Indianapolis 500 Practice, May 18

After a nearly silent practice yesterday, the entire 33-car field put in some serious work on Thursday. With possible showers in the forecast for the next few days, teams and drivers were eager to get on track today.

Jay Howard put his No. 77 Team One Cure Honda at the top of the speed charts for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. His lap at 226.744 mph is the fastest of the month so far. Tony Stewart was at the speedway today, as his Team One Cure group is sponsoring the car. For Howard, it was a surreal and refreshing experience. “This is like a dream right now,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to wake up tomorrow and it’s all gone. I still can’t believe we’re top of the charts.”

Indianapolis 500 Practice Results

The three cars behind Howard were all from the Andretti Autosport camp. The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Fernando Alonso all ran very well together in traffic. Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five on Thursday, but his day was much worse than that result.

Newgarden logged just 35 laps on the day, as he spun exiting Turn 1 and hit the outside wall in the first substantial accident this month. Other than a bruised foot, he was okay and cleared to drive. The No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet was obviously done for the day as the crew began repairing the car.

Sage Karam continued his impressive month, with the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet in 6th on the chart. Charlie Kimball and Oriol Servia were next, and Takuma Sato was 9th. The Japanese driver also had the fastest no-tow lap on Thursday. Rounding out the top ten was Sebastien Bourdais, but he too had issues that ended his day early. With just 40 laps taken, the back of his Dale Coyne machine began to smoke, as another Honda engine let go.

As most teams were just able to work on pit stops yesterday, today was a mixed bag. Some were in race trim, while others were working on qualifying setups. For Buddy Lazier’s team, it was just making sure all of their boxes were checked. With about 30 minutes of practice remaining, the team got their No. 44 Chevrolet out on the track for an install lap. All 33 drivers have now paced around the 2.5-mile oval. There were a total of 2,362 laps turned on Thursday, with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (117) taking the most.

Practice continues tomorrow from Noon until 6 PM ET, for Fast Friday. Engines will get a boost of about 30 horsepower, so speeds will be much higher. IndyCar will once again have live video streaming available. Qualifications are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with the 101st Indianapolis 500 set for May 28.

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “We’re pretty happy with the Menards Chevy especially in that last run. There were a lot of cars out there and we got a good feel of what we can do in dirty air. It really was pretty good. Everyone has been working really hard. The Chevrolet guys are giving us all they have and that’s generally quite a bit. Tomorrow should be really fun with a little boost. But, overall, we’re in a good place.”

Josef Newgarden: “I’m fine. Tough break for us in the (No.) 2 car with Team Penske. It’s obviously not something you want to do, especially on a day like today – a pretty nice day out, no big issues. I’m disappointed that we ran into a problem. I just got called into the pits, so I was coming in and I didn’t want to check up too much for the guys behind me and cause a problem. It just seemed to get away from me. Until I get to look at everything, I’m not 100 percent sure what caused it. We were having a really good day. We had a good run up until that, so again I’m not sure what went on. It was probably my mistake, but until I get to look at everything it’s hard to tell. I feel bad for our guys that we’ve got extra work.”

Helio Castroneves: “The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevrolet felt pretty good today. We were able to turn a ton of laps today after not being able to get any track time yesterday with the conditions. Today, we had a good chance to continue down our checklist and experiment with a few things. We’ll just keep worrying about our program and moving forward and not spend time and effort wondering what others are or aren’t doing.”

Conor Daly: “It was still windy today too, which I thought was funny because everyone was like ‘No, no we can’t run’ yesterday, and I was like ‘Why not? Let’s run,’ and today was pretty much the same and everyone was out there, so tough conditions still, but you know, it could be like that on qualifying and race day. So all the information is very important. I’m definitely not happy where we are yet, but it’s been a long week, a long learning process for us in this Chevrolet aero kit, but we’ve got Fast Friday tomorrow and still have some days on track, so one change could easily put us right where we need to be.”

Scott Dixon: “Today wasn’t a bad day overall. We worked on a number of things we learned from yesterday and advanced the program forward in what we hope will be a good direction. We focused in on some race running when we started out in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, then shifted to more of a soft qualifying trim setup in the late afternoon. All in all a good day for us.”

Tony Kanaan: “It was still a little windy today, but we were able to take advantage of our full day on-track and work on the long list of things we needed to get to before qualifying and the race. We’re still not exactly where we need to be with the No. 10 NTT Data Honda, but we’re definitely getting closer and closer.”

Spencer Pigot: 
“It was nice to get some more running in today after yesterday when we didn’t do any. It was good to get as many laps in today as we did in different aero configurations, but we still have some things to work on. Specifically, just getting the gear ratios right is going to be very important to be able to suck up in the draft and pass people. So we’ll study up on that and see where we can improve. Overall, a good day and thanks to the guys for all their hard work. We’re looking forward to getting into qualifying mode tomorrow.”

