Here’s some quick notes about IndyCar Indianapolis 500 practice so far….
A.J. Allmendinger, Carlos Munoz and Tristan Vautier all completed Rookie Orientation in roughly 90 minutes. Temperatures were low, so many teams elected to stay off track. Ed Carpenter ended Day 1 at the top of the speed charts at 220.970 mph. 298 laps were completed by 13 drivers in 16 entries.
No need for ROP today, since Conor Daly didn’t arrive until Monday. Andretti Autosport rookie driver Carlos Munoz topped the speed charts at 223.023 mph. The first delay of the year came as there was a 20 minute delay for a passing rain shower. 22 drivers completed 730 laps in 23 entries.
Despite having to borrow a HANS device from Marco Andretti to complete ROP due to lost luggage, Conor Daly completed ROP. Pippa Mann also made short work of her refresher course. “Martow” Andretti ended the day on top of the speed charts, breaking the 225 barrier at 225.100 mph. Helio Castroneves joined him in the 225 club at 225.075 mph. This was the first day 32 of the 33 entries hit the track, turning 1733 laps total.
James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti did a ride swap, trying to learn from each other’s setups. Hinch turned the fastest lap of the day in Marco’s #25 ride, setting the pace at 224.210 mph. In fact, 2 of the top 3 times of the day were set in Marco’s #25. Chevy continued their testing domination as 32 drivers participated in 34 entries, covering 2226 laps.
Some drivers are starting to install new engines after spending most of Tuesday trying to milage out their first engine of the season. The Target boys swap from T-Cars to the primary, sending Dario Franchitti directly to the top of the speed charts at 224.236 mph. One of his teammates, last year’s pole winner, Ryan Briscoe, is the only other Honda in the Top 5. At the bottom of the grid, Rahal Letterman Lanigan drivers Graham Rahal and Michel Jourdain Jr start to make everyone very concerned about the RLL team pace. Sebastian Saavedra brought out the caution flag when the wrap came off his rear cowling and essentially created a glitter bomb on the track. 32 drivers in 32 entries completed 2165 laps.
Two big things happened. First off, the first crash of May happened. Conor Daly lost grip in Turn 1, smacking the wall pretty hard. As the car rolled through the South Short Chute, it tipped on its side, but came back down upright. Conor was evaluated, and was released healthy from the Infield Care Center. The second big news was Buddy Lazier finally hitting the track in the #91 Lazier Partners entry. Most of their track time was dedicated to systems checks in order to get serious on Fast Friday. Carlos Munoz once again topped the charts at 225.163 mph.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Sarah Fisher Hartman/Century 21 Honda): “We had a shorter day today but still a productive one for setup changes. We still have a little bit of a list to work on, but I think we are actually sitting quite well. I think the car handles well in traffic and by itself and seems to be quick as expected from this team, as they built a fast race car. We’re looking good. We just have to stay on task. You can get caught off guard around this place easily, so we have to make sure it doesn’t get ahead of us.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): “Today was a really good day. We ran through a lot of stuff. We did nearly 70 laps in different conditions, both early in the afternoon and late in the afternoon. We worked on a lot of race stuff and are still focusing on next Sunday, for the race. We have to make sure that the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen car is going to be happy in different situations and different conditions, whether we’re running in traffic or running by ourselves. We worked on some developmental stuff, just to make sure we have as many tools in our toolbox as possible come Race Day. I think the car is pretty happy. We just have to keep making adjustments and paying attention as things develop. Obviously, as we’re getting closer to the end of the week, we’ll start looking toward qualifying. What’s really important is what happens a week from Sunday, not necessarily what happens on Saturday in qualifying. Saturday is important; it’s just not the only important thing ahead of us.”
E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): “The preparation is still happening. We’re still following each of the steps of our test plan. Today we still answered some good questions that we had about the car, and what we are trying to do right now is make our race car even stronger. I think we are going to be good for the race, but there are still plenty of details to fix to have an even better car.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT DATA Honda): “It was a long day and pretty good. We got some long runs in there at the end of the day and got to run in packs, so we were really happy with that. We made some big suspension changes throughout the day and found a really good direction with the car, so we were happy with that, as well. We are definitely moving in the right direction, and we’re really happy with what we have moving into tomorrow and on to qualifying.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): “It was a good day for the DHL crew. We tried quite a few different setups because the weather is changing. The wind’s changing; it’s getting hotter. So we’re just logging more data for weather conditions and ended the day on a good note. We were on the top of the charts most of the day but finished with a great race car, so I’m really happy with it.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet): “I think the GoDaddy crew made some really good gains today. We had some troubles early on, but we’ve bounced back from that. We’re still fighting the good fight that is Indianapolis. Well keep working at it; we gathered a lot of data over the five (Andretti Autosport) cars today, and we’ll see where we are at come week’s end.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): “It’s day five, so we got to touch closely to what we think will be a good setup for the race. We optimized some changes that we made, and it was interesting to get to try all of those items. We’ll definitely have a strong race car. We can race in the pack pretty easily. Since it’s hot today, that’s a great testing environment because that’s similar to what the weather will be on May 26. I’m enjoying driving the car because it feels much more competitive than it was last year.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Lucas Oil/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Today was the first day where I really managed to get some time in the pack. I’m glad we made some progress there. It was a good day, although I wish we could have run even more. It was useful time, though, because it gave us a direction to head in. Hopefully we can get some time on the track tomorrow and Friday if the weather isn’t too bad. I really want to keep working because we’re catching up a bit since I’m a rookie, and I need to get comfortable on this track.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): (About being fastest of the day): “It doesn’t really count for much, but it’s nice, nonetheless. Right now we’re still very much in the preparation stage. We’re making changes to the car, and sometimes doing one- and two-lap runs. I think we had a pretty tough morning there and made some big changes to the Target car in the afternoon. We ran some and was pretty happy with it, so we went out there with some of the Andretti guys and my teammates – Scott, Ryan, and I think Charlie was involved for a minute there, as well – and some other guys involved in a pack, and really the lap time came from being in the right place at the right time. It was a bit like everybody out there: It was when you got the tow and how big the tow was. So for us, it was more important that the car balanced and how the car is in traffic and stuff, and we’re getting there with that. Still got a little work to do, but we’re closer than we have been.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a productive day again. After yesterday, we were delayed on the program, but I think we caught up nicely and we tried several things we wanted to try over the last two days, and it was good to see the changes. We collected good data today, and finally we were able to run in traffic to see how the car performed. We found some positives and some not so much. We’ll sort it out in the debrief tonight and hopefully continue to progress tomorrow.”
