Rain washes out Indy 500 practice

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 was canceled after persistent showers plagued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 11:30 a.m. until 3:15 p.m.

            Practice is scheduled to resume from noon-6 p.m. Thursday, followed by ‘Fast Friday’ from noon-6 p.m. Friday. Pole Day is Saturday.

Tomas Scheckter’s No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing car is sporting some new sponsors this month. One interesting new sponsor is ibeatYou.com, a Web site that allows people to compete in about anything. Competition categories include comedy, gaming, music and more.

Team owners Steve Luczo and Jay Penske continue to make charity partnerships a big part of the team in 2008. Last year, Luzco Dragon Racing raised approximately $500,000 for various charities. This year the NBA and WNBA have partnered with the team through NBA Cares. All Stars Helping Kids has also partnered with the team again. It is a charity involving various athletes who will be present at the 92nd Running of the Indianpolis 500-Mile Race. Prize money from the car and other donations will go toward different charities. *** Helio Castroneves leads the IndyCar Series with four top-five finishes this season. He recorded another one on May 5, though not for his racing. Castroneves' quickstep (the banana yellow suit dance with professional dance partner Julianne Hough) was voted fifth-favorite dance during the “Dancing With The Stars” 100th episode. The show's judges, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, ranked the 10 best dances from the previous five seasons. HELIO CASTRONEVES: "To be in the top-five favorite dances is unbelievable. There were so many great performances over the past five seasons of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and for my dance to be considered that memorable is just fantastic." ***             Chevrolet’s all-new Midget racing engine was unveiled Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by GM representatives and United States Auto Club (USAC) team owner Tony Stewart. Designed by GM Racing specifically for the USAC National Midget Car Series, the new purpose-built, four-cylinder Chevrolet racing engine will initially power Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) drivers Tracy Hines and Levi Jones in upcoming events. The new Chevy Midget engine will be available to all USAC competitors through independent engine builders. The new methanol-burning 166ci (2.7-liter) Chevy Midget racing engine produces more than 350 horsepower. The lightweight, inline four-cylinder engine employs an aluminum block and cylinder head with two valves per cylinder. Per USAC rules, the Chevy Midget engine is equipped with mechanical fuel injection and utilizes an electronic ignition system.             TONY STEWART: “The Chevy Midget racing engine is definitely going to be an asset to Tony Stewart Racing. Having the Chevrolet bowtie on the engine and not just on the side of the car as a sponsor is indicative of how much technical support the brand has given our program. In the past, we’ve competed with engines that were based on Chevy parts but weren't necessarily a Chevrolet engine. The Chevy Racing engineering and marketing staffs have really embraced the TSR racing programs, and the debut of this new engine is the start of another exciting new chapter in our relationship.”             ED PEPER (General manager, Chevrolet): "One year ago, Chevrolet announced its sponsorship of Tony Stewart Racing in open-wheel competition. Now Chevrolet has taken the next step by creating an all-new racing engine for this popular grassroots racing series. Chevrolet races to win, and America's brand is aiming for more victories in this uniquely American form of motorsports." ***             The topic of a possible return to the Indianapolis 500 is never far away when five-time Indy starter Tony Stewart returns to IMS. Two-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Stewart visited IMS today to help Chevrolet unveil the new Midget engine that will power Tony Stewart Racing driers Tracy Hines and Levi Jones in USAC events, and he also discussed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”             TONY STEWART: “There’s part of me that thinks running at Indy and in IndyCar is a chapter of my life that is closed, and then there is the emotional part of me that says, ‘Never say never.’ I don’t know if I will ever get in an Indy car again, but if that happens, it’s obviously going to be a long way down the road because I have a lot of commitments on the NASCAR side. If I was going to come to Indianapolis again, I don’t want to come and show up and run the month of May. If I am going to do it, I need to start at Homestead, and I need to run all the races leading up to the month of May to really feel like I am being fair to the team and being fair to myself, and have enough time in the car to where when we show up in the month of May, we are ready to go. Where I am comfortable in the car, I’m comfortable with the p eople I am working with and feel like I am in tune and up to speed with the technology of the setups and what is going on. As long as I am driving a stock car, that basically takes that part of it out of the equation. I’m not going to be one of these guys who just shows up and runs the Indy 500. I’ve ran the Indy 500; I want to win the Indy 500. I honestly don’t believe in the era of the driver that you can just come in on a one-off race and do that. It’s virtually impossible. You can’t come in and expect as good as the guys doing it every week.” (About the unification of open-wheel racing under the IndyCar Series banner): “I'm really excited to see everybody back. What's the car count this year so far? Thirty nine? That might actually make it fun and exciting to come here on Bump Day. That's going to be cool. I think you're going to see one of the most competitive fields ever at Indy this year.” ***             GM Racing Director Mark Kent was asked about the possibility of Chevrolet returning to a unified IndyCar Series in the future during a press conference unveiling the new Chevrolet Midget racing engine today at IMS.             MARK KENT (Director, GM Racing): “First, I would like to say that the unification is going to be great for the open-wheel sport. I think the two groups getting back together is only going to be beneficial for the series. As far as Chevrolet's involvement in open wheel, we were involved for many years. We currently aren't, as you know, but each year we take a look at all our racing venues and open wheel, for example, is new to us in the last couple of years. We look across every opportunity out there and try to make sure that our involvement is justified by a return on our investment to sell cars. Obviously, that's what we're trying to do. Everything we look at, we look at from a business perspective, and we will definitely keep our eye on open wheel as it moves forward and continues down this new path.” ***             Jason Priestley, co-owner of Rubicon Race Team, will visit the Boston Market restaurant at 7554 Shadeland Ave. from noon-2 p.m. Thursday. Priestley and Jim Freudenberg partnered in October 2007 to form the team. The team partnered with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to field the No. 44 car for Max Papis.             Priestley, a star on “Beverly Hills 90210,” made three starts in Firestone Indy Lights in the series’ inaugural season in 2002. ***             Today marks the first time since May 13, 2006 that a full day’s activities were canceled due to rain. May 13, 2006 was Pole Day. Fast Friday activities on May 12, 2006 also were canceled due to rain. *** INDYCAR SERIES END-OF-DAY QUOTES: RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): “Obviously, we hoped that we would be able to get back on the track today to continue working on the Team Penske car, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. Tomorrow doesn't look good, either. But we took a good look at the weather forecast earlier this week, so we knew that there was a possibility that we would miss some track time. Fortunately, we got some good work in yesterday and are confident that we'll be in pretty good shape for the weekend if we're able to get back out by Friday.” SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Team ResQ/Gravity Entertainment): “Obviously the rain today is very disappointing. We needed the track time today to help the start of our team. We haven’t gotten any track time yet this month. This really puts us behind for the month and for qualifying. With tomorrow’s expectations of weather, we just hope that it clears out sooner rather than later.” HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): “It's unfortunate that we weren't able to run today because of the rain. Hopefully, we'll get a drastic change in the weather and things will clear up for tomorrow. With only one day of track time under our belts, we're not quite where we want to be with the Team Penske car. Hopefully we'll get some clear weather before Pole Day, so we can fine tune the qualifying trim. We had a productive day yesterday, but we certainly still have some work to do before qualifying.” ENRIQUE BERNOLDI (No. 36 Sangari Conquest Racing): “Actually, having the practice session canceled due to rain today was not too bad for me. I’ll be able to jump in the new car tomorrow when practice resumes. Obviously it would have been nice to get in more practice time today, but it gave the Conquest crew a chance to finish up the cars, and both