The calendar still said April, but it truly felt like May today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There were 29 drivers that participated in today’s open test on the famous 2.5-mile oval, and mother nature was on hand as well. In typical May fashion, raindrops played havoc on the schedule, and with the team’s plans. Ultimately, there was plenty of time for everyone to get geared up for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.
Three drivers were making their first laps in an IndyCar this year. Those were Ed Carpenter (ECR), JR Hildebrand (DRR), and Conor Daly (Andretti Autosport) while two bigger names were driving for just the second time this year – Fernando Alonso with McLaren, and Helio Castroneves with Team Penske. Alonso had some mechanical gremlins that prevented them from running the entire session, but the McLaren team still managed to put down 29 laps on Wednesday.
There were six drivers not participating in today’s test that have already been confirmed for the race. Sage Karam (DRR), Patricio O’Ward (Carlin), Ben Hanley (DragonSpeed), Jordan King (RLL), James Davison (Coyne), and Pippa Mann (Clauson-Marshall) will have to wait until the first day of practice on May 14. There are still two drivers that haven’t been confirmed for the race yet. Oriol Servia tested with Sam Schmidt’s team today, and is the leading candidate for that seat. Juncos still has yet to officially enter their car, but that is expected to be announced soon.
It was 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato that took the top spot on the speed chart in the opening session with 20 drivers. The Japanese driver put up a top speed of 226.993 mph. Carpenter earned the pole for the second time last year, and was 2nd fastest today, followed by teammate Spencer Pigot. Reigning Indy 500 champion Will Power was next, followed by another former winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay who rounded out the top five. There were 707 total laps turned in the opening session, which was delayed for about four hours after rain fell just 12 minutes into the start of the test.
The second session on Wednesday was reserved for Indy 500 Rookies and veterans who haven’t competed in an NTT IndyCar Series event since last season. Colton Herta was one of four drivers that completed all three phases of Rookie Orientation, putting down the fastest lap of the session and fourth-best of the day at 226.108 mph in the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.
Helio Castroneves was just behind him at 225.565 mph. At the time of Helio’s last Indy 500 victory, Herta was just eight years old. All of the rookies did well, as the session ran until nearly 8 PM. Hildebrand had problems midway through the session, causing his No. 48 Chevrolet to roll to a stop in Turn 3. There were 465 total laps turned in the second session.
There were plenty of outstanding liveries on display on Wednesday. Power was decked out in an all black and red Verizon machine, and Daly had his fierce looking Air Force Andretti car. Marco Andretti’s throwback to Mario’s 1969 winning car looked amazing, and we got to see the famous colors on Alonso’s McLaren as well. Sato has a different look for May, and there are still several more to come.
The Month of May starts with the IndyCar Grand Prix on Saturday, May 11 on the IMS road course. Practice and qualifying will take place on Friday. Practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled to begin on May 14. Tickets for both races are on sale at IMS.com and both races will be televised live by NBC.
MATHEUS LEIST: “Solid day at the track, I think. We managed to do a couple laps and that was important for us. It’s just good to be back here, back in the speedway car. It’s been a long time since the last time I drove one of these, so just happy to be here again. Working towards May now. Just trying to put everything together, doing laps by myself. We didn’t really run in traffic today, which wasn’t our goal, and I think it was a good shakedown for us. We finished P5 or P6, no-tow speed, so I think that was good. We’ve just gotta keep in mind that the conditions in the Month of May are going to be different, the track’s probably going to be hotter and everything, but for the first time here this year it was good. Looking forward to the Month of May now.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Solid first day here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Obviously the weather conditions are not super representative of what we will face in May, and the rain didn’t help, but we got through a decent chunk of what we were hoping to accomplish, which given the time we had, was great. Off the trailer the Arrow car felt great, so a good place to start the month from.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “It’s great to finally do my first laps in the Arrow car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s a great feeling. Obviously, there’s been a lot buildup to today. Today was not the best day with the weather; we had to wait a long time before we could get on track which was frustrating… We’ve been here all day and not being able to get in the car, you just want to get out there and get going, so it was a bit of a mental challenge. But the weather came around and we got on track in the end and passed the rookie orientation. I’m feeling comfortable out there, and today was all about that really. We were just about to get into our (run) program and start trying some things when the rain picked up again, so not the ideal day, but we ticked all the boxes for today. I did my first laps and I felt happy with it, so we have something to work with for the month of ahead.”
