Rains hold off and Dixon tops Wednesday Brickyard practice
After losing a day of practice to rain, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway re-opened for business on May 18, and teams/drivers quickly got down to business of turning laps around the famed 2.5-mile oval.
|EJ Viso wads up his Dallara Honda. He may have broken his back as he is complaining of pain|
Dialing in race setups was the objective for most teams on a chilly day not conducive to big speed, with the focus turning to qualification simulations the next few days in preparation for the two-stage run May 22 for the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone. With the almost five hours available for the session, a few things began to come into focus -- primarily that the competition is exceptionally close.
• Five different teams were represented in the top five on the speed chart.
• The top 21 drivers were separated by 0.5755 of a second.
• No. 1 (Scott Dixon) and No. 36 (Milka Duno) were separated by 1.197 seconds.
• Drivers pounded out 1,590 laps (of a total for three days of 3,562).
Last year was the closest field in the history of the '500' at 3.0967 seconds. That record might not last long.
Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, posted a quick lap of 39.7265 seconds (226.549 mph) on the 2.5-mile oval. Mario Moraes was second quick (225.913 mph) in the No. 32 KV Racing Technology entry, and Marco Andretti in the No. 26 Team Venom Energy car for Andretti Autosport was next at 225.751.
The checkered flag flew eight minutes early after the No. 8 PDVSA KV Racing Technology car of E.J. Viso made contact with the SAFER Barrier at the exit of Turn 1. He was transported to Methodist Hospital complaining of back pain.
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing): "It was an interesting day. We faced a couple different conditions throughout the day. The track lost 1½ miles an hour at the end of the day because of the cold and heavy air. But we were able to run both cars very closely on setup and lap times, and we ran consistent. We are much closer to our race car setup than our qualifying setup. Now we will carry everything we learned today over to tomorrow and keep making progress."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "It was a good day of running for us. Unfortunately, the weather was a little colder than we would have liked, though it was good to have a dry day. We were able to do some full-tank running in traffic to work on our race setup. Overall, we are pretty happy with the Team Penske car, but we are continuing to work on our race setup."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "Today was pretty good. We were able to run lots of laps. We did some runs with Will, getting a feel for how the car behaves in traffic. We were really pleased that the rain stayed away. Today was a productive day for us; we are working through our check list. I am looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske): "Today was a very productive day. We completed a lot of laps. We practiced our pit stops and worked on our race setup. It's great to have teammates to work with on track in the draft, as well as in the garage during debrief. Between the three of us, we're definitely narrowing in on what works. I'm looking forward to getting back on track tomorrow afternoon in the Verizon car and making even more progress on our setups. Hopefully there will be a bit of sun to help warm things up, as well."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "It was good. We worked on mainly race setup for the ABC car. My mindset was always race setup, maybe a light-downforce race setup, but it's good to see what the car does mechanically. We thought we weren't going to run very much because of weather, but we got in 50-plus laps. We ran in traffic a little. It was a good day. We learned a lot."
DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 21 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing): "It was definitely nice to get on track today. We finally got lucky with the weather. I've been able to get some laps in and have confidence in the car now. It's comfortable and feels good. We'll be ready to start trimming it out for qualifying tomorrow."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 30 The Quick Trim/RLR Special): "The car feels good. It's very consistent, and it feels really good in traffic, so far. We did our fast lap early in the day, and then we just went to work on trying some changes and tweaking little things to fine-tune the car. I think we showed up and the car was already pretty close to where we wanted to be so now we are just trying to perfect a few things. We have done a great job in taking our time, so far, and making sure we are doing things the right way. We are still being pretty conservative on the downforce and the aero settings, probably more than most teams out here. The Firestone Firehawks have held up great for us, which has allowed us to conserve tires for the week, as well. You can burn through tires pretty quick here if you're spending a lot of time on track running in the draft. We have done a great job trying to stay ahead of that."
MARIO ROMANCINI (No. 34 Conquest Racing): "I am very happy with the way that we progressed throughout the day. We weren't worried about lap times, which is why I didn't run with traffic. Our goal was to turn as many laps as possible and work on the race setup. We were able to try some different things on the car that we wanted, and now we will come back tomorrow to see how it runs in traffic."
BERTRAND BAGUETTE (No. 36 Conquest Racing RACB): "Today was definitely better than yesterday. We were able to record quite a good lap time and were quick even when we ran alone, so we are obviously moving in the right direction. I am happy with the direction are taking, and am looking forward to running again tomorrow."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 41 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "It went well today. We went out this morning and picked up where we left off yesterday and ran a little bit quicker. Our fast time was in a draft, but we showed some good speed by ourselves, also. The ABC car's still solid, so we'll keep on making minor adjustments. We were kind of in between qualifying and race because we're not trimmed out for qualifying but not a lot of downforce for the race - kind of in the middle."