Jaime and I will be on track tomorrow if the weather cooperates.” JAIME CAMARA (No. 34 Sangari): “Usually I’m not happy when it rains because it takes track time away from the teams and it slows down the development we have planned for the month, but it was good for me because I didn’t lose another day on track, and tomorrow we are going to start with everyone else. Because of my crash, we were a step behind, but now we will be caught up. So we’re kind of happy that it rained today because we needed to do a seat fitting and finish the cars.” DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 22 Hewlett-Packard/KR Vision Racing): “It's unfortunate to lose a day on track before Pole Day, but we'll sit with the engineers for a while, do a few interviews and then I'll take advantage of the down time to get in a good workout at the Speedway's gym.” HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): “We were going to try a new setup today, so it is disappointing that it rained out. It seems like it will rain again tomorrow, but I hope we will have a nice, clear day on Friday so we can finalize our qualifying setup.” MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Indiana Jones presented by Blockbuster): “I’m not too disappointed that we couldn’t get on the track today. The Indiana Jones/Blockbuster car was obviously very quick yesterday, so we feel confident. Hopefully we’ll get more time on the track this week before qualifying.” (About going for the pole): “I know I’m going to be going for (the pole). Last year, fortunately, we were pretty comfortably in the top 11 – well, ninth isn’t that comfortable. But even if you’re sitting fifth, there’s going to be so many guys that are going to be capable of going faster. I’m going to be in the mentality of being ready to go again, for sure. Obviously the last hour is when the track is at its best. Ideally we’d do just one run, but you definitely want to get it done the first day.” TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): “It’s a very long month, and the Team 7-Eleven car was fast yesterday, so I don’t think we missed anything by not going on track today. Rain is expected again tomorrow, so I hope we can get back on the track again by Saturday, but I feel comfortable with where we are right now.” DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola): “The rain forced us to cancel practice, but this is pretty normal for the first week of May in Indianapolis. Back in 2006, it seemed like it rained every day until Friday of the first week. I wish we were able to get out today, but this is something that happens.” ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing): “All I was really able to do today was put my race suit on and off a few times. It's disappointing to have it rain after we weren't real thrilled with our runs yesterday, so I really wanted to get back out on track to see if we made any gains, which I'm confident we have. Then again, I wasn't really looking forward to running with the wind the way it was blowing out there. The rain pretty much made the decision for us. I'm going to head home early for my sister's birthday this evening and enjoy a little extra time with her.” A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing): “We really could have used the track time today, but instead I did hang out at my grandfather's (A.J. Foyt) garage during parts of the rain delay because it’s always pretty entertaining in there. Tomorrow doesn't look too good, either, but we made some improvements from our first day on track that we're anxious to try out. I think we know the direction we want to go. So long as we have at least Friday to try it out before qualifying on Saturday, we should be fine.” VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard): “It just wouldn't be the month of May at Indy without a couple rain days. We knew today and tomorrow could be an issue as far as the weather is concerned, so we'll just have to wait and see how things play out. We learned yesterday that our car is fast, but we'd really like to work a little more on our qualification setup so we can be prepared for Saturday. This is the same problem for everybody, so nobody is going to gain an advantage until we get back on the track.” JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team): “Just going through ROP was a lot of fun. Just getting up to speed and getting a feel for the track, and obviously the McDonald's car was working very well because we progressed through that very quickly and I felt very comfortable. I was just enjoying my time out on the track and could hear everyone else who told me stuff about the circuit, I could hear their voices as I was driving around, and it was exactly like what they had been saying. This place is a lot of fun to drive.”

