Friday at Daytona International Speedway is substantially quieter. While there appears to be tremendously more fans here today, the teams are a bit calmer and more organized. Most teams have an idea of what their race strategy is going to be and they’ve built their setup accordingly. Today is a bit of a dress rehearsal. Drivers are practicing quick driver changes, teams are practicing pit stops, fans are picking out where they’re going to watch from, and photographers are scoping out their hotspots for race day.
The Friday morning practice session started out rather slowly as many teams were still putting the finishing touches on their cars from last night. Most of the teams had the cars completely disassembled last night so there was quite a bit to be done this morning.
Crew members disassemble the car
Mechanics work on the motor
The biggest portion of the morning practice was dominated by the GT class cars but when the Daytona prototypes made their way back on to track Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates showed that they weren’t concerned with their qualifying efforts yesterday. Scott Pruett put the car at the top of the leader charts having run a 1:41.019. Scott Dixon wasn’t far off either, finishing the session with a fast lap of 1:42.464, landing him in 3rd position. Unfortunately, only four prototypes made it on to the track for the morning session so the other IZOD IndyCar Series competitors were forced to wait for the afternoon session.
During the downtime between practice sessions Chip Ganassi stopped by the media center to discuss his incredibly successful 2010 season. When asked if he would be disappointed if his success did not continue in 2011 Chip responded with, “We’re always focused on the next race and that’s it. It just so happens that this (Daytona) is the next race. After this we’ll look forward to the next one.”
Chip Ganassi in the media center
The second and final practice prior to the race took off at 11:00am and it would showcase the entire field. There was quite a bit of action going on as everyone was making last minute install checks, practicing pit stops, and driver changes.
Teams practicing driver changes
NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and his GAINSCO/Bob Stalling Racing team would jump to the top of the timing charts for the first time this weekend with a 1:40.878. The Ganassi cars would continue to flex their muscles finishing the session with the #01 in 2nd position and the #02 in 9th position. Ryan Briscoe and his SunTrust Racing team would end the session in 7th place. Justin Wilson’s team struggled finishing a tough 13th position.
Justin Wilson negotiates through some slower traffic
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Raphael Matos’ car, which hadn’t run since final practice yesterday having skipped qualifying, was re-assembled just prior to practice and would finish the session a hard fought 15th place on the practice charts. There are no more practice sessions between now and the race, so teams have taken to their respective garages once again. They will spend the majority of the afternoon making sure the car is ready to go, tightening bolts down, changing fluids, and getting it shiny and new for the big day tomorrow.
Here’s where the INDYCAR drivers are starting:
3rd Place: Graham Rahal (with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, and Joey Hand)
5th Place: Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti (with Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray)
8th Place: Justin Wilson (with A.J. Allmendinger and Michael McDowell)
16th Place: E.J. Viso (with Alex Popow, Romain Iannetta, and Glynn Geddie)
17th Place: Ryan Hunter-Reay and Raphael Matos (with Scott Tucker and Richard Westbrook)
Once again, be sure to follow us tomorrow. We’ll be live blogging starting at Noon (ET). The race takes the green flag at 3:30pm (ET) and we’ll be there giving you all the inside info on our IZOD IndyCar Series drivers the entire time!