Tom Strattman/AP Photos
Brazilian driver Vitor Meira spent part of Wednesday's rain delay at Indy signing autographs.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It wouldn't be the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway without weather snags.
After two days of rookie orientation and the busiest first day of full-field practice in nine years, Wednesday's preparations for the 92nd Indianapolis 500 (ABC, May 25 at noon ET)
ground to a halt under rainy skies.
Not since 2006's Pole Day had an entire day of track activity been lost to weather. That year the pre-qualifying Fast Friday also was a washout, making it two consecutive lost days. That scenario looks possible again this week, with Thursday's forecast calling for more rain. There's also a small chance of rain Friday.
In other words, the anxiety is about to ratchet up for many teams that wanted as much track time as possible in advance of Saturday's Pole Day (ABC, 3 p.m. ET)
"All I was really able to do today was put my race suit on and off a few times," said Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter
. "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."
Drivers who laid down fast times Tuesday rode out the rain more comfortably in Gasoline Alley or their motorcoaches, knowing they're in the ballpark of where they want to be for the weekend. The Andretti Green Racing stable showed its strength when the track was open, with Marco Andretti
, Tony Kanaan
and Danica Patrick
safely in the top 10 on the speed charts. Andretti turned in the top lap at 226.599 mph with a tow and Kanaan was second at 225.269 mph.
"It's a very long month, and the car was fast yesterday, so I don't think we missed anything by not getting on the track today," said Kanaan, who in six previous 500s has never qualified worse than fifth. "I hope we can get back on the track again by Saturday, but I feel comfortable with where we are right now."
The name of the game with the two-weekend, four-day qualifying format is to secure one's place on the grid in the first weekend; if not among the top 11 cars on Saturday, then hopefully among the next 11 on Sunday. (Three chances to qualify are available to each car on each day.) Miss that, and it's a long wait until third-day qualifying and Bump Day, which has renewed significance with at least 36 cars vying for 33 spots.
"If the conditions are not ideal, the more experienced guys know how to deal with that quicker than we do," said Justin Wilson
of Newman/Haas/Lanigan, one of 13 Indy 500 rookies, 12th on the speed charts in full-field practice. "They can change their car, they can find a setup and go out there and run four laps of qualifying and be pretty 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. It just makes life a lot harder when you don't have the data to fall back on."
Look at Sarah Fisher
, running her first race of the year with the new Sarah Fisher Racing. Her Dallara-Honda turned only 16 laps under friendly skies, the second-smallest workload in the field Tuesday. (Rookie Mario Moraes
ran 14 laps.) Her best speed, 217.866 mph, is second-slowest on the charts, ahead of only Milka Duno
's 217.412 mph.
"Obviously the rain today is very disappointing," said Fisher, a six-time 500 starter. "We needed the track time today to help the start of our team. This really puts us behind for the month and for qualifying."
She may not be able to catch up Thursday.
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.