The opening weekend of qualifying for this year’s 92nd Indianapolis 500 takes place this weekend. Favourites for the pole must be Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon who have been the men to beat on oval tracks so far this year in Chip Ganassi’s pair of Dallara-Hondas. Other pole contenders include 2001 and ‘02 race winner Helio Castroneves and new team-mate Ryan Briscoe with Team Penske, and Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti (above) and Danica Patrick (below) at Andretti-Green Racing.
Thanks to the unification of IndyCar racing thirty-four drivers are entered at Indianapolis this year and the field is a little stronger than in recent years. On the other hand, the previous two winners Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish are missing from the field as they have moved their careers, for better or worse, to NASCAR. The only previous winners entered this year are Wheldon, Castroneves and Buddies Rice and Lazier.
Five Brits are entered – 2005 winner Wheldon, Darren Manning, Justin Wilson, Jay Howard and Alex Lloyd. Wilson, Howard and Lloyd are rookies, although Wilson has some oval experience from his four years in Champ Car and is the number one driver of course, at Newman/Haas/Lanigan, replacing Sebastien Bourdais in the team’s McDonald’s car.
This has been a tough week for Newman/Haas/Lanigan because the team’s most experienced and respected man Davey Evans was brutally murdered in an Indianapolis bar last Saturday night. Evans, 63, had worked for Carl Haas’s race team for forty years, going back to the original Can-Am and Formula 5000 series. Born in Sudbury-on-Thames, Evans started his working life in 1959 as a teen-aged engineering apprentice with HWM Motors. He moved on to Maranello Concessionaires before finding work at Lola Cars and then becoming a key man in America in Haas’s Can-Am and Formula 5000 teams before the creation in 1983 of the Newman/Haas CART team.
For many years Davey worked at Lola during the winters building Haas’s cars. Evans was an old-school artisan who could construct almost anything. He was not only Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing’s most experienced crewman, but also probably the longest-serving man in the contemporary IndyCar garage area.
“I have a tough time accepting it and I’m sure everyone else feels the same way,” Mario Andretti commented. “It’s such a waste of a wonderful life. For some meaningless human being to take another life that meant so much is a total travesty. There are very few people that I’ve known in my life who you could say, ‘I don’t think this guy had an enemy in the world.’ All the years that I’ve known and worked with him, whether it was with Carl’s Can-Am team or through Formula 5000 to all the years with Newman/Haas, Davey was always there with a smile, always kind. What can you say? He was a friend for life.”
Two memorial services were held in Indianapolis this week for Evans as many who knew him paid their respects to one of the sport’s most-liked men, fated to lose his life in deeply tragic circumstances.