Will Power: “We got a lot of things done with the Verizon Chevy today. We collected a ton of great data and we’ll compare that to what our teammates were able to get. That’s one of the true strengths of this team is the amount of information available. Then, we just have to figure out how that relates to what we’re doing and where we want to go. We’ll be able to do that this evening and tomorrow morning to see what tomorrow brings.”

Carlos Munoz: 
“Another day of trying different stuff. It was a day with ups and downs. If I’m honest, sometimes we work so much that it feels different. So yeah, now we have to go back to tomorrow with a qualifying mentality. Let’s see how it goes. That’s our main goal. It was a good day. A little bit short from my point of view. It is what it is and hopefully we’ll have an OK car for the race.”

Graham Rahal: “We worked on race trim and qualifying sims today. I’m pretty pleased with the qual sims. I would have liked to get my last lap (of four) more consistent because the other three were all within a couple hundredths (of a second), so I would have liked to get that final one a little bit better, but overall, I feel like we made some good gains. The no tow laps are important going into qualifying this weekend. We didn’t trim out as much as some of those guys, and I feel like the Steak ‘n Shake car has got some speed, which is definitely nice. Then we worked on some race stuff at the end and I feel pretty comfortable. We have to work on a couple of little things but I feel pretty competitive. Qualifying at Indy is the most nerve-wracking thing you do all year, for sure.”

Oriol Servia: “We just focused on ourselves most of the day, just trying to improve the car little by little on my own. There were a couple of areas where we were not too happy, which is why we kept pounding laps and we ended up a little happier at the end, which is why we decided to do a long run at the end with a group. It was the best long run I ever had as a first long run. Usually you have to work on it and it was pretty good to start.  It was encouraging to have another good day. Today we did a lot more laps and it was interesting. There is always that point where there is a bit of a struggle where you are trying to find a solution and you can’t which is part of the work you go through. We kept digging and finally we found something that worked, which is what it takes, and it feels good to end the day this way.”

Sebastian Saavedra: “Today was a rough day for the No. 17 AFS/Juncos Racing car. Losing yesterday, we tried to cram as much as we could into today’s practice. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the speed that we were expecting to be honest. That has put us in a position to have to start looking in a different direction tomorrow. I have a lot of faith in the whole AFS/Juncos Racing organization, and I’m very interested in the new concept stuff we are going to be developing for tomorrow. Really, out there, you need to have a good race car. Forget about a good qualifying car. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. I’m very proud of the team. They have done a good job in the short time they had to put everything together. We still have a long week ahead of us and it is important we maintain a good mentality. Everybody here is working very hard to put both of the cars out there and I am looking forward to a solid test day tomorrow. Especially with the big changes that we’re going to make overnight.”

Sebastien Bourdais: 
“We had another engine issue, not quite sure what happened exactly, our engine was almost new. We have a powerful and competitive package, but you have to see the checkered flag. It’s unfortunate to miss out on valuable practice time because that’s when you start doing the trims and everything. We were still doing some race setup stuff and we were going to come back soon to the garage and trim out the car to see what it felt like. Obviously, that’s not going to happen, so if weather tomorrow is not very pleasant then it’s going to set us back. However, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if we don’t qualify very well, as long as the race car is competitive that’s all that matters. You can win from the back here.”

Ed Jones: 
“Today was alright. It was so hot and windy. We tried a different setup this morning which I didn’t quite like so we went back to our previous setup this afternoon and I felt a lot happier, but it’s a shame we didn’t get as much running in as we would have wanted to. My progression has been good, but there’s been a lot of breaks, and with the conditions, it’s maybe hampered things a bit. I felt like Monday and Tuesday when we had solid running, we learned so much so quickly and now I feel like it’s been a bit harder to gain as much as we did in the first two days but I still feel that it’s pretty solid.”

Ed Carpenter: “It was a challenging day, but you can have days like that around IMS. We’ve made a lot of progress the last couple of days and our qualifying sims have been good. Looking forward to the weekend, and hopefully finish running through our planned program tomorrow.”

JR Hildebrand: 
“It was a little bit of a challenge out there today. I felt pretty good with the qualifying running we did, but we are definitely still working on the car and have things yet to try. Tomorrow, we shift our focus to doing qualifying running and see what tomorrow shakes out. Hopefully the weather holds up for tomorrow and the weekend and we can see what type of speed these ECR cars have.”

Juan Montoya: “I think it’s coming together for the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet. This team doesn’t have the advantage of working as group for any amount of time. We’re still getting used to one another to some degree. We didn’t throw a lot of laps out there, but we got some quality work done. I feel good about where we are. Hopefully, we can get some more done tomorrow and the weather will give us a little help over the weekend.”

