Rookie Josef Newgarden topped the timesheets as preparations began for the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 12 at the Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayNewgarden, who won the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race at Indianapolis in 2011, posted the quickest lap on the 2.5-mile oval of 220.250 mph in the No. 67 Dollar General car for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.The top three cars of the session were driven by American graduates of Firestone Indy Lights.JR Hildebrand, the 2011 race runner-up and Chase Rookie of the Year, was second quick (219.693 mph) in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet and Newgarden's teammate, Bryan Clauson (219.632) was third in the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Honda.Another rookie, James Jakes (2198.286), was fourth in the Boy Scouts of America Honda while Tony Kanaan (217.741) completed the top five in the No. 11T GEICO/Mouser Electronics KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.In all, 26 drivers recorded 693 incident-free laps in the six-hour session.Drivers will get 36 more hours of track time, weather permitting (and the forecast is favorable), through "Fast Friday" before Pole Day qualifications May 19 in testing the new engine/aero kit package. Gates open at 10 a.m. May 13 for the Mother's Day special of noon-6 p.m. practice.
Townsend Bell, driver of the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports car, will not be at IMS until Sunday. He is driving in the American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patron race today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.Bell is flying to Indianapolis from California on a red-eye flight tonight, arriving in Indianapolis at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. He will come straight to IMS for his driver physical and plans to turn some shakedown laps and maybe one full fuel run.***Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser visited the track today. Unser is one of the Indianapolis 500-winning drivers who is serving as a judge for the Vintage and Historic Car Show today during the Celebration of Automobiles.BOBBY UNSER: (About returning to Indy, with new cars and engines this year): "It's exciting. I think the cars are real pretty. They're going to see how fast they can go, and I think the fans are going to be really excited to see them. In other words, it's something different. We've needed something different for so long that it's just going to be a lot better. I think we're all looking forward to it. For sure, I am."***1974 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and 1985 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Pancho Carter is serving as an honorary judge today for the Celebration of Automobiles Vintage and Historic Car show. Along with Roger Penske, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser and Tom Sneva, Carter will help Road & Track editors choose division and overall winners from more than 200 cars from the 1920s to 1970s.PANCHO CARTER: "The Speedway got me out here early this morning to help judge these beautiful classic cars, which will be a tough job to do. Let me tell you, there are a lot of wonderfully restored vehicles out here. It's hard to pick a favorite, because they really all catch my eye. We've got so many nice cars: It's going to be really tough to judge. They all look extremely well-prepared. But I always love coming out to the Speedway; it's like coming home."***2011 Indianapolis 500 Chase Rookie of the Year JR Hildebrand drove to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning in a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle 396 Super Sport that Panther Racing presented to him last July as a gift for finishing second in the Indianapolis 500. The Chevelle SS has been Hildebrand's dream car since he was a boy growing up in Northern California.Hildebrand's Chevelle SS is parked today in the IMS infield along with other cars participating in the Automobile Festival, a new addition to the Celebration of Automobiles that features current and late model vehicles on display in manufacturer- and model-specific groups.JR HILDEBRAND: "It's obviously a good-looking ride, and I drive it around quite a bit. Around Indianapolis, obviously, you get a lot of weather, but on days like this, I certainly roll it out of the garage. There are a lot of places around the world where the car culture is big, and this is one of them. It's a fun car and a little bit of an eye-catcher, and I get a lot of thumbs-up driving around town."***Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was the honorary starter today, waving the green flag to start the first practice for the 96th Indianapolis 500.GREG BALLARD: "It's unbelievable fun to wave the green flag, to be able to do that every year. I'm out there just a few feet away from the cars. It's a great way to kick off the month. It's so much fun to be out here to see the first day, and there are thousands out here already. I hope all the people come out here and support all these activities all month. The vintage cars are out here and so are Purdue's eV races. It's so much fun to come out here and be part of it. It's amazing how many events have been added to the '500.' It used to just be the race and a couple of other events. There are so many events, from the parade to the crowning of the queen. Each organization does their thing to make this event meaningful to the city, all in support of this great race track. There is an entire industry built up as the result of the track being here in Indianapolis. We estimate there are 8,000 jobs in motorsports alone that are year-round here. And those are high-paying jobs. Seven colleges have motorsports programs in the state of Indiana. So much of the safety evolution of the passenger car is the result of the evolution of safety at this track. More and more people are getting excited about the race. We have a sister city in England, in heart of motorsports valley. There's so much going on in motorsports, and this track and this race have been at the core."***Former Formula One driver Jean Alesi is attempting to become the oldest rookie starter in Indianapolis 500 history. Alesi will be 47 years, 348 days old on Race Day, Sunday, May 27.USAC standout Jack Hewitt is the oldest rookie starter. He was 46 years, 320 days old when he started the 1998 Indianapolis 500.***Five rookies assigned to cars for the 96th Indianapolis 500 passed all three phases of the Rookie Orientation Program on Thursday, May 10: Rubens Barrichello, Bryan Clauson, James Jakes, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.Jean Alesi and Wade Cunningham completed two of the three phases and can finish the test during practice this week.Michel Jourdain completed all three phases of the test as a refresher. He last raced in the Indianapolis 500 in 1996.The Rookie Orientation Program is designed to provide first-year drivers an informal opportunity to get acquainted with the 2.5-mile oval. The three speed phases, which were set by INDYCAR based on the weather and track conditions, were: Phase 1: 10 laps at 200-205 mph; Phase 2: 15 laps at 205-210 mph; and Phase 3: 15 laps at 210 mph-plus.***The 500 Festival announced Saturday that singer/actress/author Olivia Newton-John has been named grand marshal of the 2012 IPL 500 Festival Parade. The 55th IPL 500 Festival Parade is Saturday, May 26 in downtown Indianapolis.Newton-John also will give the command to start engines for the Firestone Indy Lights Firestone Freedom 100 race Friday, May 25. Her nephew Emerson Newton-John is making his debut in the series in the race.Four-time Grammy Award winner Olivia Newton-John also will walk the red carpet on Race Morning before the 96th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27. Since surviving breast cancer in 1992, Newton-John has been an advocate for health awareness, becoming involved with various charities, health products and fundraising efforts. She continues to give back to the community generously and has been acknowledged by charitable and environmental organizations for her ongoing efforts.OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: "I am so excited to be the grand marshal for the IPL 500 Festival Parade. The combination of this honor and being in Indianapolis to support my nephew Emerson Newton-John during the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 race is sure to make for a wonderful weekend. Emerson has worked tirelessly over the last 10 years in the pursuit of rekindling his racing career and I can't wait to see him take the green flag on the 25th."***Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti has switched car numbers from No. 10 to No. 50 for his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone during the 96th Indianapolis in honor of Target's 50th anniversary in 2012.Target and team owner Chip Ganassi have partnered together for nearly half of those 50 years. TCGR was established in 1990, as the 2012 season is the 23rd year of partnership between the two organizations.***INDYCAR announced Thursday that turbocharger boost levels will increase for "Fast Friday" and the two days of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500.The standard boost level of 130 kPa (kilopascals) for superspeedways will be upped to 140 kPa for the Friday, May 18 practice session, Pole Day on Saturday, May 19 and Bump Day on Sunday, May 20. The increase will result in the addition of 40-50 horsepower.The boost level will be 130 kPa for all other practice days and Race Day, Sunday, May 27.INDYCAR set boost levels for the Borg-Warner single and twin turbochargers utilized by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus before the season based on testing. It also will be 130 kPa for the superspeedways of Auto Club Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. The boost level for the short ovals of the Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway is 140 kpa, while it's 155 kpa for road and street circuits.***"INDY Live" will be on the air May 15, 17, 22 and 24 with Mike King as host. The radio show, starting at 7 p.m. each day, originates from the Brickyard Crossing Restaurant and is open to the public.Autograph sessions will be held during commercial breaks for attendees. The lineup for the first two shows:Tuesday, May 15
