It was a cool and windy day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, but 33 drivers made their way onto the 2.5 mile oval. Still, most of the drivers I spoke with said the strong winds weren’t an issue. In all, there were 1,958 laps turned on Tuesday, with a familiar face at the top of the speed chart. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves had the fastest laps (227.514 mph) around the speedway, both with and without a tow.
Castroneves and Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud were the only two drivers to break the 227 mph barrier. Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson, and Townsend Bell rounded out the top five on Tuesday. Seven of the top eight were all powered by Chevrolet.
Castroneves also appeared to debut a new aero package from Chevrolet, which had substantially different side pods.
Today we also learned that James Davison will pilot the No. 19 car for Dale Coyne Racing in the race on May 24. Unfortunately he has prior commitments this weekend, and won’t be able to qualify the car. It’s possible that Tristan Vautier could attempt to qualify the car, as he was here with Davison today. Davison was in the car for the first time today, turning 15 laps towards the end of practice. The only driver on the entry list that has yet to turn a lap this month is Buddy Lazier.
While there were no accidents today, there were quite a few engine/mechanical issues. The first was another scary fire with Simona de Silvestro in the cockpit. After just nine laps, her car ignited after a big puff of smoke. The team said the fire was caused by a fuel leak. The car was burnt badly, and was loaded up and transported to the team’s nearby shop for repair. It was four years ago when she suffered second-degree burns to her right hand in a practice crash at IMS. The year before that, she had minor burns to her fingers in a crash during a race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Honda did have two engines let go today, which belonged to James Jakes and Justin Wilson. Curt Cavin reports that Wilson’s engine was about to be replaced, but that Jakes’ was relatively new.
Practice will resume tomorrow at Noon, and run until 6 PM again. The weather forecast is similar to today’s weather, just not as windy. Tickets for practice are $15, or you can watch it live via IndyCar’s YouTube channel.
Highlights from today’s practice session are below, courtesy of IndyCar.
Will Power: “It was definitely a productive day, and we found some speed in the No. 1 Verizon Chevy, for sure. We also got some running done in traffic and I feel great about the last change we made to the car. We’re in a good spot as we get closer to qualifying this weekend.”
Helio Castroneves: “It was a good day. The Shell V-Power Nitro+ car was super strong, super solid, felt comfortable. Now we’ve got to just keep working with this new aero kit. Today was basically the second day that we’ve been working constantly, but I like what I see. Things are looking in the right direction. We’re not focused on just the lap, we’re focused on the performance of it all.”
JR Hildebrand: “It was good. We had limited running because we used one set of tires today. We had some other things we wanted to get done today like bodywork and stuff. We didn’t spend a lot of time on track, but I felt pretty good about the time we did spend on the track. It’s nice that the three of us – Ed (Carpenter), Josef (Newgarden) and myself – all essentially look for the same thing in a race car. We still gain from what they do when we are not out there. Everything went pretty smoothly, it was a windy day out there so it was good to get out and run a little bit just to get a sense of what that’s like should qualifying or race day be like that. I feel like we are on the right track. We will continue to run more as qualifying comes closer.”
Sage Karam: “Today was pretty straightforward in the Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records car. We were close to mileaging out this Chevrolet engine and we used the remaining laps we had available to work on car setup. We went a couple different directions today in terms of setup and found the wrong way to go. So I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow and picking up where we left off with a new engine.”
Scott Dixon: “We struggled a bit with the Target car for most of the morning, specifically with the rear of the car and the way I wanted it to be in order to be comfortable. We worked on a lot of geometry with it and later on it seemed to come around to my liking. I think we made some decent progress and will keep working on things tomorrow if the weather holds up for us.”
Tony Kanaan: “We used today’s practice to work through some different setups to make sure I was good with how the car was feeling. It’s nice to have these long sessions to be able to look at different things and gather a lot of data to find the setup that works best. We want to make sure we find the right setup for the car before we start running for speed and using up all of our tires. I think we’re definitely close to where we need to be.”
