Break in rain gives teams much-needed track time ... for 30 minutes

Updated: May 14, 2008

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

At least Max Papis stayed dry when rain halted Wednesday's practice after only half an hour.

INDIANAPOLIS -- At least it was something positive.

On another dreary day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, track-drying trucks were the show for nearly five hours. The skies didn't offer the downpours that canceled two full practice days last week, plus half of Fast Friday and all of Sunday's second-day qualifying, instead delivering just enough light rain and cloud cover to keep cars in the garage.

At 5 p.m., however, teams got a break.

The track dried enough and the weather held for a 30-minute practice. Twenty-nine cars turned 390 laps, hardly a windfall of activity but a welcome mini-session for many teams that still need to claim one of the 22 remaining spots on the grid for the 92nd Indianapolis 500.

"We took a leap toward where we thought we needed to be," said John Andretti, named as a replacement last weekend for Jay Howard in the Roth Racing No. 24. He was sixth on the speed chart at 221.386 mph, fastest among drivers who have yet to qualify. "It gave us direction, anyway. Sometimes these little spurts can keep the team organized and keep everybody thinking in the same direction. It would be nice to roll in, do a couple little changes and come back out now, but we'll get another chance yet again."

There were some notable sights in the brief workout, such as Chip Ganassi driver Alex Lloyd, who was back in his car for the first time since a hard crash Friday that put him in the hospital.

"It was nice to get in the car and get in at least a few laps today with the way the weather was looking," said Lloyd, a 500 rookie. "We were basically just doing leak checks, having had the accident and putting the car back together again."

Much of the speed information defies analysis because of the brevity of the session, but there was consistency at the top as 1-2 qualifiers Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing were 1-2 Wednesday.

"We were working on race stuff and we didn't get a lot of time, but I think we have an idea of where our car is at," said Wheldon after a top speed of 222.810 mph. "We're just trying to simulate what race conditions may be like."

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.

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Second-Week Teams Materialize

Roger Yasukawa

Yasukawa

Come Bump Day on Sunday -- weather permitting, of course -- there stand to be four teams left out of the show.

Three second-week Indy teams have been announced: Phil Giebler in the No. 88 American Dream Motorsports Panoz-Honda (the only such chassis in the field), Roger Yasukawa in the Curb/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports No. 98 and Jeff Simmons in a second A.J. Foyt-owned car.

That puts the total number of drivers at 37, though former 500 starters Jaques Lazier and Alex Barron are still roaming Gasoline Alley looking for work.

Simmons Set For Busy Weekend

Jeff Simmons, signed to drive the No. 41 for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, hopes to complete 600 miles of racing during Indy week.

In addition to the Indy 500 on May 25, Simmons will drive in the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23. He has run three Indy Lights races this year with Team Moore Racing.

"I'm going to do the double. All I need is a NASCAR ride and I can do the triple," Simmons said.

He last did the double in 2004, finishing second in the Freedom 100 and 16th in the 500 as a rookie with Mo Nunn Racing. His best 500 finish was 11th last year with Rahal Letterman Racing; Simmons was replaced in that car later in the year and hasn't caught on with another IndyCar Series team since.

"I would love to get another opportunity for the race to be here in the Indy cars, but if that's not there, even my Indy Lights thing is kind of a race-to-race deal," said Simmons, 31. "I need to make a lot of money this month in case I don't make anything for the rest of the year, I guess.

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