It was May 13, but it had the feel of Friday the 13th. The third day of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicked off today, in preparation for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. Speeds were up once again, as we saw a flurry of activity in the final minutes of practice. Carlos Munoz put his Andretti Autosport Honda at the top of the speed charts, with a lap of 230.121 mph. It’s the first lap over 230 mph this year, and no other driver even hit the 229 mph mark. Townsend Bell was second fastest with a lap at 228.969 mph.
Tony Kanaan was third fastest today, but a surprise was James Davison with the fourth fastest lap, driving in just his second day for Dale Coyne Racing. Sage Karam rounded out the top five on Wednesday. There were a total of 2,146 laps turned by 33 drivers.
Unfortunately the speeds weren’t the main topic for discussion today. It was the horrifying crash that three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves had early in practice. Helio’s Penske machine snapped out from under him in the middle of Turn 1, and sent him backwards into the wall. It got much worse for the Brazilian, as his car became airborne and flipped over, eventually landing hard on it’s side. Despite the incredible accident, Castroneves was able to walk away, and was checked and released by the infield care center. Miraculously, the team was able to get his backup car put together late in the day. This one had the previous aero kit pieces, not the newer side parts that he had at the time of the incident.
If that weren’t bad enough, Pippa Mann suffered a horrendous crash as well, just as Happy Hour began. She spun coming out of Turn 4, hit the inside SAFER Barrier, then smashed hard into the pit wall attenuator. Her car was destroyed, but she too was able to walk away with no injuries. The team said they hope to have her back on the track by Friday.
While Coyne’s team is expected to have Davison drive the No. 19 car in the race, the plan is to have Tristan Vautier practice in the car on Friday, then qualify on Saturday. Davison has prior racing commitments this weekend. We should see Buddy Lazier for the first time on Thursday, as he’ll be the last driver/car on this year’s entry list to take to the track.
Practice will continue tomorrow, as cars take to the track at Noon, going until 6 PM. Tickets for practice are $15, or you can watch it live via IndyCar’s YouTube channel.
Helio Castroneves: “The (car) was definitely fast; we were even taking off. Not the way we would want to take off. I have to thank all the messages from the fans of encouragement, and to Team Penske to put a car together and be back out there again. The car was impressive. You can’t be scared when you go out there. I didn’t want to wait to run until tomorrow, and now we’ll focus on Thursday and Friday.”
JR Hildebrand: “We had an all right day. We got out early and started trying to get a handle on what we’ll be looking at for the rest of the week. I thought it was okay and then the track started heating up at the end of the day. We felt like we still needed to figure some things out at that point. It’s all about collecting data and understanding how the car works. We’ve still got plenty of time this week so hopefully between the three of us we can squeeze a little bit of extra speed out of it and go from there. All in all I feel good about the way that we’re working together and I feel confident that we can work some of the bugs out and be right in the thick of it this weekend.”
Sage Karam: “We spent today mostly working on the race package for the No. 8 car. I didn’t do much running alone – I was just running in tight packs. When we started today, the car wasn’t where I wanted it to be balance-wise, but throughout the day we made big strides to get the balance to where I felt comfortable with it. By the end of the day, I was very happy with where the car was and I’m just ready to get back out tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon: “We had a good day overall with the Target car. We had good speed in the car and we accomplished a lot. We did a few qualification simulation runs and changed some bodywork in between runs so we’re just going back and forth on some fine-tuning and setting things up for qualifying this weekend.”
Tony Kanaan: “Another good day for NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing. We were able to get some long runs in and we got some solid data to build on. We also were able to get in some runs working with Dixon during that last hour that helped us find a few more things we need to work on. The car has felt really good out there these first three days of practice, so I’m excited to see how much better we can make it before qualifying this weekend.”
Takuma Sato: “Today was a very good day for our ABC Supply team. The wind dropped significantly unlike the last 2 days. Today the wind direction was different which was unusual for the speedway but it was very consistent so it was a perfect day for testing. We did lots of running today, trimming off for the first time to make the car fast and to see how the car reacted with low downforce. Then we added more downforce and went to the maximum to see how the car reacted in traffic. We were able to cover both ends of the spectrum-qualifying preparation and running in traffic so it was a very productive day. At the end we had a small issue in the drivetrain. I felt something a little strange so I backed off and pulled off the track. When we came back here we found the problem that caused it and so hopefully we have a trouble-free tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “Today was a really good day. The Steak ‘n Shake car was pretty good and we had a really good long run near the end with full fuel. It was kind of a race simulation and the car was really strong. We’re just struggling with a little bit of speed, just pure acceleration speed. The car seems to be a little slower than Oriol and we’ve got to figure out why that is. All in all it was a good day. I really do think we got ourselves into a place that’s much better than we’ve been here in a long time. I feel pretty good about it.”
