EDITOR'S NOTE - Penske stopped sandbagging after the live stream went down and Will Power finished at the top of the charts. This was started to be written before that.
I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this but since there were surprises among the quickest lap leaders today I thought I go ahead and go though today’s list and give you my thoughts on who will and won’t make the race. This will be more fun since the Death Star combo of Penske and Ganassi haven’t fired it up yet. I’m going to go thought the speed chart as it was with 30 minutes left in practice on Thursday since we lost live streaming for some reason then. At that time there were 3 big surprises at the top of the chart but I’m sure the top fifteen is subject to a lot of change between now and Saturday. I’ll comment a little on each racer and move down to the bottom the speed chart. Let me just say that people I figured to struggle are. A couple people that I was worried about don’t appear to in any danger of missing the race and there are two regulars that are way down the charts where they shouldn’t be. One of them is due to an accident this morning.
Toping the speed chart with the fastest time of the month that is a surprise that isn’t really a surprise is …
1. Alex Tagliani at 227.652. Alex and his team Fazzt stunned everyone last year and sat on pole for a large portion pole day last year so this should come as no surprise that the team being bought out by Sam Schmidt only adds his knowledge. Alex is a true threat for pole but I’m sure the Death Star has more than it’s showing right now. Lock Alex into the fast nine shootout for sure.
2. Townsend Bell at 226.741. This is a big surprise. Townsend is a capable racer at Indy and on Ovals. He has raced well for Sam Schmidt for two years now finishing as high as fourth. Sam Schmidt is coming in the main series strong and could prove to be as good as team as he was in Indy Lights. Bell might be a gate crasher to the fast nine.
3. JR Hildebrand at 226.527. The Team Panther racer is earning his nickname of Hilde – Beast and is surprisingly fast this month. I had not been very impressed with him on the road course yet but it looks like he and Panther are lightning quick on ovals. This isn’t surprising for Panther but it looks like my boy James Hinchcliffe has his work cut out for him to win Rookie of the year.
4. Oriol Servia at 226.471. I expected Newman Haas to be in the fast nine and in fact thought both cars might make it but it looks like the veteran will their man for this. I expect Oriol to be in the top nine but I don’t really give him a shot at pole. The Death Star is sandbagging.
5. Scott Dixson at 226.453. Order is restored as the first Ganassi drive makes an appearance. He’s a lock for the top nine and a candidate for pole. Nothing more need be said here.
6. Danica Patrick at 226.267. Danica is the fastest car on her team right now? That hasn’t happened since her rookie year with Rahal Letterman. If this were to hold up on pole day, oh the press that it would bring and the Danica-maniacs would be out in force. I’m stunned that Andretti has finally figured out how to set up a fast car for Danica after years of not being able to. I’m sorry but this just won’t hold up. Too many Death Star cars are sandbagging. Danica will likely be outside the fast nine come pole day. I’ll have to see it to believe it before I pencil her in to the top nine.
7. Graham Rahal at 226.142. The jury is still out on second-generation driver Graham Rahal. He has not looked good in better equipment this year. In fact he had a better result in the Sarah Fisher Dollar General car last year that he’s looked on the road course this year with the Ganassi satellite team. He led the race last year but is he the real deal? It is too early to tell. I’m not buying him for top nine yet.
8.Paul Tracy at 225.906. If you put Paul Tracy in competitive equipment he is still fast. I’m glad Paul signed a one race deal with DRR because Jay Penske’s team isn’t looking very strong right now. If fact I think Paul will struggle when he returns there after Indy. Has Tracy got enough left for the fast nine? Don’t know but I wouldn’t bet against him. This will be fun to watch Saturday.
9. Will Power at 225.880. You have to believe that Will has more than this and Penske isn’t showing his hand. Write Will Power in the Pole day shootout in permanent marker.
10. Dan Wheldon at 225.716. A lot of people, myself included thought that Dan was crazy for passing on part time rides with KV racing and DRR and settling for Bryan Herta’s team and a one off at Indy. However today proved him right, as he was faster than both teams that he passed on regular drivers. I wondered if Dan might be a part of bubble day drama but 225 plus is solid any year. He is safely in the field.
11. Helio Castroneves at 225.575. SANDBAGGING! Moving on.
12.. Vitor Merira at 225.450. AJ Foyt has forgotten more about Indy than most engineers know and this proves it. Solidly in the field.
13. Takuma Sato at 225.308. I was impressed with Sato in Brazil. Anybody that passes Will Power on a road course has talent even if it was in the rain. I thought he might struggle here again this year but he looks solid, if he can keep it out of the wall. That is a BIG IF!
14. Dario Franchitti at 225.295. Okay this is ridiculous and not worth comment. He won’t be here on Pole day.
We now get to what I call the murder’s row of one off and part time drivers, expect all of these guys to have not trouble making the race.
15. Ed Carpenter at 225.136. I was worried about Sarah making the field but if Ed can put together four laps at 225 plus they will be right in this area and safely in the field. This opens another can of worms for some one. There is a teammate car for this one with the number 57 that is entered but with no driver. If Ed is 15 to 20 on the charts and qualified on day one look for that car to be rolled out and sold to the highest bidder. If it is race winner Buddy Lazier like rumored, somebody else’s bubble might burst.
16. Tony Kanaan -225.119. I expected TK to be a lot higher than this but maybe that is asking too much out of KV racing. No bubble day nonsense this year it appears.
