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Forecast calls for tension & trim on Pole Day
By Jack Arute, Special to ABC Sports Online

INDIANAPOLIS -- The most important person at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday is the weatherman. Not for the forecast today, but for the weather on Saturday and Sunday.

  Stephan Gregoire of France sits in his race car under an umbrella during a practice rain-delay at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday.

Teams have got to anticipate the conditions when they make their 10-mile run to qualify for the 84th Indy 500 (May 28, noon ET, ABC). It's a proactive aspect of preparations that oftentimes goes unnoticed.

We saw from the speeds on Thursday that windy conditions will reduce the top marks by as much as 4 mph. Don't be confused by Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya's 221-mph speeds. Remember, that in more favorable conditions, Scott Sharp topped the speed chart for the entire week of practice sessions at nearly 224 mph.

What teams have to do is figure out what the potential weather will be, and trim their cars accordingly.

The term "trim" is sometimes difficult to understand. Indy cars produce an incredible amount of down force. So much so that at 100 mph these cars could run on the ceiling of a giant warehouse and never fall down. But that down force is also their biggest enemy when they want to go fast.

Much like a barber who trims the hair out from over your ears, teams will trim a down force apparatus on their cars until the drivers' teeth begin to chatter. There is no way a car in qualifying trim could ever run the entire 500 miles. But in a 10-mile qualifying effort, drivers will tell you that they are on the edge every foot of the way.

But it is the only way to go after the coveted pole position.

Teams trim an Indy car with the front wings and the rear wings. There are level lips on the trailing edge of each that creates additional down force properties. If you want to understand what the process is like a little better, the next time you are driving down the Interstate, take your hand and stick it out the window directly into the air. Then, change the angle of your hand downward towards the pavement. You will notice that your hand will go flat to the side of your door.

Friday was the last chance for drivers to get dialed in for the pole. But equally important is the opportunity for drivers with no chance for the pole to estimate what the speed will be to simply get them into the field. The pulse rate will quicken, and some drivers' smiles will quickly disappear.

It's showtime, baby.
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