Takuma Sato: “Another windy day but it was colder so we had a different test menu from yesterday to try to understand the car more. We made some improvement, which was positive. At the end of the day we wanted to run in traffic but we had a small issue so we couldn’t achieve that one. I think we learned from running in small traffic today and it felt positive. Hopefully we will get some running in traffic tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “All in all, it was a really good day. We worked on the Steak ‘n Shake car and really improved it a lot. Like I keep saying, I think the guys are doing an excellent job and working through a lot of things here and the car already feels a heck of a lot better than it ever did the last couple of years. I’m pretty happy with it, but we’ve got to keep working to catch those Penskes. They’re obviously pretty quick and we’ve just got to do the best that we can to keep up with them and be competitive and keep improving the car over time. We’ve got a long ways to go here so there is no reason for anyone to panic. The car feels pretty good in race trim.”
James Davison: “It’s a fantastic feeling to be back in an Indy car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the windiest conditions I have driven in. I was quite fortunate last year to drive in very ideal conditions, so there was a lot more movement in the car than I had experienced before. We were regulated to run under 215 (mph) and I’m just really looking forward to getting on with our proper program tomorrow.”
Ed Carpenter: “It doesn’t feel too bad. It wasn’t as smooth of a day as yesterday. I’m pretty happy with the balance on the car. I’m not sure exactly where we are on speed, but this is the time of the week where I kind of get paranoid. We made the car a little better from yesterday so that’s all that really matters.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was another day of learning. This place is so tricky. It’s just mentally difficult to figure out what you want and what you need in the car, but I think we found a lot of good things today. I feel a little better about what I’m doing inside the car now. I think we’ve got a pretty good practice to roll with and I think all three cars feel similar to that. Each day is a progression and we’ve just got to make sure we’re staying on the upside of that.”
Townsend Bell: “It was another good day for our team. I feel like we are in a window where we have a feel for what we might want on race day. And it was nice to get some pit stop practice in today as well. The Robert Graham Special feels very good so far and we are moving through our list of engineering items. We are still learning. These are still early days and we are trying to understand all of the aero data. We have a great group of guys who know how to get through that data. Looking forward to Wednesday now.”
Justin Wilson: “I looked in the mirror and there was a lot of smoke coming out of the exhaust so, yeah, it’s unfortunate. I don’t know any more than that right now. But, looking back over the day, I think we’ve had a pretty good day. The car’s been quick. We tried a couple of different setups that the team’s got going on. Both feel pretty good and quick. I’m pleased with today. I think that the No. 25 Honda Andretti Autosport car is working well. I really enjoy working with Craig Hampson, my engineer, and I think there’s more to come. I think there’s a few tweaks we can try for going faster and also dealing better in traffic.”
Marco Andretti: “There’s just been this sort of underlying characteristic that we’re trying to work out. We’re throwing kitchen sinks at it and it’s just there. We’ve ticked off so many boxes for two days – we’ve done a ton of work in two days and not making a ton of headway yet.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It’s great to work with the teammates in race trim like we did today. We’re finding some answers on what we need and what we don’t. As usual we’ll keep up our teamwork and pull together to produce the best car that we can.”
Simona de Silvestro: “It’s definitely unfortunate because the car is pretty burnt down, and it’s really frustrating that it seems like fire follows me. Maybe this time is third time’s the charm, and hopefully the team can get the car back together as quickly as possible. Until now, everything was working fine, and it’s just annoying because it’s a pretty big setback for us. But I have four great teammates and that will make it easier for us to continue moving forward.”
Oriol Servia: “It was more comfortable in the car because we were able to reduce understeer compared to yesterday, and improve the rear end which is exactly what the driver usually wants from the car. I think we were in the top five on the no-tow report so I think we are looking good. It’s only Tuesday so there are still a lot of things to try and a lot of days ahead to do things right, but I’m quite happy with where we are today.”
Charlie Kimball: “We spent most of today working on the race car and its overall balance. We needed to close the loop on some things and find some grip but also find a little better balance. It was a tough day with the wind with it gusting pretty hard at times, but if we can run well in the wind, we should be able to run well in traffic. I think we made the car better and gave ourselves a little bit of margin and direction to take the No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch in for the rest of the week. We were really smart today with tires and were able to put ourselves in pretty good standing for the rest of the week with tire allocation. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to fill it up and actually do some race running.”
Below are some of my photos from Tuesday. (Special thanks to IndyCar and IMS)