17. Ryan Briscoe – 225.035. Curiously slow. Not sure what to make of this. Sandbagging? We’ll see. I expect all three Penske drivers to make top nine.
18. Buddy Rice – 225.029. Just as I expected race winner Rice plus Panther equals safely in the field. Don’t think he’ll be involved in pole though.
19. Marco Andretti – 224.784. Marco is usually fast early in the week and then doesn’t have it on Pole day. Maybe he’s trying to reverse this. Doubtful for pole. I’d expect more from him but then again doesn’t everybody. Maybe he just doesn’t have it.
20. John Andretti – 224.684. This is just what I expected from John safely in the field. No worries here.
21. Bruno Junqueira- 224.644. He’s another veteran in a killer ride. He can handle pole day or bubble day drama. Foyt knows Indy.
22. Tomas Scheckter- 224.632. Not a surprise here either. Veterans are eating the rookie’s lunch this year.
23. Bertrand Baguette-224.617. Here’s a guy in a ride that I would much rather see go to a veteran. Rahal Lettermann is solid and a lock for the field. I was pretty indifferent to Bertrand last year until after the season when he represented INDYCAR in that challenge cup thing in Europe and beat Michael Schumacher in a race. I think he deserves a seat in INDYCAR, I’m just not sure he’s earned this good a ride yet.
24. Ryan Hunter Reay- 224.548. I’m not sure why this Andretti driver is so low other than maybe they are working on race setup. I would hope he would be faster than this.
Here where things get dicey for the rest of the field. 25 through 40 are anybody’s guess.
25. Charlie Kimble - 224.443. He’s a rookie but in good equipment. I think he is solidly in the field but you never know. I would be surprised if he misses the race.
26. James Hinchcliffe – 224.333. James what are you doing down here? I had you picked to be a gate crasher in the top nine but that appears to be Hilde-beast’s spot. James is in too good equipment to miss the race.
27. Ana Beatriz – 224.123. Bia is someone I thought might struggle and she is. Fastest woman in the field last year would seem to indicate she would be fine in a DRR car again this year. Then she broke her wrist in the first race of the year. Despite my liking her it is clear she will be involved in bubble day drama. How will she handle it?
28. Justin Wilson – 224.111. This doesn’t make any sense having Justin this low this late. Tracy is fast in a similar car. You have to think Justin will move up by Saturday.
29. EJ Viso – 224.056. Anyone think Viso makes it though qualifying week without putting it in the wall? Didn’t think so. He is hardly a lock for the field even though a veteran. I had him circled as regular not making the field candidate and this slow time confirms that thought.
30. Davey Hamiliton 223.889. As much as I like Davey I thought he was another veteran who might struggle to make the field. Welcome to bubble day.
31. Pippa Mann – 223.740. Oh Pippa the deck is stacked against you. The weather is screwing you out of practice time and there are forty people trying to make this field and you are a rookie. I’m not looking forward to her bubble day. The only thing I like is she is ahead of the other rookies on the speed chart right now and maybe can find another mile per hour between now and Sunday. EDIT Pippa moved up to 225 and 21st by end of the day! GO PIPPA GO!
32. Raphael Matos -223.349. New team AFS is another candidate to be shut out of the race. They have a veteran of a couple Indy 500s but look where they are right now. Not good.
33. Ho-Pin Tung 223.348. Everybody picked this guy to not make the field until he was second quick out of the rookie’s at the test. I have the feeling he might make it and if he can get China to buy merchandise like they did for Yao Ming that would be good for the series. Toss up if he makes the field.
If things are dicey at 25-33, they are downright ugly 34 to 40.
34. Jay Howard - 222.817. Jay hasn’t shown me anything that makes me think he’ll make the field. Missed the field last year with Sarah Fisher’s second car and might not make this year either. EDIT Howard finished with 225 for 17th, maybe he will make it. 4 are need though.
35. Mike Conway - 222.359. Not sure why Conway is two positions outside the field looking in. It must be mechanical. Davey, Pippa, Rapha and Ho-Pin, he is taking your spot on Saturday. You’d better bring it to bump someone else.
36. Simona De Silvestro - 222.192. She is the unfortunate person who put it in the wall and now must go to a backup car. Flames burned both of her hands. Will she be cleared to qualify? I would guess yes but she is this year’s Tony Kanaan. If she has a good car and can handle the pain, she is in but will she?
37. Scott Speed – 222.177. It would be good for the series if Speed makes the show and brings new eyeballs but I don’t see it happening. I could see a scenario where neither Dragon racing car makes the field. I could also see Coyne or Conquest being shut out too. None of these teams will have two cars in the field.
38. Alex Lloyd – 222.013. Lloyd is Dale Coyne’s only shot at the field and I don’t see him making.
39. Sebastian Saavedra -221.268. Let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of the secondary car making the field in Pippa and getting pulled like Junqueira for Tags two years ago. Only one Conquest car is making the field. You know whom my money is on. I hope she talked to Eric the car owner about this because it could happen.
40. James Jakes. 220.488 isn’t going to cut it. Neither Coyne car makes the field in my opinion and I’ve thought this for a while now.
41 TBD Sarah Fisher racing entry is a ticking time bomb that is set to blow up on someone if Buddy Lazier is the driver. 33rd quick better hope this car stays parked.
That’s it. I say One Conquest car makes the field. No Dragon or Coyne car makes it and someone in good equipment Howard, Viso or Hamilton doesn’t either.
We’ll see on Sunday. I still think Helio will be on Pole despite is speed today.