TONY KANAAN: “It was a brand-new car and a very unexpected problem actually. We had a leak and we fixed the leak, then a leak appeared somewhere else. It’s one of those things that I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. It’s a brand-new car – (owner) A.J. (Foyt) got me chassis number 14 – so those things happen and actually days like this are good for that. This is April, April 24th, so better today than on opening day. So we got that out of the way, but obviously the day got shortened because of the rain, so when we finally fixed the car it ended up raining. No reason to panic. We were on track, we had a fast car. (Teammate) Matheus (Leist) was pretty decent on the no-tow (speed). I’ve been around for too long, the boss has been around for too long. If you panic here, you get in trouble.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “Today was pretty awesome. I’d only been on one other oval before, at Texas Motor Speedway, last fall, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is obviously really different than Texas. This track is definitely special. Rookie Orientation (Program) was super, super helpful, especially for someone who had only been on an oval twice in their life, including today. The Cly-Del Manufacturing car felt really good and we even did a bit of running with another car, which was fun and a good learning experience. I’m now very much looking forward to coming back in May.”
ED CARPENTER: “It’s always good to be back in the car. It was kind of an odd day, with a little a bit running, then rain, a bit more running and rain again. It feels a little incomplete – we got through a lot of what we wanted to do but not exactly everything. I am happy with the car, but my guess is most everyone is happy with their car. The conditions are pretty nice today with how cool it is, the low track temp and making downforce. Generally, I think the car felt nice, comfortable and a good place to start when we come back in May.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “We went through several changes that we’ve been thinking about over the off season and so far we are off to a good start. It will be a lot different when we come back in May and it’s warmer. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how the day went.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL: “It was a really solid day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway testing today. Whenever you come back out on the oval for the first time, it’s really just about getting into the rhythm and the flow. The Carlin guys did a great job preparing the No. 23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet and everything ran as smoothly as expected from the first lap on. Unfortunately, we were dodging the weather all day, but that happens around here, especially in Indianapolis in April. When I come back it’ll be the first official practice day for the Month of May, so we’ll spend the next few weeks preparing as much as we can to make that first day of practice as successful as possible.”
CONOR DALY: “Getting time in the car was the most important thing today for sure because just getting in, immediately the balance and the difference in what I’ve driven in the past is massive – and the difference is really nice. It was really, really nice to drive and for me it was really just getting used to this platform. The platform that this car has is very different to what I had in the past. So it was really nice. It was nice to get used to and nice to work on things. We were just kind of by ourselves the whole time, just doing our thing and never got a tow at all. It was nice to go out there and work and it would’ve been nice to go out there and run with traffic. But in the end, it was just good to knock out as many laps as I could – it’s always nice to have more laps, but way happier than had I not got any.”
ZACH VEACH: “It’s incredible to be back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Anytime you come here it’s always special. This test is always fun because it basically starts our month of May. The Indy 500 is a race we spend all year thinking about. Getting back here to turn laps for the first time since May 27 last year is really fun and we ended up sixth on the no-tow list today, so I think we have a really good starting point. We just need to make the most of it when we come back for the long week. Luckily, we have the IMS road course to keep us busy between now and opening day. We test the road course Monday, and then have a weekend off, then it’s really six weekends straight of racing. We’re all going to be thinking about the Indy 500, obviously, but we have a race to try to win for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. Once we get through that we can focus on the one thing we want to.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “It was a pretty disjointed day because of weather and the different groups we have to deal with. At the end of the day I think it was positive. I think the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was strong and our teammates were happy. We’re just trying to understand where we’re at and the things we need to look at in the couple weeks we having leading into practice. We have a few more days with our R&D team to understand some more things and the information we gathered today will help point us in the right direction.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “They did a really good job with the track surface. The car feels good so far, just getting back in the rhythm of things. We’ve got a long test list to go through – you know the usual first time on-track things. The rain kind of threw us a loop, we were waiting around for that. But all in all, I think it was a pretty good day. I think we got through some items on the checklist and worked as a team. We were able to run out there in a group run, but unfortunately we had shortened up track time today with the weather. The conditions are fast today with the track temp down and the cool, overcast weather and the cars have a lot of downforce on them. You can get away with a lot when you consider what the conditions are. When it heats up a bit it’s going to be sportier out there for sure.”