CONOR DALY (No. 41 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “We got over 220 today, which was enjoyable. I got to run in traffic at the end of the day, so that was good experience, a whole new experience for me, and I really enjoyed it. As long as I can keep running like that tomorrow, I think we’ll have a good platform for the race.” (Was running in traffic what you expected?): “It was a little surprising. It’s tough to really get close to people, so I think there’s some stuff we can do with the car to help that. But I think mainly it’s just me trying to figure out how to navigate traffic, so it should get better.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 60 Sunoco “Turbo” Panther Racing Chevrolet): (Is it more fun to go fast than to talk about guys going fast?): “It is a lot more fun. It feels a lot more at home for me to jump in and not have to say anything, not have to smile. No one can see me beneath the helmet and just get after it. It’s been great. The car has been solid. The Panther guys have done an awesome job. We had a rocky start with me coming in late from Laguna, but we’ve rebounded nicely since then.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther DRR Chevrolet): “It was again a difficult day in terms of the conditions. It was very hot and even windier than yesterday. It’s tricky because the car wants to slide around. There toward the end, we made a couple of changes that gave me more grip, which is what we were after. Honestly, it’s hard when you do changes to get a read sometimes because you’re out there and do some laps alone, and you get a perfect read. Then all of a sudden you’re behind a big pack of cars, and you basically lose 200 pounds of downforce. We get caught in trying to see both things – how the changes are and how your car is in traffic because that’s how it’s going to be during the race. It’s an interesting dynamic that happens out there. I think we made the best of it today.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Chevrolet Racing): “We had a busy day. We ran 107 laps, more than twice any other day for us. We had bad day on Tuesday, just a lot of problems. The Fuzzy’s Chevy felt much better today, and we ran in a lot of traffic. With the heat and more cars, the track was more in a race setting. We aren’t where we want to be just yet, but I think we are back into our scheduled plan. We aren’t sure how the weather will play out the next two days, so we wanted more laps today. We have been working on the race car and haven’t trimmed anything out for a qualifying setup. Let’s just hope the weather is cooperating with us to get more laps in for Thursday and Friday.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): “Today was interesting, to say the least. We finished sixth overall, but we were trying new things on the car. Obviously, some things aren’t always going to work out for the best. It kind of goes back to ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it,’ so not every change to the car is a good change. We made more progress yesterday than today, but that’s why we practice so much here. Tomorrow will be a better day for the RC Cola Chevy. We have a solid idea of the setup we want the car to have at this point.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): “We’re feeling pretty good. We haven’t worked very much on our qualifying stuff yet because there are still a couple of days before we really have to do that. More than anything, once we get to Friday and Saturday, it’s hard to work on race stuff, so we’ve been running through a lot of things to make the National Guard car works well in traffic. And we’ve been trying to figure out what we need to do so we’ve got a fast car but also a car that works well throughout an entire stint. I feel like we’ve made good progress the last few days. It’s always hard to tell running in traffic what other guys are doing, but we certainly aren’t one of the cars struggling to get by people out there. But we’ve got to keep working at it, because at this place you certainly can’t take anything for granted.”
AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was warmer outside today than it was yesterday, which changed some of the things the IZOD crew out into the setup of the IZOD Chevrolet. The track had less grip than the day before, as well. I got to experience being in race traffic along with practicing pit stops, which was a first for me. Overall, it was another solid day on the track. We continue to learn more and more as the week goes on.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Shell-Pennzoil car was good today. It was interesting out on the track with the wind conditions. We will keep finding little things and making improvements.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We did a lot of race setup work today. Some long runs, and the guys worked on pit stops, too. It was a good day for the Verizon team. We accomplished a fair bit of work today. There is bit more in the car, and I feel pretty good about it.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The No. 9 Target car was decent today. We went through a bunch of changes. The last run, when everyone was getting big times, we had too much understeer. It was really hard. I could keep up with the pack but couldn’t pass anyone. Looks like the team cars were good. I’m excited to see what they were up to and see if we can make good changes tonight.”