INDIANAPOLIS (May 17, 2011) – Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) drivers Townsend Bell and Alex Tagliani did not participate in Tuesday’s practice session for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Overcast skies, moderate winds and temperatures in the low 50’s kept all but two drivers off the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Despite not turning a lap, Bell, driver of the No. 99 Herbalife24 Dallara/Honda/Firestone, and Tagliani, driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone, spent the day working with the entire SSM team to prepare their practice plan for the rest of the week before qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 takes place on Saturday and Sunday.
Marco Andretti led Tuesday’s practice session with a lap of 40.7875 seconds at 220.656 mph. Mike Conway, who turned a lap of 40.9259 seconds at 219.910 mph, was the only other driver to take to the track during the day. Andretti turned five laps, while Conway made eight trips around the oval.
Tagliani’s lap of 39.8445 seconds at 225.878 mph that he posted in Monday’s practice session remains the fastest lap of the month.
Tuesday’s practice session lasted just more than four hours and was ended at approximately 4:05 p.m. (EDT) due to rain. Two hours, 44 minutes and 32 seconds were conducted under green-flag conditions. There was one hour, 21 minutes and six seconds of yellow-flag time.
Practice resumes Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. EDT.
Townsend Bell, Driver of the No. 99 Herbalife24 Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
What do you do when you’re not driving on a day like today?
“You just kind of relax on a day like today. It’s a lot easier (not to run today) than Sunday, since I didn’t get to run on Saturday. It’s tough when you haven’t run yet (like on Saturday) and it rains (on Sunday). At least we got some decent laps yesterday and we know our cars are very strong. I’m quite a bit more at ease than I was on Sunday.”
Are you starting to think about qualifying?
“I think because of the field this year, you’re thinking about qualifying all the time. I think we’re going to be good, but we haven’t even gotten anywhere close to qualifying set-up yet. I’m feeling very positive.”
Besides working with your teammate, Alex Tagliani, Sam Schmidt Motorsports also has a technical alliance with Brian Herta Autosport and driver Dan Wheldon. How is that relationship working out?
“We had a car yesterday (Tagliani) that was P1 in practice and they had a quick car, so we get to work with those guys and figure out what they were doing and if it was much different and see what we could do to improve ourselves. Hopefully that just rises the tide. If one side decides to go down the road of experimentation, it’s very useful to be able to look at that and analyze the data and know what that experiment generated.”
Gerald Tyler, Race Strategist of the No. 99 Herbalife24 Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
You and Townsend first worked together in the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2001 when he won six of the 12 races and the points championship. Talk about that first season with him.
“That was a fun season, one of my favorites actually. We were working with Dorricott Racing and we had a bunch of good people. It was a really nice team. We ended up winning the championship which made it fun. It was fun to develop the car. It was good competition among teammates. We had really good teammates (Jon Fogarty and Damien Faulkner). Just all around it was fun, but when you’re winning, it’s really fun. It was a good season because we just expected to win every race. Townsend’s quick, he’s smart and he knows what he wants. He’s aggressive and he and I work very well together.”
Is there a race that stands out from that 2001season?
“Milwaukee for sure. We were so fast. In a race, weight matters and lighter is faster, so you don’t put any more fuel in the car than you need. We were so quick, and the faster you go the more fuel you burn. He lapped everyone, including second-place, at least once and he lapped the third-place car twice and the fourth- and fifth-place car three times. I was trying to stop that because I was worried about running out of fuel. I was thinking, ‘This can’t be that good, what’s going to go wrong?’ And it was a good series and was very competitive with some very good drivers.”
Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
What are your thoughts on not running today?
“We did two good runs yesterday with a change in between. It was valuable to have some data for today and to look back at last year’s data and evaluate it. With that we could see today if the changes we made over winter paid off. Having that data is important for a day like today when you have a lot of down time to burn. It’s nice to see that our car is up to pace and we’re on top of the chart so far for the week. Even if it’s early, the weather plays a really important part. If you don’t need to run very much, and your car is already right there, it’s a relief for everyone on the team. The teams that are very concerned are the teams that have a plan to run many, many miles. The weather, obviously, makes them very frustrated and disappointed because it interferes with their plan. For us, we had a plan. We knew we weren’t going to run the first day. The second day, we wanted to run but it rained. The third day, we finally ran and were pleased with the number of laps we were able to run and the information we have.”
Notes of Interest:
· Go to your happy place: Townsend Bell’s birthplace, San Luis Obispo, Calif., has been named the “Happiest City in America” by both Oprah Winfrey and National Geographic writer Dan Buettner.
· Fun with numbers: Not only has car number 77 never won the Indianapolis 500, no car with a number between 70 and 79 has ever been to victory lane in the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ Perhaps more interesting is that cars carrying single-digit numbers and numbers in the teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s 80’s and 90’s have all been to victory lane with only the 70’s left out. Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda Firestone for SSM, is certainly hoping to change that in 2011.