Ed Carpenter Leads Opening Weekend of Practice for Indianapolis 500

While Sunday was a wash out due to rain, practice for the Indianapolis 500 did begin on Saturday.

The day was cut short by 45 minutes due to showers, but it was Ed Carpenter who topped the chart at a lap of 224.786 mph (40.0380 seconds) for Sarah Fisher Racing.

“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.”

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The Indianapolis 500 will mark Carpenter’s first event of the season, and also the first event for Sarah Fisher Racing with the No. 67.

“I was really proud of the boys for starting the month off with little to no error,” Fisher said. “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.”

Fisher announced her retirement last November as she wants to start a family with her husband, Andy O’Gara. Their first child is due September 29th.

“I’m out of racing shape, that’s for sure,” she said, “I had to stop working out in October, and they don’t make maternity seat belts. But I’m very happy. It is an exciting time, especially to have Ed Carpenter driving for us because he is the perfect fit. He matches the brand, and no doubt that he has a strong performance record here at Indy. So I’m excited about the Race Day and the 100th Anniversary in general.”

Scott Dixon, 2008 race winner, was second with a lap of 224.491 mph (40.0907 seconds).

“Today was short and sweet, as we only turned four laps at speed,” he said. “Always great to be back at IMS. Team Target prepped the cars to their usual high standard. Early days, but I can’t wait to get back in the car tomorrow.”

JR Hildebrand, who topped the Rookie Orientation Program on May 12th, was third.

“We’re really happy with how the day went,” Hildebrand said. “I probably could have pulled off an even better lap there, but for me it’s still a matter of understanding what I’m expecting to happen compared to what is actually going to happen when I’m out there. The National Guard car felt good, and we didn’t have anything out of the ordinary, and we understand it’s going to be a whole different gig when there are a bunch of different cars out there, as that creates a lot more turbulent air.

“Thankfully, through Rookie Orientation and again today we’ve been able to make positive steps every time by making small steps every time. If we can keep up the pace of what we’re doing, then it should be positive as we continue to move forward.”

Last year’s winner Dario Franchitti was fourth while 2006 race runner-up Marco Andretti was fifth.

“It was a good shakedown of the No. 10t Target car,” Franchitti said. “Both Scott Dixon and I seemed to have good speed right away, but the real work starts on Monday.”

“It felt really good to get back in the car here in Indy,” Andretti said. “We focused today on getting a few laps in the T car, and tomorrow we’ll move to our primary car. Hopefully we won’t need the T car again, but it’s nice to know where it stands, just in case. I think the Venom team has potential to be strong this month. We’ve typically run well here and have come close to winning a couple times. This would be a great year to get the job done.”

2009 runner-up Victor Meira was seventh quickest on the speed chart.

“I think we are cautiously excited,” Meira said. “There’s still a lot to do. We’re still slower than what it will take in qualifying, but the car is good, it’s fast. We did get a draft, but even without the draft, we’re pretty competitive in our times, so we’re excited. It’s the first day, but I think we started the right way and we just have to maintain and improve on what we had today.”

Other notables include Paul Tracy, who was 11th, and Danica Patrick, who was12th.

“I thought we had a solid run today,” Patrick said. “The ‘T’ car did great today, so we hope the primary car will run just as well. The Go Daddy team is off to a positive start for May.”

2004 race winner Buddy Rice was 14th quickest. This is the first time Rice has hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2008.

“I feel good, and I’m happy to be back. Everything is going pretty well,” Rice said. “I’m excited to be back here. I wanted to make sure I’d be in good equipment, and the Panther crew has run really well here recently. It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m excited for the centennial. The centennial only comes around once, and there won’t be anything like this for quite a long time, so I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Dropping the green on practice for Saturday was Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

“They were side by side by side by side like a front row coming down the straightaway,” Ballard said. “It was a lot of fun. I will leave Race Day (start) in the hands of the professionals.

“We’re very lucky to be here for the 100th anniversary because a lot of people are going to be reminiscing about all the events that have gone on before here. Also we have the new chassis to look forward to. And there is a lot of excitement as to what the new cars will look like.

“This is a great time to celebrate the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the longevity of this race going forward. I always tell people around the world that there is nothing like the month of May in Indianapolis, and I mean that. This is an unbelievable month that really brings the city together. Everybody enjoys it. It’s a great event on Race Day, and they memorialize those veterans who did not come back from serving this county. Obviously, the Speedway does it right.”

Meanwhile, Sunday consisted of drivers speaking of Indianapolis 500 memories among other topics.

“It’s unfortunate for us and for the fans that the rain kept us from getting on track today,” Points Leader Will Power said. “The No. 12 Verizon Team Penske guys worked a bit late yesterday afternoon taking the engine out of our T car and putting it in our race car. We were planning on shaking that car down today and then getting started on our process. We will be ready to go tomorrow, and I am excited to get on track and get the Verizon car up to speed.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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