(7-7:30) - Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti(7:30-8) - James Hinchcliffe, Ana Beatriz, Ryan Hunter-ReayThursday, May 17
(7-7:30) - Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power(7:30-8) - Mike Conway, Wade Cunningham, JR Hildebrand***Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports rookie Simon Pagenaud is turning his ability to misplace accessories, including car keys and sunglasses, into a charity effort this month during the Indianapolis 500.Pagenaud is asking fans to bring gently-used sunglasses - or "sunnies," as he calls them - to him at IMS. While Pagenaud will wear some of the sunglasses, all of them will be donated to Goodwill of Indianapolis at the end of May.Fans are encouraged to bring used sunglasses to Pagenaud during autograph sessions, but he will gladly accept them from any fan at any time. A collection bin for sunglasses will be set up outside the Sam Schmidt Motorsports garages in Gasoline Alley.For more information on Goodwill, visit goodwillindy.org.SIMON PAGENAUD: "I lose my sunnies all the time, so this is just something fun I wanted to do with the fans during my first time at Indy. At the same time, I'm able to help out Goodwill of Indianapolis. So please, bring me some sunglasses. You will be helping me and Goodwill."***Firestone Firehawk race tire facts for the 96th Indianapolis 500:•An all-new Firestone tire specification with nearly 5,000 total tires is available, with allotments as follows per INDYCAR regulations:•Each entry receives 33 sets(132 tires) for all of practice, qualifying and the race.•Rookie orientation participants receive an additional four sets(16 tires) for that session only.•Veteran refresher participants receive two additional sets(eight tires) for that session only.•Pole Day top-nine qualifiers receive one additional setfor each qualifying attemptin the pole"shootout" session, but those sets must be returned following the session.•Tire stagger:A single stagger of approximately0.33 of an inchis available for all teams. Stagger, created by molding the right rear tire with a larger diameter than the left rear, helps race cars turn more naturally and smoothly on oval tracks.***The Second International Collegiate Electric Vehicle GrandPrix took place Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Racing teams competed on a road course in the parking lot of the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. The grand prix consisted of 28 go-karts representing 11 universities - including two universities from England - and is part of Purdue's electric vehicle initiative. Three grands prix have been run on the Purdue campus. This is the second at the Speedway.Purdue partnered with leading technical universities and colleges in Indiana to establish the Indiana Advanced Electric Vehicle Training and Education Consortium (I-AEVtec) to educate and train the workforce needed to design, manufacture and maintain advanced electric vehicles.STEVE DUNLOP (Purdue University, managing director, evGrand Prix): "The International evGrandPrix came about through a Department of Energy grant two years ago, and it's a celebration of technology. It's to highlight what the students have learned over the last year or two in their classes. We have teams as far away as the U.K., Oklahoma and Bowling Green, Ohio. We have community colleges, as well as four-year institutions and grad students. It's a wealth of students that are involved with highlighting what they've learned in terms of electric vehicles, battery-operated vehicles. It's a race, but the race is only one component. For awards, there's also a design component, an outreach component, an efficiency component and then the race component. All of those together give you the overall winner of the event. We're really trying to push the academics. All of these kids have taken classes involved with electric vehicles, batteries, fuel cells; all the different components that go into this type of technology, as well as motorsports."NICK MALLISON (Team manager, Warwick Racing; The University of Warwick, Coventry, England): "We've been involved with motorsport as a way of demonstrating eco-friendly technologies to the public. Two years ago, we did an eco-friendly Formula3 car. In fact, it caught the attention of the mayor of Indianapolis. He wanted us to come