Ra­hal leaps to top dur­ing Indy prac­tice

Driver speeds from 34th to 1st

The Republican Herald - - SPORT -

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — Gra­ham Ra­hal’s one-day turn­around looked good and felt even bet­ter.

Now he needs to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

Just 24 hours af­ter fin­ish­ing 34th out of 35 on the In­di­anapo­lis 500 prac­tice speed charts, the 29-yearold Amer­i­can jumped into the top spot with a fast lap of 226.047 mph. The only driver to top 226 on Thurs­day heads into the week­end with a lit­tle mo­men­tum.

“It’s cooler to lead prac­tice than be­ing 34th be­cause you don’t have to an­swer all the ques­tions about be­ing 34th,” Ra­hal said. “But to­day was a very good day. We found some pace and at the end of the day we found some things that will help us. That last run was the best I have felt in traf­fic.”

Ra­hal had been strug­gling to fig­ure out how the new car works. He was clocked at 222.102 on Wed­nes­day.

He’s not the only one search­ing for an­swers.

Tony Kanaan, the sec­ond-fastest Thurs­day at 225.896 and the 2013 race win­ner, ac­knowl­edged ev­ery­one’s cu­ri­ous to see what hap­pens when se­ries or­ga­niz­ers boost the horse­power by about 50 to­day and for qual­i­fy­ing week­end. He’s driv­ing for A.J. Foyt Rac­ing this year.

But he also didn’t wind up in the wall like JR Hilde­brand, who suf­fered the first crash of the week when his car drifted up the track and slammed into the wall be­tween the third and fourth turns. He was checked at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way’s in­field cen­ter and was re­leased and cleared to drive.

It put a damper on Dreyer & Rein­bold’s first at­tempt to make the 500 since 2013.

“We had some­thing hap­pen in turn three with the car. We are still an­a­lyz­ing what might have hap­pened. The car felt out of the or­di­nary,” Hilde­brand said. “It felt like I had a wacky wheel of a shop­ping cart be­cause the car kept wob­bling a bit. But I’m fine and ready to go to­mor­row.”

Ra­hal said he had sim­i­lar sen­sa­tion in his car through­out the day and thought he might be the first to crash, too.

In­stead, he man­aged to get some help to jump to the top of the speed charts.

“Go­ing out there and sit­ting in a big tow has never been my thing but when you do, it feels good,” he said. “If you do get a tow, it is mas­sive.”

Ra­hal, who drives for his fa­ther’s team — Ra­hal Let­ter­man Lani­gan Rac­ing —was one of two Honda driv­ers in the top six.

The other was Marco An­dretti, who was third at 225.584. An­dretti, who also drives for his fa­ther’s team, had the fastest speed Wed­nes­day.

Two-time Indy 500 pole win­ner Ed Car­pen­ter, Sage Karam and 2017 se­ries cham­pion Josef New­gar­den rounded the top six. They, along with Kanaan, all drive Chevro­lets.

Dan­ica Patrick was 30th at 222.216 as she pre­pares for the fi­nal race of her ca­reer.

“To­day def­i­nitely didn’t go as well as we’d hoped,” Patrick said. “The changes we made seemed to help a lit­tle bit in traf­fic, but it just felt worse alone and I had a lot more un­der­steer. We’ll re­group tonight and come back to­mor­row fo­cused on try­ing to find more speed be­fore qual­i­fy­ing.”

Prac­tice con­tin­ues to­day when the cars get a horse­power boost. Qual­i­fy­ing for the tra­di­tional 33-car start­ing grid will be held Satur­day and the nine-car pole shootout is sched­uled for Sun­day, one week be­fore the race.

Indy­Car adds eye-track­ing sys­tem to con­cus­sion test

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — Nearly ev­ery in­di­ca­tor sug­gested Will Power was suf­fer­ing from con­cus­sion-like symp­toms af­ter his car hit a wall dur­ing one of the first prac­tice ses­sions of the 2016 sea­son. He was dizzy, had dif­fi­culty stand­ing when he climbed from his car the next day, and was over­come with nausea.

Indy­Car doc­tors checked him sev­eral times, de­ter­mined he had a con­cus­sion and ruled him in­el­i­gi­ble to race in the sea­son-opener.

But too many things about Power’s case baf­fled the Indy­Car med­i­cal team. They sent the Aus­tralian to see Dr. Steve Olvey, Indy­Car’s for­mer med­i­cal di­rec­tor, at the Univer­sity of Miami for fur­ther test­ing. Olvey had a new tool that de­ter­mined Power was not con­cussed af­ter all. He was in­stead suf­fer­ing from an in­ner ear in­fec­tion, with symp­toms still strong enough to keep him out of the race.

The new di­ag­no­sis and how Olvey got to it in­trigued Indy­Car.

“That was a game-changer for us,” said Dr. Terry Tram­mell, safety con­sul­tant to INDY­CAR and its med­i­cal staff.

Olvey had used an eye-track­ing com­puter test called the I-PAS sys­tem, and Indy­Car wanted ac­cess to it. Cre­ated by Pitts­burgh-based Neuro Ki­net­ics Inc., the I-PAS is com­monly re­ferred to as the “gog­gles test.” It’s a por­ta­ble sys­tem and re­sem­bles a vir­tual re­al­ity head­set. The test in­te­grates clin­i­cal eye track­ing with a dig­i­tal dis­play, and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als run a se­ries of 14 tests to de­ter­mine if a driver has a con­cus­sion.

Indy­Car has used the I-PAS, which is por­ta­ble and avail­able at all events, through its de­vel­op­ment phase since Power’s in­ci­dent. It has now been added as a re­quire­ment in Indy­Car’s con­cus­sion eval­u­a­tion pro­to­col.

pi­etro Fit­ti­paldi a spec­ta­tor at Indy af­ter break­ing legs

Pi­etro Fit­ti­paldi thought he would be pre­par­ing for his In­di­anapo­lis 500 de­but this week. In­stead, he is re­cov­er­ing from mul­ti­ple leg frac­tures and watch­ing some­one else drive his race car.

Fit­ti­paldi was in­jured in a crash dur­ing a qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion for the 6 Hours of Spa Fran­cor­champs in Bel­gium ear­lier this month. The 21-year-old grand­son of two-time For­mula One world cham­pion Emerson Fit­ti­paldi re­turned to In­di­anapo­lis last Fri­day af­ter surgery to sta­bi­lize his legs.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed, I’m hurt that I’m not be­ing able to race here in the 500,” he said Thurs­day. “But it is what it is. It’s toughen up and get back as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Fit­ti­paldi is ex­pected to be side­lined at least eight weeks, and Dale Coyne Rac­ing has picked rookie Zachary Cla­man De Melo to drive the No. 19 in the May 27 In­di­anapo­lis 500.

Fit­ti­paldi is stay­ing in a mo­torhome at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way the next two weeks.

“I couldn’t re­ally get much closer than that,” he said. “We de­cided with all the doc­tors to stay at the track, at the mo­torhome, be­cause Dr. (Terry) Tram­mell is at the med­i­cal cen­ter here ev­ery day, with all the nurses there. They’ve been help­ing me out a lot.”

Be­ing at the track also helps Fit­ti­paldi keep his spir­its up af­ter miss­ing a chance to par­tic­i­pate in “The Great­est Spec­ta­cle in Rac­ing.” His Brazil­ian grand­fa­ther won the race in 1993.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gra­ham Ra­hal pulls on his gloves as he pre­pares to drive dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion for the In­di­anapo­lis 500 on Thurs­day at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way.

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