(About his first Indy 500): “We're only a few days into it. I guess I'll find out in a few days time, whether we're going crazy or not. So far, on track, it's been a lot of fun. I still, each time I go out, I feel like I get more acclimatized to the track and the environment out there. I know it's going to be completely different on Race Day when th e grandstands fill up. That changes your sight picture enormously. That's another thing I've been warned about is how overwhelming it can seem on Race Day, so I'm just trying to take it all in and keep working on the car, and I think yesterday we ended up pretty quick. Hopefully we can make some more progress and get up there and ideally qualify the first weekend.” (About how the rain effects preparation): “Obviously, we've had three days running as compared with the more experienced guys having only one day, but I think if the conditions are not ideal, the more experienced guys know how to deal with that quicker than we do. They can change their car and find a setup and go out there and run four laps of qualifying and be really close, whereas we might be a way off and have to change it, come back for a second attempt, come back for a third attempt, and it just makes life a little bit harder when you don't have the data to fall back on.”

(About perspective of Indy): “The main thing is when I came in and ran th! e track in the right direction. I've been here for the Grand Prix before and that never seemed quite right, to be in a place like this and not really getting to experience the track. Now I've got to experience going the right direction and have fun out there. It is just enjoyment. The corners are so fast. The car releases out of the corners onto the straights and you just enjoy sitting on the straights and looking down on to either Turn 1 or Turn 3 and remembering some of those images I've seen and just replaying the '93 race. That is the first time I remember seeing the race, when Nigel Mansell came over and raced. We actually got the ‘500’ televised in the UK, and those are my first memories. Watching those cars go down the straights and trying to overtake, and it's pretty cool to finally get to drive on that track. It's not an easy place. We started off in ROP with more downforce and got comfortable and learned the track, and as we go on, we start to trim the car out, and that's when it gets difficult. When the car starts to move around, each time you come down the straights, I mentioned how long they are, but that's a good thing and also a bad thing because you have plenty of time to start to think about the next corner, and you can psych yourself up or you can psych yourself out. It depends on what happens. You get there, and your foot is either planted to the floor or it starts to quiver and you lift off, so there's a lot of time to think.”

(About qualifying): “I wouldn't say I'm nervous yet. It will be a few more days before we get to that stage, but the only thing I've learned so far is that usually starts off a little bit on the oversteer side and it will generally go to an understeer. That's what I've experienced throughout the tire life. The first few laps, the car is neutral, and after a few laps it starts to understeer. Obviously, for qualifying, we need to tip the balance and start a little bit on the loose so it's best right in the middle of your run. We'll tackle that when! we get there, I guess. We've had that type of qualifying already this year, which has been helpful, at Homestead and Kansas. Doing the four laps is quite nerve wracking. You know you're out there on your own and everybody is watching, and you've got to perform. It's going to be fun to see how it feels, and I guess the better your car feels, the more comfort you're going to have and the more you're going to want to go out and improve yourself.”

(About Graham Rahal): “I actually like Graham a lot. When he first came into the Atlantic series, when I was in Champ Car, we sat next to each other during a couple of autograph sessions, and we got on really well. He's incredibly intelligent and mature for his age, and it's quite interesting to listen to him because he talks like a 30-year-old would, and it's quite impressive to know how far in advance he's thinking and how mature he's thinking, whether it's the car or racing or just any part of his life. I think he's got a lot of potential and obviously he's got a win already, and I think we're going to see him more often in the winner's circle. I get on well with him as a teammate. I was actually very pleased and very happy when he won at St. Petersburg. I thought that was great. I had a difficult race myself. I was running in the front and was hoping to have a chance to have won, but as soon as I saw it was Graham doing the doughnuts, it cheered me up.”

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “We obviously would have liked to have had some more track time today in the Target cars, but it wasn’t meant to be. I guess the forecast isn’t looking favorable for tomorrow, either, so I can just hope that the rain reaches my house in St. Petersburg, Fla., and gives my garden some much-needed attention.”

A total of 35 cars are currently at the Speedway and have passed technical inspection. Thirty-four drivers have been on the track to date and have turned 2,701 laps this month. A total of 96 IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers have passed physicals at the Clarian Emergency Medical Center.

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local): 9 a.m.  Public Gates Open  Noon-6 p.m.  IndyCar Series practice              The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23 at Indianapolis. It will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on May 23 on ESPN2.