Patrick Leads Pack

With teammate Buddy Rice on the sidelines as the result of suffering a concussion in a practice crash Wednesday, Danica Patrick continued to improve, setting the fastest time in Thursday’s practice for the Indianapolis 500.

Patrick ran a lap of 227.633 mph in the No. 16 Argent/Pioneer Honda Panoz — the fastest overall speed of the month — and will be a threat to give Rahal Letterman Racing its second consecutive Indy 500 pole in qualifying to set the top 11 starters Saturday.

Rice — the 2004 pole winner with a four-lap average speed of 222.024 mph — hopes to return
for the third day of qualifying May 21, but can start no better than 23rd in an attempt to defend his Indy 500 victory.

“It was a really good day,” said Patrick, a rookie driver who qualified second and finished fourth in the most recent IRL IndyCar Series race in Japan. “We went in the right direction the whole time, which doesn't always happen. Sometimes you take steps back, but we made the car better and better. I'm happy with it.”

Patrick became the second female driver to post the fastest speed in a full practice day at the Brickyard. Janet Guthrie was fastest in practice May 7, 1977, the year she became the first of three women to qualify for the event.

Wednesday’s quickest driver, Tony Kanaan, improved slightly to 227.525 mph in the No. 11 Team 7-11 Honda Dallara fielded by Andretti Green Racing, the second-fastest speed of the day.

Third with a lap of 227.375 mph was Kosuke Matsuura in the No. 55 Panasonic Honda Panoz, with Super Aguri Fernandez racing consistently having both of its cars in the top 10 all week. Teammate Scott Sharp was eighth fastest at 226.505 mph.

“I think we are where we want to be heading into Pole Day,” said Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Delphi Honda Panoz and pole-sitter for the 2001 Indy 500. “It was another great day for the Delphi Fernandez team. We went through more items on our list and learned some things that will help us for qualifying and also a couple of things that may help us for the race. We had some speed.”

Sharp cautioned that the practice speeds may be misleading when it comes time to qualify, when cars run four consecutive laps on a clear track.

“It is hard to tell what everyone else is doing because so many guys are drafting, and it is hard to tell what they can really do on their own,” Sharp said. “Of speeds on our own, I think we are up there. We are in a good position right now.”

Sam Hornish Jr. had the fastest speed of the Toyota-powered cars, running the seventh-fastest lap of 226.724 mph in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara. Leading Chevrolet for the second straight day was Richie Hearn, 10th-fastest overall with a speed of 225.691 mph in the No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Racing Special Panoz fielded by Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 will continues Friday. Qualifying to set the MBNA Pole and top 11 positions begins at noon (CDT) Saturday, following a two-hour practice session.

The next 11 positions will be set Sunday, with the remaining 11 slots to be filled on Saturday, May 21. Bump Day will be Sunday, May 22. Miller Lite Carb Day, the final practice session, is Friday, May 27. The 89th Indianapolis 500 takes the green flag at noon on Sunday, May 29.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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