Ed Carpenter: “Today was an interesting day. We’ve been pretty happy with the cars the last couple of days, but the weather was different again and the track temperature was a little higher, so that presented us with some new challenges. So there were times in the day where I wasn’t too happy, but in the end it’s one of those good days where the conditions change and it forces us to think a little bit and figure out what we really need. So I was proud of the guys for keeping their heads down and making me happier by the end of the day.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a pretty good day. Every day is a little different at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. You’re always learning new things. I think we have some stuff from today that we need to dissect and have a closer look at. We are relatively on track. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and not get too complacent in what we’re doing.”
Townsend Bell: “It was good. We’re staying in a tight little box, being a single-car program, only event of the year so far with the team. Trying to be pragmatic and just stay focused on the fundamentals. So far, so good. We hit the track pretty reasonable, thanks to Davey Hamilton for shaking down the car (on opening day May 3), I was in Monterey for a (sports car) race. Davey did a nice job to just work out the bugs for us and we were able to hit the ground running when we got here.”
Justin Wilson: “We had the fresh engine in during today’s run and everything feels good so far for the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda. We had a reasonable no-tow lap, so I felt pretty good with how things were looking. The car wasn’t the strongest in traffic and we made a couple of changes throughout the day, so we have a few things to look at and see what we can figure out overnight. Tomorrow is another day, so we’ll try again and see what happens.
Carlos Munoz: “I feel really good in this place, so it feels nice. What I really, really want to do is win the 500. It’s nice to be first in practice and everything, of course. We are working hard at the 500. I’m just 23 now. I have a lot of years to try and win it.”
Marco Andretti: “I think we made some headway today. We found a bit of direction there at the end of the day, which I’m pleased with. I think speed wise we are off a bit, but hopefully we can just try and get one of the better handling cars and go with that.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Day 3 was challenging at times. We found some directions for race running – we concentrated on race running today – we have some items that we need to do back-to-back tomorrow to validate. There will be a big meeting tonight to figure out a direction for this team. I think our speed is somewhere in the 10th to 15th range at the moment.”
Alex Tagliani: “The guys are working really hard. It’s very difficult for them to build a car from scratch, so they’re working every day to make sure everything is right. Hopefully tomorrow will be our first day where we can actually go out there and run and evaluate the car and go through some changes. As soon as you go out there and feel back at ease, it doesn’t take long to get used to the car again. Once you get that behind you, you just want to go and run, and that’s the plan for us. I’m glad the guys are taking their time to get through everything they want to do and to get it right, and once that’s sorted out we’re just going to be pounding laps in the No. 48 Al-Fe Heat Treating car and we’ll get up to pace, I don’t doubt it.”
Pippa Mann: “Our first runs went really well today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We started where we left off yesterday, and the handling of the Dale Coyne Racing car supporting Susan G. Komen was improving, and our speeds were looking decent. We dialed in on the set up, and I was getting more comfortable and gaining speed. We were getting some great traffic runs in, and then late this afternoon, it unfortunately went wrong as I caught the big pack heading into Turn 4. The cars in front of me checked up so dramatically that coming fully off throttle didn’t take enough speed out of the car. As I went for the brakes, I also had to take to the grey on the outside of 4, and that’s not a fun place to end up on the race track. For a few moments I almost thought I was going to escape unscathed, but then the angle of the slide hit the point of no return. After the first hit, I knew the pit entrance wall would be next, and that was the one that really hurt the racecar. I want to
thank the safety team and the medical staff for their quick response. When something goes wrong, it’s always reassuring to have those guys by your side so quickly. I have a few bruises, and I’m going to be sore tomorrow, but I’m fine. I really feel for the whole team. They have worked so hard on these race cars, and I hate that I messed one of them up. I know they’ll continue to work hard to get us back out there.
Below are some of my photos from Wednesday. (Special thanks to IndyCar and IMS)