Carpenter tops speed chart on opening day at Indy

Sarah Fisher retired from driving to start a family.

Turns out, her replacement can deliver, too.

Ed Carpenter turned a fast lap of 224.786 mph in the No. 67 car Saturday, putting the expectant mother and team owner atop the speed charts on the opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice. New Zealand's Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy winner, was second at 224.491 mph.

"Today was one of those days where everything went right," said Carpenter, the stepson of former speedway president Tony George. "Well, we did have a couple of issues, but basically everything went right."

Carpenter posted his speed just before rain started falling for the first time Saturday.

The delay wiped out nearly two hours of the scheduled six-hour session. Workers finally got the track dry enough late in the day to get everyone back out on the track again. But a second round of showers limited washed out the final 45 minutes of practice.

Rookie JR Hildebrand, of Panther Racing, surprised many by finishing third at 224.433 — just two days after passing his rookie test.

Defending champ and two-time 500 winner Dario Franchitti, Dixon's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi, was fourth at 224.107. The Scotsman finished just ahead of Marco Andretti, who had a 223.927. Three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves, of Brazil, was ninth at 222.755, and was second among Team Penske drivers. Castroneves' teammate, Australia's Ryan Briscoe, was sixth at 223.811.

So for Fisher and Carpenter, it was an incredible start to May.

"I'm hormonal now, so thank God I'm not making all the decisions," Fisher joked.

"Why do think I'm going so fast?" Carpenter said.

Qualifying begins next Saturday, and if he makes it safely in Saturday, Fisher just might try to put a second car, No. 57, in the May 29 race.

"The 57 plan was for me, originally, but I guess I ruined that," said Fisher, whose due date is in late September. "Our primary goal was to do Indy and win the oval championship, so we'll not make a decision about that until (next) Saturday night."


LATE START: Rain wasn't the only problem track officials faced Saturday.

The start of practice also was delayed for about 15 minutes after an automatic sprinkler from the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course doused the track just before noon. Track workers scrambled to dry the moisture in the back straightaway.

Four of the course's holes can be played on the track's infield, but the issue this time came from the main portion of the course, outside of the back straight.

When the green flag dropped, Castroneves made it onto the 2.5-mile oval first.


THE CAPTAIN: Roger Penske will receive the Legends of Racing Award at Wednesday night's Racing to Recovery Gala in Indianapolis.

Penske is the most successful team owner in Indy history, having won 16 poles and 15 races. Overall, his teams have won more than 300 major races and 23 national championships.

Previous award winners include former Indy champions Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Arie Luyendyk and Rick Mears, and current IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti.

The fundraiser is hosted by the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and raises money to help assist with medical research, rehabilitation and quality-of-life programs for people living with paralysis. Schmidt, a former IndyCar driver, was paralyzed after crashing during a practice in 2000.


PIT STOPS: England's James Jakes became the last of the seven rookies to pass his rookie test Saturday. ... Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was the honorary starter on opening day. ... Dixon gave Greg Nemeth, of nearby Greenwood, Ind., a Graham watch valued at over $7,000. Nemeth won the watch in a contest Dixon held on Twitter. ... Team owner Chip Ganassi is the first race team executive to be nominated for the Sports Business Awards sports executive of the year. Ganassi's team is also up for the pro sports team of the year award.