JAY HOWARD (No. 66 Service Central/Sarah Fisher Racing): "Overall, today was another good day for the SFR Service Central team. The rain held off, and we were able to get in a good amount of laps. We learn something new every time we go out there, and I'm confident that we're going to keep progressing."
SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "For having the least amount of laps of anyone on track today, the Dollar General car got through a couple of changes that needed to be done for race mode, and we're already finding that having a teammate is invaluable. It's all tire strategy from here."
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 99 Herbalife Ganassi/Schmidt Racing): "Today the conditions are so cold compared to what the forecast is for the rest of the week, we didn't really feel we could learn a whole lot that's going to be relevant for later. The car feels really solid, and we got a couple of key things checked off the list and learned a lot. We didn't get the chance to run in traffic at all. When we wanted to, nobody was around to do it. Everything is running smoothly, and we expect the weather to improve as the week goes on and the temperatures to rise. By the weekend, it looks to be pretty warm. Right now, you just want to make sure you're on the same page with the engineers. I've told them, 'I don't need to be out just driving to drive.' I'm feeling good in the car. So we only want to be out there if we're learning something."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Panasonic Formula Dream): "It was the first time for us to run the primary car here at Indy, and I didn't feel any difference between the two. Both cars are the same, but we are working on race simulations today, and we worked mostly worked on qualifying simulation in the backup car. It's a different scenario, but we will see tomorrow how close they are in qualifying setup. We didn't do a qualifying simulation at all today; we worked on race setup. At the beginning, I didn't struggle, but the car improved a lot after we came into the pits for some changes. It made a huge difference, especially in traffic. I wasn't in a lot of traffic - just two Penske cars - and I was able to be flat (on the pedal) all the way around and was catching them, so I'm happy with the car so far. The Formula Dream/Panasonic team is making progress each time we get on track."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team): "After the first day of running, we felt very confident, and we evaluated the car and it was very good. Today we were able to put a good speed on the board, and we are very pleased with the performance of the car. We're going to keep our heads down and stay focused and continue to do what we are doing for the rest of the week. So far, it's been very positive. We just have to make sure we stay out of trouble and that we protect our baby. The car is running fast, and the boys are doing a great job. Our speeds and our potential are all attributed to the meticulous preparation of the B & W car that the guys have done and the hard work of the engineers. We're very pleased where we are, and I think we're going to have a good night's sleep after today's run. We want to make sure we have a fast car so we can try to make the Fast 9 for Saturday. So our plan for the rest of the week will depend on the track and the temperatures and how similar it will be to Saturday. If it's close, we'll take that advantage and go out and continue to prepare for Saturday's qualifying. If it's very different, then we will change the configuration of the car and go out in race mode and pound out some laps. But we'll still have Carb Day to run in race mode, so right now we need to keep our heads in qualifying mode when the track is right."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "It actually helped the National Guard Panther Racing team that there wasn't any track activity yesterday because it gave the boys an extra day to really take their time and put the No. 4 car back together. They did a great job working on it the last couple days. They rolled it out at the start of the day, and I think my fourth lap we were quickest we've been all month and I was (third on the speed chart). We have a lot of momentum on the team, and I'm not at all surprised we were able to come out of the gate so quickly today."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology): "It was good the weather finally improved and the Lotus - KV Racing Technology team were able to get out and go testing. We were able to try a number of different things, which was good for me as I got a better understanding of how the car reacts when things change. I was also able to experience driving in traffic, which felt like a completely new world to me. Overall I had a good day. We made steady progress, which is important, and I feel comfortable with the car."