over here. We came over and ended up having meetings with Purdue University, and they invited us to come to the evGrandPrix last year. It's important to us because a lot of the research we do is about eco-friendly technologies, electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. It's a natural thing for us to be involved in this type of thing.TOM OLIPHANT (Driver, Warwick Racing): "I've been racing karts for 10 years. I'm a fourth-year engineer, as are all of our team. I've got a lot of knowledge about karting, and I wanted to engineer an electric kart. I actually bought Justin Wilson's old kart off of him when I was younger."DARREN STEWARDSON (Team member, Warwick Racing): "We're doing this for Dan (Wheldon). I was lucky to meet him a few times. Last year, he must have spent 30 minutes with us last year talking to us. He was an amazing person."KIRK BARBER (IUPUI senior, driver of No. 35 IUPUI Motorsports kart): "I've been involved in motorsports at IUPUI for a few years. My degree is motorsports engineering at IUPUI. Part of the curriculum is you have to get hands-on in order to apply your coursework. I've been hands-on with all of our karts for several years and finally this year, after my fourth year, they finally gave me the opportunity to drive it. A 72-volt DC motor is what we run. There are 24 3.2-volt cells. We actually have 40-ampere batteries, which is smaller than what is typical around here. We have less power, that's the disadvantage, but the advantage is we have less weight as well. What we've really tried to concentrate on, being in a motorsports background, is to keep everything lightweight, keeping everything neat and tidy. What you will find on our kart is things are a little bit cleaner, and also we've trimmed weight as best as we could to make our 40-ampere batteries work best for us. On the crew today at the track, we have seven people, but total involved in the project is nine. This kart actually finished second at Purdue two weeks ago, and this exact kart won this race last year."***1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Lyn St. James and 1983 Indianapolis 500 winner Tom Sneva served today as judges of theCelebration of Automobiles Vintage and Historic Car show.LYN ST. JAMES: "It's beautiful. I know bringing those cars the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is very special for the car owners. It's also very special for me and all of our judges. I think these concours events are starting to pop up all over the world, but doing something like that at IMS is very meaningful. I love to be able to see the exotic cars all the way back from the early '20s and '30s. There is so much to them. They're colorful and busy, but at the same time they're beautiful. They're like art."TOM SNEVA: "It was good to be on that side; usually I'm in front of a judge. To be a judge was a pleasure, especially with some of the unbelievable cars in the show. I've done a lot of car shows, and there were a lot of spectacular cars out there. You have to give the Speedway some credit to come up with the car show idea. The classic cars that were here are some of the best in the world. It was very hard to make any decisions on the best cars out there." (What are your fondest memories of the Speedway?): "Just being part of this race is a big thing. We've had some pretty good days here. The first time I qualified here in 1974 was one of the most lasting memories. The first 200-mph lap (1977) was a big day for us and, then of course, we go on and win the race. Just qualifying the first time and the 200-mph lap were the two biggest." (What do you think of the new Dallara race car?): "We need to develop new race fans, so we have to go after the younger kids. The new car is good to get the new demographic group involved. It's a swoopy, 'Star Warsy'-looking type of race car, and that's good for the younger group."***Car No. 67 has been the fastest on Opening Day each of the last two years. Ed Carpenter led the first day of practice on May 14, 2011, while rookie Josef Newgarden was fastest today.***2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion Jay Howard, who made his first Indianapolis 500 start in 2011, visited the track today to pursue opportunities for a seat in this year's race.JAY HOWARD: "You know, stranger things have happened. Over these last four weeks of the roller coaster - it looked like it was going to happen, wasn't going to happen, was going to happen - and then with all the other drama that May brings, we're still hopeful. You never stop working on it, but we'll have to wait and see. It's funny, I used to carry my helmet and gear everywhere, no matter if I went to Florida or Texas, wherever. If I wasn't in a car, I'd carry my gear but never got the opportunity to get in a car. The first time I didn't take my gear, I got a call. So now I'm not taking my gear anywhere. I guess that's my little superstition."