Hornish Tops Charts Again

Sam Hornish fought off several challenges to top the speed charts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the sixth straight practice day Friday, clearly stamping himself as the driver to beat Saturday in qualifying for the 90th Indianapolis 500.

Hornish wrestled the top spot from Scott Dixon during the final hour with a lap of 227.925 mph in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda Dallara.

Dixon (227.322) and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and defending Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon (227.040) were next in line, followed by Hornish’s teammate, Helio Castroneves who set a time of 226.654 mph.

Asked what it would take to win the pole, Hornish said, “It will depend on conditions. But we’re looking at between 228 and 229, for sure.”

“High 228,” Castroneves countered.

After a dry and relatively incident free session, Jeff Simmons crashed heavily in Turn 1 in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Ethanol Honda Panoz late in the afternoon, moments after turning his fastest lap of the month, 225.287 mph. He was unhurt, but will probably be forced to move to his backup car for Saturday’s qualifying.

After the incident, rain fell on the speedway for the ninth consecutive day of activities, but only briefly and resulted in a 15-minute delay.

Scott Sharp was sixth fastest in the No. 8 Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda Dallara, 225.560 mph, followed by teammate Kosuke Matsuura (225.447), Vitor Meira (225.336), Simmons and rookie Townsend Bell (225.087).

Rookie Marco Andretti was 12th, 224.394 mph, after turning 123 laps, a figure only topped by P.J. Chesson (144). Michael Andretti was 23rd fastest (219.789 in 122 laps of practice), while former winners Eddie Cheever was 16th, Buddy Lazier 18th and Al Unser Jr. 28th.

Danica Patrick, one of the favorites to capture the pole in 2005 after strong showings in pre-qualifying practice, struggled for speed again, 14th fastest at 223.601 – followed by her Rahal Letterman teammate, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice.

Roger Yasukawa has taken over for Jon Herb in the No. 12 car, and was 29th in practice at 218.466 mph after Herb practiced at 204.104 mph. While Arie Luyendyk Jr. got his car repaired from Thursday’s incident and timed in 32nd, Thiago Medeiros admitted his PDM entry was damaged beyond repair in Thursday’s shunt. With no backup car, the team is looking for sponsorship necessary to arrange to lease a new car for qualifying.

P.J. Jones made his first appearance of the month in the final 10 minutes of the session, driving the No. 98 Team Leader Special Honda Panoz. This assures there will be at least 33 car/driver combinations for qualifying day. Jones was given extra time to get his car up to speed. He logged 10 laps, with a top speed of 194.644 mph.

In all, 34 competitors in 33 cars had logged 2,321 laps.

While rain wiped out the opening qualifying weekend, the forecast is much more favorable for Saturday, when qualifying is set for noon – 6 p.m. to fill the 33-car field. There will be a practice session Saturday morning from 9:30 – 11 a.m. Sunday is Bump Day, with qualifying noon – 6 p.m. to finalize the grid for the May 28 classic. The only practice between Sunday and the race will be Friday’s Carb Day, with practice from 11 – noon.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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