TAKUMA SATO: “It was unfortunate today that our program was interrupted and stopped a few times by weather. Having said that, today was meant to be a shakedown of the car, to just check all the functions and feel it out. From that point of view, I think it was a very smooth day. I think Indianapolis Motor Speedway did a great job in terms of the sealant. The sealant (applied last fall) was a little smoother, as well. Felt all around the grip level was very consistent. I think we’re happy. In terms of the car, I mean, the condition is far from different from the end of May. I think it might be a lot hotter, of course. Today is a little bit artificial. We have more downforce because it’s cooler conditions, and engine pulls really well with getting cool air. I think it was a very fast day. From that, I think we brought the new package over the course of the winter, engineers really go through all the details. Of course, every single team does. I think the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team did an amazing job for the preparation of the car. The car performed out of the box, so I was very happy and enjoyed a few laps.”
JR HILDEBRAND: “Very nice to be back in the car. It was kind of a crazy day with the rain and the glitch we had in the middle of the session. But I’m so glad to be able to get proper laps again after a year away. It feels good to get in the groove with the car and the crew. Once you’re out there and getting through all of the refresher laps, things just get back to normal at Indy for you. The new sealer on the track surface as well as the darker skies made it a little interesting as you entered the corners. You had to adjust to the new look. But that was the only thing that was a little different for me. It felt great to work with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing crew guys again. They are awesome. Last year, I had to watch at the test day and Sage (Karam) ran the car. We switched it up this year. It will be nice to come back for the opening day of practice and be ready to go from day one.”
MAX CHILTON: “It was a long day of waiting around, but even if it was a short amount of time it was good to get some running done today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s been a long time since most of us have been on an oval and a year since we’ve been back here, so it felt good to get back into the swing of things. I felt comfortable straight away – I think it’s the quickest I’ve ever gotten to flat out around IMS. That’s a good sign that our platform is good and I felt good enough with the platform of the car that I could make some changes on board. We were actually on our last run before we were going to come in and make a big change to the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet, but we lost power and had to come back to pit lane to assess the issue. The team is looking into what went wrong for us today and I know they’ll get it all squared away. Even with the rain and our day coming to an end early with only an hour of running, I’d say it was well worth it.”
JACK HARVEY: “It’s been such a long time since we were last here but it’s by far the coolest place that we come to. Your confidence is like a pendulum. You can go from feeling awesome to really bad very quickly. I think we got through everything that we wanted to today, or at least as much as we could do with the weather. The guys up in the stand are pretty happy so it was a solid test day for us.”
ED JONES: “It was a solid day, although it wasn’t very long being shortened by rain. We had a great baseline and everything felt very good. We were super quick without a tow. We didn’t get as much traffic running as we would have liked, but with the limited track time, you just want to check as many boxes as you can. We did most of that today and I’m just really looking forward to coming back in May.”
FERNANDO ALONSO: “It’s great to be back. Every time you enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway it’s a great feeling. Even though we were unlucky with the weather and also had some issues with the car, we still got in some laps and the adrenaline driving around here is unique, so I feel happy. As a team the plan for today was to build speed step by step and complete all the right checks. With every run we were discovering new things, but at the end of the day, it was a very short time on the track, so it is difficult to say if I feel we have a competitive car. More track time is all we need and I’m sure we will recover those laps in May. This time the Indy 500 feels different for me, I know the race, I know the length and we should be a bit more ready especially on the emotional side. Now it’s just about making sure the car is fast. We have two weeks and a lot of work to do, but I’m confident we’ll keep moving in the right direction.”
COLTON HERTA: “It’s definitely a slow process to get into it at first, get situated. You have a lot of time to do it, 15 laps for pretty much every stage. Plenty of time to get comfortable. That’s what it was about today, getting comfortable with the car and that type of speed and moving forward from there. It was pretty cool. The first few laps was the same speed as an Indy Lights car, so it wasn’t too impressive. But once they kind of let me run at 215 mph plus on the third stage, it was pretty awesome. Definitely a dream of mine for a long time to be able to run an Indy car here. Even though it’s just testing, it’s still really sentimental. Obviously, we were very comfortable right away. The car was super stable, which was the reason I was able to do that time so quickly. Yeah, there’s a ton of factors that went into it. But it is, like you said, very important to start slow and kind of build up to it. Yeah, obviously I haven’t gotten anywhere near the speed I’ve gone today, so it was a big step up.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “It was really good to be out on track today, especially at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, weather limited our track time so we weren’t able to try out as much as we would have liked. Luckily, we have four days of long practices still to go and we’re able to head back to the shop with some data. The US Concrete guys will work hard back over the next few weeks and hopefully we roll off on opening day with a car that will put us on top.”