the start that we're off to."
Added Fisher, a nine-time Indy 500 starter who announced her retirement from the race car in November: "I was really proud of the boys for starting the month off with little to no error. It was a bonus for Ed to top the charts, but we know we still have a lot more work to accomplish. For this being our first race of the season, we know we have to hit the ground running, and to see the team gelling already is a great testament to our people."
Other notable Opening Day speeds were posted by 2009 race runner-up Vitor Meira (seventh at 223.192); Paul Tracy (11th at 222.295), who didn't qualify for the 2010 race; Danica Patrick (12th at 222.232) and 2004 race winner Buddy Rice (14th at 221.461), who's returned to the track for the first time since 2008.
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