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Alex Lloyd proved today that there is more to Chip Ganassi Racing at Indy than just Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti as he turned 10th fastest speed of the day with a 224.219mph lap.
While Franchitti and Dixon were always expected to fight for pole position, Lloyd’s hot pink No. 99 HER Energy car has emerged as a more surprising contender for the Top 11 slots that will be decided tomorrow. The Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry had a mechanical problem on Tuesday, and with Wednesday a near-total rain-out, Lloyd and the team were left with a lot to achieve in a constricted time frame.
Assuming Lloyd starts the 93rd running of the Indy 500 on Sunday, May 24, it will be only the second IndyCar Series race for the 2007 Indy Pro Series champion, his first having been here at Indy last year.
“With me being out of open-wheel racing for 12 months, we wanted to be quite conservative on downforce yesterday,” said the 25-year-old, who moved to Indianapolis three years ago from his native Manchester, UK. “We started in race trim and gradually brought it down but we were still playing it quite cautious, with fairly high downforce. We were 20th but the car wasn’t quite in the ideal operating window.
“However, the team sorted that overnight, and today we trimmed out to a reasonable level. I’d say we still have more wing than some of the guys ahead, but we ended up 10th, so I’d say we have a very fast car, for sure.”
The CGR/SSM team elected not to do extensive lapping during the latter part of this afternoon, because the weather – and therefore, track conditions – are expected to change radically over the next 18 hours. “There didn’t seem to be any point pounding around tuning the car to current conditions, and so we chose to save tires,” stated Lloyd.
Lloyd, who has long been highly regarded by Sam Schmidt with whom he won the IPS title, and in the Indy Racing League community as a whole, stated that sharing feedback with CGR regulars Dixon and Franchitti had helped him up the learning curve this week. He stated: “My engineers are Ganassi engineers, and although we don’t have much communication with the main team during the day, in the evenings we’ll sit down and discuss what we’ve learned. In fact, I think that’s what helped us overnight, because we sat down with Scott and Dario, and talked about what issues they were having and what kind of adjustments they wanted , and so we made similar adjustments on our car. And tonight we’ll do the same.”
Lloyd confirmed that the No. 99 car will be in line to attempt a run at a Top 11 slot tomorrow.
“We’re definitely going to give it a try,” he said, “but it’s so close. I think I’m 0.1sec off Scott who’s fourth, and there are a couple of guys right behind me who are within hundredths of a second. So I definitely think we do have a car capable of getting on the first four rows [Indy grid lines up 3 x 3].
“But we also have to acknowledge that there are a lot of quick guys – as well as Ganassi, Penske and AGR, you also have Newman/Haas/Lanigan and Dan Wheldon’s obviously going well for Panther. So I’m guessing tomorrow there will be quite a few guys left disappointed – ones who clearly did have the speed to make it but who didn’t quite get there. Whatever, it’s going to be pretty exciting, and it could be one of those days where you’re sitting waiting nervously.”
Lloyd concluded: “It’s not the end of the world if we don’t get in on day one, but we’d love to because we want to spend next week doing race prep and doing some running in traffic.”