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IndyCar - Schmidt Motorsports Practice Report

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INDIANAPOLIS, May 20, 2011: Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers Alex Tagliani and Townsend Bell were again top-10 mainstays on the speed chart during Friday’s practice session for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500.

Tagliani, driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone for SSM, posted the second fastest lap of the day around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a time and speed of 39.4172 seconds at 228.327 mph. The Canadian’s quick lap, which is the second-fastest of the month, came on the fifth of his 26 total laps turned on Friday.

Bell turned 16 laps in the No. 99 Herbalife24 Dallara/Honda/Firestone for SSM and was the eighth-fastest driver of the day with a lap of 39.4864 seconds at 227.927 mph. The hot lap came on the 15th of his 16 trips around the “World Greatest Race Course.”

Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves turned the fastest lap of the month late in the session when he toured the famous oval in 39.3682 seconds at 228.611 mph. Tagliani was second followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon who was third at 39.4244 seconds at 228.181 mph. Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe (39.4686 seconds at 228.029 mph) and rookie Bertrand Bague (39.4688 seconds at 228.028 mph), driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, rounded out the top-five.

The run for the pole position begins Saturday with practice from 8-10 a.m. EDT. From 11 a.m.-4 p.m., the top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be available through traditional four-lap qualifying attempts. Each car will have up to three attempts during that time. The times of the top nine drivers from this first segment of qualifying will be erased at 4 p.m., with all of those competitors guaranteed to start no worse than ninth in the Indianapolis 500.

From 4:30-6 p.m., the “Fast Nine” will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt, with optional attempts if time permits. Each driver’s best run during the 90-minute session will set their position within the top nine spots on the starting grid. If inclement weather prevents the 90-minute shootout for the “Fast Nine,” their times from the opening session will determine starting positions.

Tagliani drew the fourth qualifying slot, while Bell will go out 46th.

VERSUS will broadcast Saturday qualifying from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and again from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:

What are your thoughts on practice today and preparing for qualifying tomorrow?

“I think we did pretty well today. The car seems to be pretty quick. Against our competition, we’re right there. We’re in the top cars. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be a lot tighter than I was expecting. There are a lot of good cars. I’ve seen some amazing speed from the Rahal car (Bertrand Bague), Dario (Franchitti) is strong, (Scott) Dixon is strong and obviously the Penske cars are really strong as well. So, if we make it in the ‘Fast Nine’ again, it would be an amazing accomplishment because I think the field is a lot tighter this year than we’ve seen it in the past. And if we come up with the car that gives us the chance to make a run at the pole then we’ll throw everything we have at it and see what we come out with. I’m fairly pleased with our week, the Bowers & Wilkins boys did a great job, the engineer group that we have is great. Hopefully we can make it happen.”

Townsend Bell, Driver of the No. 99 Herbalife24 Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:

What are your thoughts on practice today and preparing for qualifying tomorrow?

“I’m very happy with the Herbalife car. The balance is great and I’m comfortable. I’m ready to let it rip tomorrow and see what we have. It’s going to be competitive, but it’s nice to know it looks like we’ll be competitive.”

How important is the qualifying draw that determines the qualifying order for Saturday?

“It just depends on what the weather does. Your draw is your draw. You just get on with it.”

Sam Schmidt, Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports:

What is your comfort level heading into qualifying tomorrow?

“I feel really good. I’m a little disappointed we got taken out by Helio again, with a little bit of a tow, and missed out on some money tonight, but I also feel confident about our decision not to go out there between 5 (p.m.) and 6 (p.m.) and to keep everything intact for tomorrow and keep our head down. I don’t think Penske has quite shown all their stuff yet. Penske and Ganassi will be very strong tomorrow. Our drivers have done really well all week and the mechanics have done a great job adapting to each other this week.”