INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The green flag dropped on practice for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 Saturday afternoon. 16 cars hit the track for practice and turned almost 300 laps.
Ed Carpenter recorded the fastest lap of the day at 220.970 miles per hour.
The two three-time champions in this year's field, Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves also turned laps. They said it felt great to be back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The first real thrill for me is the first time wide open through turn one. That's the really good feeling," Franchitti said. "That never gets old."
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"The track looks smooth. The weather is helping, because it's so cold. You have so much down force," Castroneves added. "Right now, it's great to be in Indy."
Castroneves and Franchitti are looking to join a special group of drivers. If one of them can win at IMS again, it will be his 4th Indy 500 win overall and put him in the elite company of Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, and Rick Mears.
Franchitti said he's just trying to focus on this year's race.
"You drive in and there's like a 20 foot picture of my head, which I think is to scare off the kids, to be honest," Franchitti joked. "It's always about this year, not really about last. It's a wonderful thing to have won it again, but right now, it's more important to focus on 2013 and trying to get both the Target cars up front and see if we can fight at it for another race win."
IndyCar officials mixed in the rookie orientation program with practice Saturday afternoon. Three of the four rookies in this year's field completed all three phases of the program.
Carlos Munoz, Tristan Vautier, and A.J. Allmendinger are now eligible to compete in this year's race.
"That first lap I caught myself kind of going down the back straightaway and just thinking, 'wow, I'm in an IndyCar at Indy, but especially it's a Roger Penske race car," Allmendinger said. "I kind of lost myself, but then I realized that corner was coming up real fast, so I had to get back in the game."
The fourth rookie, Conor Daly is not in Indianapolis yet. He's in Spain competing in the GP3 Series. Daly will start his rookie orientation on Monday.
Police in Columbus could soon have extra sets of electronic eyes keeping watch over city streets.