Ray Wrecks And Rain At Indy

INDIANAPOLIS - Heavy rain and four crashes - involving Stan Wattles, Eliseo Salazar, Helio Castroneves, and Davey Hamilton - made for a short day on the track Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the final day of practice before qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

Hamilton’s crash ended Friday’s practice 14 minutes early, but not too soon for Greg Ray to hit 225.407 mph, the fastest of the day. Ray ran only 28 laps in his Team Menard Dallara-Aurora.

Ray, who has been the fastest of the day four times in the last six days, is the favorite to win the pole for the May 27 Indy 500.

Despite his impressive speed this week, 2000 Indy pole winner Ray is still concerned entering qualifications as high temperatures are only expected to reach the mid-60's Saturday in Indianapolis, anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the daytime highs since this event started Sunday.

"Really, the cooler weather probably is an equalizer," Ray said. "It's going to make all of the cars faster. The downside of cooler weather is that sometimes you don't get the tire temperatures up. It's going to make it tighter and tighter. We know we have a good car in hot conditions. Cool conditions? It hasn't been that cool since we've ran here."

Of the four single-car crashes on Friday, only Salazar was uninjured, as he returned to the track with a black eye. Wattles was released from Methodist Hospital a few hours after his crash this afternoon in good condition. Hamilton was transported to Methodist Hospital after his accident complaining of a headache. He was in good condition, awake and alert.

The top 10 drivers today were separated by less than one-half of a second as the battle for the MBNA Pole, which starts at noon (EDT) Saturday, should be one of the tightest in the long history of the event.

Scott Sharp was second fastest on the day at 224.715. Eddie Cheever Jr. topped 223.981, his fastest speed of the month. Arie Luyendyk was fourth fastest, followed by Jeff Ward.

"It was a rougher day than expected for everyone," Sharp said. "It was real hard to get momentum with all the yellows and accidents. Every time something happened, more fluid and oil dry was added to the track. Combine that with winds from the east and west, it was hard to put two fast laps together. Overall, I feel pretty good. The track conditions will be different tomorrow, but we expect those changes to be better for us."

Jimmy Vasser was sixth, followed by Robbie Buhl and Salazar, who topped 223.162 through 38 laps of practice.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Buddy Lazier and Tony Stewart, who topped out at 222.834 in the backup car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

CART FedEx Series and Penske teammates Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves were 11th and 12th fastest, respectively.

A total of 47 cars and 39 drivers turned 1,610 laps in today's practice, which was delayed for 52 minutes by rain shortly after the session began.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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