Sage Karam: “Pretty solid day. Made a lot of progress on the race car today, which was the main objective. P6 is great. We’re not too concerned with the lap times as we’re more concerned about how the car feels. The car feels good and I think I can pass anyone really. I feel good overall. We did some qualifying stuff at the end of the day. Trimming out at Indy is always sketchy. But, we have to do that to qualify better this year, which is what we have to do. We made some aggressive steps today and we get the boost tomorrow, which helps. It’ll be interesting to see how tomorrow plays out.”

Takuma Sato: “We had another good day today. Yesterday, we didn’t get to run because of the gusty winds, but today we were able to get a lot on our list accomplished. We were able to complete two solid group runs. I was getting much happier with the car and more comfortable – honestly, I quite enjoyed it. We did some qualifying simulations just to try to get the car prepared for tomorrow, and both were really productive, so it was a good day.”

Marco Andretti: 
“We definitely made some gains today. We got lost a bit earlier in the day and then tried to stay with the track and rebounded at the end of the day. We’re happy with the UFD car in race trim, happy with it in qualifying trim, we just need to keep it there.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It’s been tough work, today I guess, but the past couple days. It’s been tricky out there. We’re definitely driving the cars a lot, I can tell you that. We’re on edge. You never really know what the next lap is going to hold, what surprise is coming at the next corner with dirty air or a gust of wind or whatever. We’ve done quite a bit of testing. We’ve tried a lot of things. We’ve kind of bounced around a bit. But certainly it’s pretty difficult out there. We’ll see what the weather does over the next couple days. Hopefully we can get in some qualifying simulation runs on Fast Friday if the weather cooperates. But we’re looking forward to the next page here tomorrow.”

Fernando Alonso: “I was (running) behind a car just a couple of seconds in front, but we (tried some laps) without any car in front. We tested a couple of different trims and different setup options. The car felt quite OK from the very beginning of the morning, but then I think we did improve it during the day, so I’m quite happy. We worked still a lot on the race situation, keeping other guys out there and running in traffic. I think we found a good balance for traffic. I think tomorrow we will concentrate a little bit more alone on qualifying, but the priority is the race.”

Zach Veach: “Pretty tough day overall, just still not much track time. We just kept making some changes, getting the car ready for race day. Had a few little gremlins come out there at the end that the crew is working extremely hard to fix, so want to thank everyone here at AJ Foyt (Racing) for working as hard as they can to make sure everything is ready for tomorrow. Still, just extremely happy to be here in the IWIT Champ car making great progress every time out. It’s just that that’s the way Indy is – sometimes it doesn’t go your way. We’re just going to keep working overnight and tomorrow will be a better day for all of us.”

Buddy Lazier: “After our late start, today went really well. We would have liked to run more, obviously. We did two installation runs; one for the motor and one for telemetry and we are ready to go all out tomorrow. The team has obviously expanded significantly as the week has went on and we are about where we need to be right now. I know my way around this track, it’s my 20th start this year. I’m super appreciative to Chevrolet and all the partners on our effort that have brought us to this point. For a late start, we are in really great shape.”

Jack Harvey: 
“To be honest, I feel like the time sheets haven’t been too kind to us since we started. At certain times we have good pace. I think our non-tow times are looking pretty good, which bodes well for some qualifying efforts. I think we’ve got some work done on our race car. It’s new to me and to the team. We just have a few things to work through, but I think we made some progress and hopefully we can just keep making progress all month, and honestly just be ready by the time the race comes. Running with the pack went really well and it was better than the first pack that we ran with. Right now, we are making some progress and we will take that and keep chipping away.”

Pippa Mann: “It was nice to get back on track today in the Susan G. Komen No. 63 car. Overall we had a pretty good day. We did a lot of running in traffic and I feel like we’re working on a pretty strong race car for next week.”

Charlie Kimball: “Overall it was a really good day for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew. We made a lot of progress on the race car and then at the end of the day we did a couple of qualifying runs. I’m pretty happy, especially after not having a great concept on Tuesday of where we wanted to go with the race car. We’ll see what the weather does over the next couple of days and get ready for qualifying tomorrow.”

Gabby Chaves: “It wasn’t as great of a day as we were looking for, but we accomplished a lot of work – a lot of items that we needed to go through. We did that and we’ve got some more data now. We’ll be able to use this information to improve the No. 88 Harding Racing car and go from here.”

Alexander Rossi: “This morning the car was pretty good. Mid-day we seemed to lose our way a little, but by the end of the practice session we got ourselves back in a good place. At the conclusion of each day, we become more and more comfortable with the NAPA car and comfortable in group running, and that is the most important thing. We spent a little time working on our qualifying simulations  today and those times seemed to be OK. I think the true speed results lie in tomorrow – which is why they call it Fast Friday.”

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