Friday, May 11, 2012

Yes, We're Talking About Practice: INDYCAR Thoughts & Review

Whatever else might be going on, there are cars--new cars!--roaring to life at Indy. I'm ready to head to the track tomorrow, to get chills when I drive through the tunnel under the track, to hear the turbos come to life as the first official practice of the 96th Indianapolis 500 starts. I don't know how it will all end up, but I know I will be right there, watching everything from start to finish.

Before we dive into the week, here are some notes about yesterday's rookie session, as well as some thoughts to ponder going into the opening weekend:

-We have to start with congratulations to this year’s Rookie Orientation graduates: Josef Newgarden, James Jakes, Rubens Barrichello, Bryan Clauson, and Simon Pagenaud. Additionally, Michel Jourdain got through his refresher regimen. All six of these drivers will be eligible for full practice, starting on Saturday.

-However, perhaps the biggest story right now is the snafu surround Dragon Racing’s attempt to sign with Chevy. With the uncertainty of their legal situation with Lotus, it sounds like they could be seriously up against the clock when it comes to signing a deal. Remember, Katherine Legge needs to complete the entirety of rookie orientation, and S├Ębastien Bourdais needs to do his refresher program laps. The longer this draws out, the less pretty of a scenario it is for at least Legge.

Will there still be 33 cars if Dragon is unable to procure a Chevy deal? You have to think yes. We know the engines are out there, and it sounds like both engine manufacturers are willing to throw at least an additional engine out there if the circumstances are right. So for those of you holding out hope for your favorite unsigned driver, hang in there—as I’ve said before, nothing is final until the gun sounds on Bump Day.

-Lotus Fan Force United wheeled Jean Alesi’s #64 machine out, but the team only got through some installation/shakedown laps. That’s probably not surprising, given the amount of catching up this team needs to do, but it was just good to see them on the track. They’ve got a massive amount of work to do, make no mistake, but again, they have excellent people on their side to make it happen. They'll do what they can. and hopefully can get through the first two phases of ROP later today.

-On that note, don't forget, a special ROP session for Alesi and Wade Cunningham (the two Dragon drivers are unlikely to show) is scheduled for 4:30-6:00 pm this afternoon, following the Firestone Indy Lights practice session.

-Speaking of Lights, one of this site’s very favorite Mazda Road to Indy prospects will be back at Indy for the Firestone Freedom 100, and that can only be a good thing. Anders “The Viking” Krohn will be giving the Bryan Herta Autosport machine a shakedown tomorrow. There's no deal yet, per Anders, but hopefully it's just a matter of time.

-Although it was released right in the middle of Rookie Orientation, it was wonderful to see news of a proposed 5-year agreement between Andretti Sports Marketing and the City of Baltimore. Baltimore’s future with INDYCAR has looked rocky, despite last year’s event being a nice success from a crowd and racing standpoint. Hopefully, if this partnership goes through, the Baltimore race will get the time it needs to mature as an event and become a signature on the schedule.

Have a great weekend (how could you not?). I’ll be out at IMS for Opening Day and likely Sunday, as well. We’ll know a lot more when we reconvene on Monday!

(Don't forget to download our updated Indy 500 entry list pdf! It should represent the most up-to-date entrant information, based on what we know now).

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