Howard shakes off rust to lead fourth Indianapolis 500 practice

Howard leads Alonso
Howard leads Alonso

Jay Howard has been away from Indy car racing for six years, but it mattered not in the fourth practice day for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Howard, driving the No. 77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, posted a lap of 226.744 mph in today's six-hour session that stands as the fastest of the week. Howard finished ahead of a trio of Andretti Autosport drivers on the speed chart: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Fernando Alonso.

"This is like a dream right now," Howard 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; feels good.

"We all had confidence coming into this, but this is obviously a very good start," he added. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Howard, the 2006 Indy Lights champion, has driven in 11 Verizon IndyCar Series races, but none since 2011. His only Indianapolis 500 appearance came that same year, when he started 20th and finished 30th in a joint entry from Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

The 36-year-old from Basildon, England, has spent recent years instructing young drivers and is grateful for the opportunity to return to Indy with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and sponsorship from retired NASCAR star Tony Stewart's Team One Cure. Howard credited the chance to test May 2 at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis with helping him feel more comfortable in the car on the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

"Just got back in the groove of things," Howard said. "Kind of like riding a bike, you know, you don't forget. Definitely, St. Louis was a big help for me, to go out at Gateway and do a few laps there, knock the rust off, just get used to those high speeds again.

"Yeah, this place just as magical as it was last time I was here."

Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, ran a lap of 225.826 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda. A day after gusting winds limited track action to just more than 400 laps, today saw a total of 2,362 laps turned by 33 drivers.

"We're all pretty happy with the speed," Hunter-Reay said of the six-car Andretti team at Indy. "It's going to be about getting the balance not going off through the run. That is the key to going fast here at Indy."

Andretti was third on the time sheet at 225.709 mph in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, just ahead of Alonso, the two-time Formula One world champion making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut. The Spaniard's best lap was 225.619 mph in the No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda.

"We tested a couple of different trims and different setup options," Alonso said. "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."

The lone incident of the day came early, when Josef Newgarden spun exiting Turn 1 in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and contacted the SAFER Barrier. Newgarden was uninjured and, though his car was done for the day, wound up fifth on the speed chart at 225.455 mph.

It was another Andretti Autosport driver, Takuma Sato in the No. 26 Honda, who logged the fastest lap without benefit of an aerodynamic tow from a leading car (224.734 mph). Speeds are expected to increase in Friday's final practice day before qualifications for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." INDYCAR regulations allow for engine turbocharger boost to increase 10 kilopascals to 140 kPa on Friday, equating to about 30 additional horsepower permitted through the completion of qualifying.

"Fast Friday" practice runs from noon-6 p.m. ET and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Coverage of Saturday's first day of qualifying is available on WatchESPN from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and on ABC from 4-6 p.m. On Sunday, Verizon P1 Award qualifying to determine the pole sitter for the 101st Running of the Indy 500 is available on WatchESPN from 2:30-4 p.m. and on ABC from 4-6 p.m.

QUOTES

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "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 (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "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 (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "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 (No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet):
"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 (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
"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 (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda): "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 (No. 16 Manitowoc Honda): "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 (No. 17 AFS Chevrolet): "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 positon 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 (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda):
"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 (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda):
"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 (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "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 (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet):
"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 PABLO MONTOYA (No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 24 DRR Mecum Auctions Chevrolet): "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 (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "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 (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda):
"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 (No. 28 DHL Honda): "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 (No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda): "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 (No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet): "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 (No. 44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Chevrolet): "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 (No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda):
"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.

Results

Pos No Name FTime Diff Gap FL Laps FSpeed Engine
1 77 Jay Howard 39.692 0.0000 0.0000 9 86 226.744 Honda
2 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 39.854 0.1613 0.1613 9 79 225.826 Honda
3 27 Marco Andretti 39.874 0.1819 0.0206 18 77 225.709 Honda
4 29 Fernando Alonso 39.890 0.1978 0.0159 74 96 225.619 Honda
5 2 Josef Newgarden 39.919 0.2269 0.0291 11 35 225.455 Chevy
6 24 Sage Karam 39.967 0.2747 0.0478 2 64 225.185 Chevy
7 83 Charlie Kimball 39.975 0.2826 0.0079 38 91 225.141 Honda
8 16 Oriol Servia 40.029 0.3366 0.0540 51 74 224.837 Honda
9 26 Takuma Sato 40.041 0.3484 0.0118 99 99 224.771 Honda
10 18 Sebastien Bourdais 40.049 0.3566 0.0082 14 40 224.725 Honda
11 7 Mikhail Aleshin 40.069 0.3769 0.0203 9 90 224.611 Honda
12 12 Will Power 40.078 0.3855 0.0086 28 103 224.563 Chevy
13 98 Alexander Rossi 40.089 0.3961 0.0106 9 72 224.503 Honda
14 22 Juan Pablo Montoya 40.094 0.4018 0.0057 6 50 224.471 Chevy
15 3 Helio Castroneves 40.106 0.4133 0.0115 6 117 224.407 Chevy
16 9 Scott Dixon 40.109 0.4167 0.0034 8 87 224.388 Honda
17 15 Graham Rahal 40.116 0.4233 0.0066 61 92 224.351 Honda
18 19 Ed Jones 40.119 0.4269 0.0036 61 64 224.331 Honda
19 14 Carlos Munoz 40.126 0.4340 0.0071 6 71 224.291 Chevy
20 20 Ed Carpenter 40.169 0.4771 0.0431 5 68 224.051 Chevy
21 8 Max Chilton 40.218 0.5251 0.0480 50 53 223.783 Honda
22 21 JR Hildebrand 40.249 0.5563 0.0312 40 72 223.610 Chevy
23 1 Simon Pagenaud 40.279 0.5869 0.0306 68 81 223.440 Chevy
24 10 Tony Kanaan 40.337 0.6441 0.0572 47 58 223.123 Honda
25 63 Pippa Mann 40.350 0.6577 0.0136 16 54 223.048 Honda
26 5 James Hinchcliffe 40.419 0.7261 0.0684 15 100 222.670 Honda
27 4 Conor Daly 40.428 0.7353 0.0092 6 67 222.620 Chevy
28 40 Zach Veach 40.456 0.7638 0.0285 36 37 222.463 Chevy
29 50 Jack Harvey 40.673 0.9803 0.2165 80 92 221.279 Honda
30 88 Gabby Chaves 40.841 1.1487 0.1684 71 82 220.366 Chevy
31 11 Spencer Pigot 40.871 1.1787 0.0300 24 73 220.204 Chevy
32 17 Sebastian Saavedra 40.991 1.2986 0.1199 14 37 219.560 Chevy
33 44 Buddy Lazier 17:39.609 1019.9170 1018.6180 1 1 8.494 Chevy

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