Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest for Coors Light Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His lap was 229.020 mph. The hour-long session was graced with warm sunny weather, with no incidents and lots of fans. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Power has been quoted as saying he wanted to be out front for the race. He clarified that point. “Not out front, up front. You’re right, no one is going to want to lead, because you can’t get away. In the old car, you could get away, so track position was really important.
“Now you sit half throttle on the straights. Last year, no one would pass me. Leading felt like one of the biggest mistakes of the race. You had to pit earlier, you get shuffled back. Yeah, that’s the game till lap 150, literally one stop to go, you’re going to be playing that game. It’s a real pity because it used to be about car speed and driving well. I wish this big drafting fest, I mean, if you get a good car, you can actually do a good job and pull away in the old days. Now you’re a sitting duck if you’re leading basically.”
Regarding the apparent performance advantage Chevrolet has over Honda this season, Power said “I think the performance advantage is both engine and aero kit, although Honda is definitely closer here on the oval than they are on the road courses. The Hondas are difficult to draft, very clean through the air. I think they find the same with us. Just different airflow off the car, so it doesn’t draft as well. You have to draft your own manufacturer.”
Second through tenth were: Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet; Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC AJ Foyt Racing Honda; Charlie Kimball/No.83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; JR Hildebrand/No.6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet; Rookie Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda; and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Racing – who turned the most laps, 52.
Dixon was asked if he wants to lead in the race. ” Oh, I’ll lead. The only time that it gets to be a bit of a problem is if you get too out of whack on strategy. It only takes one yellow to reset that. You don’t want to do it four stints in and you’re eight laps or ten laps out of whack with your competition. We’ll see how the pace is between the front of the pack and the slower cars. Obviously once you start getting into traffic … For us, we would probably want a lot of green-flag pit stops. One is going to stream the field out a little bit, give you room on a bit of strategy, having to save fuel, things like that.
We’ll have to see how it goes. The racing is going to be pretty tight, though.”
Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet spent much of the session with his crew in the pits. Near the very end he went back out and after being last of the 33 drivers with just a few laps, he jumped up to fifteenth at 226.022 mph.
Tristan Vautier of France was confirmed as being the official driver for the remainder of the weekend in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing. He was eighteenth overall at 225.939 mph. His teammate James Davison, for whom Vautier qualified the No.18 Honda, is back in the car and he ran eleventh overall.
Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had his first real laps in the car since taking over the ride for injured driver, James Hinchcliffe. He ran 38 laps and finished thirtieth. But then, Carb Day isn’t about speed as much as getting into race mode, running in traffic and ensuring everything is set to race.
For those who have been at IMS for the month, Power said, “There was no additional pressure on work to be done. I think at that point you’re pretty set on what you’re going to run. You’re just kind of doing little tweaks here and there, pit stop practice, practicing coming into the pit off four. It’s just those type of things, getting in the groove for the race.”
Vautier said – “It has been a roller coaster of emotions this month. qualified No.18 and now racing No.19.” He was at O’Hare Airport with 90 minutes before he board his flight to England, for the Silverstone round of the Blancpan GT Series, and had to quickly retrieve his luggage, rent a car, and drive to Indy. He thought the Team Akka ASP was very understanding, and Vautier wanted to thank them. “We just had a call and they said I could race, seize the opportunity that opened up. They would find a replacement driver so I could race in the 500. That’s really cool from them to let me do that.”
“On this one (as opposed to qualifying No.18), it’s not really the way you want to get back in the car honestly. I think Carlos deserves to be racing because he did a really good job in qualifying and on practice. Obviously you can’t help but be excited to start your second Indy 500. It’s good to work with the guys. Not a lot of prep for the race. The practice we did last week was aimed for the complete opposite in running by ourselves, setting the car up for qualifying in low trim. At one hour, we made the most of it and have a direction for the race.
“It’s tough to start at the back here because obviously being behind other cars and stuff, you’re in the dirty air, you use your tires more, you go back and forth with the balance of the car. We’ll just see. I don’t have really time to think too much about it. It’s just what I have and we have to make the most of it.’
In the Freedom 100 race for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, there were eight lead changes between pole sitter Rookie Ethan Ringel/No.71 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb Agajanian and front row starter, teammate Jack Harvey/No.32. It ended up as a 1-2-3 finish for Schmidt Peterson Motorsportsw/Curb Agajanian with Harvey prevailing for the win, Ringel second and Scott Anderson/No.77 third.
Unofficially, Harvey leads the Indy Lights standings 192 points over Rookie Ed Jones with 179. Third is Rookie Spencer Pigot with 168 points. Jones finished tenth and Pigot finished ninth in the race.