Tracy hits the ground running at Indy
By Jeff Olson
In case there was any doubt, Paul Tracy hasn’t lost a thing.
Tracy, who hasn’t been at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the infamous finish of 2002 and hasn’t raced much at all since the end of the 2007 season, passed Scott Sharp in the final minutes Tuesday and recorded the fastest lap of the day on the first day of track activity for the 93rd Indianapolis 500.
Tracy’s No. 15 GEICO-sponsored KV Racing Technology Dallara-Honda was clocked at 40.3426 seconds – 223.089 mph – two-tenths better than Sharp’s best lap of 221.878 mph in the No. 16 Panther Racing Dallara-Honda.
Tracy said he didn’t expect to get that much speed out of the car so quickly.
“We thought we would run 219 with the track conditions, temperature and the setup they had,“ Tracy said. “The team was really happy with what we did. We ran faster than they qualified last year.”
Meanwhile, Sharp, who has brought his Patron sponsorship back to IndyCar racing while continuing his ALMS program with Highcroft Racing, said he fully expected the Panther entry to be over 220 mph on the first day. “I pretty much expected it,“ Sharp said. “I looked at ROP speeds from last year, and figured, ‘OK, if we can get up into the 221s or 222s, we should be in good shape.’”
The late-day drama put an end to rookie orientation and refreshers in preparation for Wednesday’s opening day activities for the 93rd Indianapolis 500. Robert Doornbos, Raphael Matos and Alex Tagliani also posted laps over 218 mph.
Indy’s Rookie Orientation Program requires new drivers to pass through four phases that include 10 laps at each of the following speed minimums: 200 mph, 205, 210 and 215-plus. Doornbos, Matos, Tagliani and Mike Conway all completed ROP without issue Tuesday, while the only other drivers in ROP, Nelson Philippe and Stanton Barrett, continued to work toward completion of the four phases.
Sharp and Tracy were allowed refreshers during ROP and were not required to complete the phases.
Tracy has not raced at Indy since the 2002 race, when Helio Castroneves was declared the winner when a yellow came out late in the race. Tracy’s team owner, Barry Green, appealed the decision, citing video and time and scoring evidence, but IMS officials sided with Castroneves.
ROP will continue Wednesday from 9 a.m. ET to 2 p.m., when the entire field will get on track for the first practice before this weekend‘s qualifying sessions. Pole qualifying is set for Saturday, when the first 11 positions in the 33-car field will be filled. Second day qualifying is scheduled for Sunday.
After another weekend of qualifying May 16-17, the race is scheduled for May 24.