PAUL TRACY (No. 15 GEICO - KV Racing Technology): "We had a pretty good day for the GEICO KVRT car. We stuck to our plan of working on race setup. We were able to evaluate some changes as we steadily get the car working better and better. It was getting a lot cooler in the afternoon, so decided not to go back out and burn up a set of tires. The weather is scheduled to be much warmer on Wednesday. We are going to continue our progress with the race setup on Wednesday. It is difficult to feel the changes in the car when it is cold. We will be able to make more adjustments with the hotter conditions. So we are sticking to our plan of making the best race car we can."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Panther/Vision/Fuzzy's Vodka): "We didn't quite get all the things done that we wanted to today. We found out we have a lot less tires available to us than we thought we were going to be allotted for the month, so we only used one set of tires today. We tested a couple of things, but I really would have liked to have run a lot more. I'm happy with the progress we are making. We started off we a really good car overall, and that helps since we have such limited amount of running time. We'd be in a lot worse position if we had any problems to sort out, but we haven't. I feel good about where we are right now. I think today was a frustrating day because I finally realized that I really don't like this new two-week format. I prefer having a week to work on qualifying and a week to work on the race setup. That's what Indy is all about. Brian Barnhart always says there are two races at Indy, one for the pole and one for the race. It just feels weird this year. I think I've made up my mind that I am not a fan of this shortened format for May."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Team Window World): "After a day off because of rain, it was good to be back on the racetrack. The low wind and cool temperatures provided for a lot of grip. We saw a lot of people running in traffic. We did the same thing. I feel like the Window World Dallara keeps improving. We have four teammates to talk to at the end of the day, which helps. It's easier to go backward than it is to go forward, so hopefully we keep going forward and we can learn some things moving ahead."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): "I think everyone gets very anxious when you have a day off because of rain, so from that perspective, today was good. It was good to get back to work. But beyond that, I don't think anyone could really learn much today because of the weather. I do not expect that we will see conditions like this the rest of the month, really - at least not on Pole Day and not on Race Day. So we didn't really learn a lot that we can take with us. Hopefully, tomorrow will be more what we need."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD): "We're still searching for something with the IZOD car. We threw a lot at it today, and we got some things out of our head, but we're still not there yet. This is when it will pay big dividends to have four great teammates. We will draw on some of the things they've learned and add it to what we've learned. We're going to try a bunch of different things tomorrow and see where that takes us."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "Right now, we're working on getting as much mechanical grip as possible because we know that these days are cold, but they're grippy, as well. So, we know that it's not going to be this easy in the coming week or two. I'm just happy it was dry today and that we got some laps. I think it's the same for everybody. You just need to get it right." (On the tow drivers have been getting during practice): "Well, there's more cars out there, so it's easier to find one. When you're doing qualifying trims, it's almost like you have to find clear track to run in. I think that the top 10 were all in tows, but I think it's all about getting your car to go as quick as it can go on your own and it's got to last four laps, as well. The average and the dropoff are where it makes a lot of difference. It's not always about your ultimate lap. It's about the degradation of the tires." (On the new Pole Day format): "It's good. For me, in particular, I was one that really pushed the race setup. We've really got accelerate our program a bit because it's condensed. I always just want to work on the race car and then stick it in line for qualifying and see what happens. Obviously, there's points now, and we want to qualify twice. You never wanted to run twice before, but now there's points and the track is always cleaner at the front." (On being capable of winning); "Personally, I think I did my best job in 2008. We were able to outright lead that race and overtake Dixon and stuff like that. Unfortunately, there were some mistakes made, and that's what makes this race this race. We've lost this race as a family in every way possible. You know, at least we're competitive and we're able to keep being there at the end of the races. I've been on the podium every time I've finished here, and that's only 50 percent of the time. We just need to keep doing that and hopefully get a little Lady Luck on our side, and we'll put it in Victory Circle." (On having John Andretti with the team): "He definitely uses different terms in explaining the balances of the car. It does make us think a little bit outside of the box. You know, just in some of the ways that he interprets things, once we figure out what he's saying it's actually quite clever. So it's helping." (On making it to the Top Nine): "I think you're going to see guys going out and qualifying three or four times. As far as I know, once you make it into the top nine, Firestone is going to keep giving you tires so you'll have an unlimited amount. And you know, once you get in, then your time is going to stand and you can take a little more risks. I think those three rows are really going to be going for it. It will be interesting."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com): "Surprisingly, we had a good practice session even though we were not very high on the charts. We tried a few different race setups, and a few worked and a few didn't. And sometimes it is just as important to eliminate an idea as it is to agree with it. But the GoDaddy car is definitely headed in the right direction."
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology): "It's great to be back here at Indianapolis. I think it's a great environment, and the two weeks that I'm here are always amazing. These two days of testing have been really good. We've just been getting back up to speed. The car feels really good. So far we've just worked on race setup, and I think tomorrow we will start working out our qualifying setup. I've been looking at the weather for the week, and it looks like the qualifying weekend is going to be hotter, so we're waiting until we get closer to the weekend." (On the things that he learned last year and how he can apply them to this year): "Last year the race didn't end the way that we wanted. We had an accident on the first lap. I think there was some kind of problem with my spotter's radio. So I have the same mentality. I think we really need to be there in the last 30 laps of the race. We need to get to that last stint and then really start to race." (On the changes to the car after last year): "Well, for sure, I think we removed some of the aerodynamic downforce, and you can see that the speeds are really starting to come up." (On the new Pole Day format): "I think the new format is great. I'm pretty confident that we have a car to get into the top nine. I'm pretty confident we can get into the field on the first day. I'm not sure if we have a car for the pole, but if we do then we will be fighting for that."
WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
Indianapolis 500 practice
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||Best Lap Speed|
||Simona de Silvestro
||AJ Foyt IV