Today was Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in preparation for the 97th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Opening Day usually provides a lot of action, and today was no different. In fact, we got a little bit of everything throughout the course of the day. There was cold, sunshine, rain, ROP, and veteran practice. With today’s events, the ball has officially begun rolling at IMS.
As I arrived at the Speedway this morning around 8 am, it was not your typical May weather. It was about 44 degrees with a strong breeze. Things didn’t warm up very quickly either. Despite the chilly conditions, fans began flocking in when the public gates opened at 10 am. It was the Celebration of Automobiles, an event that so many people look forward to. There were classical cars, everywhere you looked.
It was announced just as practice began that Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports has officially filed a second entry for the Indy 500. They did not name a driver, but the car (which is the 35th entry) will carry the number 99. The team’s other car belongs to Simon Pagenaud. Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports fields Simon’s teammate, rookie Tristan Vautier.
The first two hours of practice saw two drivers eclipse the 220 mph barrier. Josef Newgarden (220.263) and Charlie Kimball (220.183) set the pace early, with Newgarden putting in 27 laps. The Penske and Ganassi teams put in a few laps, as did Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan. Helio Castroneves shook down AJ Allmendinger’s car before ROP.
The clouds parted and the sun shined down on the Speedway around 2 pm, when the Rookie Orientation Program began. AJ Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier, and Carlos Munoz all passed without any issues. The other rookie in this year’s field, Conor Daly, will go through his ROP on Monday, when he returns from his GP3 racing obligations from this weekend.
Shortly after 4 pm there was a light sprinkle around the south end of the Speedway, which brought out a yellow flag. It was the first time practice has been delayed because of rain since May 17, 2011. The track went back to green around 4:30 pm, as Newgarden set the fastest lap of the day at 220.920 mph just before Happy Hour.
In all, 16 cars turned at least one lap on Opening Day. There were a total of 480 laps on the day, with Ed Carpenter having the fastest lap at 220.970 mph. More importantly, there were no incidents. Practice will continue tomorrow (Sunday) from Noon to 6 pm. The forecast is calling for sunshine most of the day, but the temperatures will be even colder than today.