Another hot, sunny and breezy day for the Verizon INDYCAR drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second day of practice. The afternoon track session was run in mid-eighties heat, 12 mph winds, and 124 degrees F for track temperature..
The first fifteen minutes were set aside for the two Rookies who have yet to be cleared to run the Indianapolis 500, before the track was opened for all 32 drivers. Thursday, and not before, is when Buddy Lazier will be on track in No.44 Lazier Racing-In Stalk-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet.
Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske led much of the afternoon, with a lap of 224.656 mph – nearly two seconds off the lap of 226.338 mph set Monday by Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda. Power’s No Tow Speed was 220.902 mph. He’s well on his way to a perfect month of May, as he wistfully discussed after his ‘perfect’ weekend at the Indianapolis Grand Prix – fastest in every session, and winning the race from the pole position.
Power agreed that the heat has definitely made the track greasy. Regarding the wind or heat contributing to top and lap speeds being down from fan’s expectations, he said “It all has to do with wether people want to practice qualifying. That’s when you start to see some bigger speeds, and we don’t get the boost until Friday that we’re running qualifying and probably not practice qualifying until Thursday. So these first three days – which being hot, yeah, it will make it slower. But we’re not in the configuration that’s going to put up a big speed anyway.”
Second was Power’s Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet – jumping into that slot during the winding down of Happy Hour. When asked, he was coy about his having any thoughts about Honda basically sandbagging. “Not right now, and understanding – it sounds like they have issues in the past. We can only speculate. I can only speculate that they don’t want to keep blowing up engines now. They’ve got to wait until Saturday so that they can finish the qualifying and then put the race engine in, otherwise they’re going to have to do something like that.
“Right now it’s the name of the game. We’ve just got to focus on our work. We’re just trying to make sure that we feel as comfortable as possible, which whatever happens on race day, we’ll prepare as much as we can.”
Regarding Team Owner, Roger Penske, who also ‘calls’ the race for Castroneves: he said “Roger definitely just puts everything into this race. Obviously Roger is my strategy, for him to leave his day job, which is a pretty busy schedule. He’s here on Tuesday and actually staying here all week, which shows the commitment that he has and it shows what he wants. Roger would love to get No.17 (500 win) and I would absolutely love to do it for him.”
Jumping into third position late in the day was Gabby Chaves/No.88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, who had struggled earlier with few laps. He ran a lot in the afternoon, ending up with 87 laps. He displaced Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who had led and then sat in second spot for hours. He credits Larry Curry and Al Unser Jr. “Larry has really been more of a guidance to the team rather than to me so much. He’s been really just instrumental in getting together a brand-new team, two brand-new cars. He’s kind of taken the lead on who’s going to be my engineer, my mechanics, and who’s going to be involved in the team. And I think really he’s put a kickass team for me, so I’m very happy with that.”
“We’re also working with Al Unser, Jr., who’s kind of taken more of that role to work with me and give me his experience, his learning and everything that he’s learned here, try to give as much as he can of that to me so I an expedite my learning curve, go out there and get right to it.
Fifth was Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet.
All 32 drivers were on track, eventually, although James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda didn’t go on track until mid-afternoon due to adjusting electrical faults. The six-hour session was punctuated with eleven cautions, all for track inspections/debris, lasting 1:00.55 minutes. The track was empty during some of the green sessions, so not every caution was depriving drivers. There were no incidents and the session was drama-free.
The top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in fifteenth position. He ran 85 laps.
Rookie Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech Championships AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet all three ROP Phases by 1:03pm ET. “Just really happy with the progress we made today. We got a lot of laps in, which has been nice. Toward the end, we even got to run in traffic.” He ran 68 laps Tuesday, turned a 221.629 mph on Lap 43, and was twenty-second overall.
Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda upped his ante Tuesday afternoon. He turned more laps than did any other driver – 117, to finish 24th for the day. Alonso had run as high as eleventh at one point. He ran in traffic, with his Andretti teammates mostly, although he mixed it up with some others. His growing confidence was evidenced.
Two other drivers ran 100 laps or more: Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda with 106, and Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Honda with 100 laps.
Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the fewest laps – 47. Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda ran 49 laps.
Andretti got into the No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda to shake it down. Harvey’s fastest lap was 215.716 mph, in last place, and he needed to ramp it up to complete his ROP. Andretti ran six laps, but the best he could do was 214.828 mph. Back to the drawing board. Then Harvey got back into the car and ran a whole lot of laps – 82, finishing thirty-first of 33 drivers. Harvey passed is third and final ROP phase at 5:18pm ET. Andretti, who had been fastest on Monday, was twenty-fifth Tuesday.
In his downtime, the comic Canadian spent his time, all suited up, signing autographs, posing for photos, and engaging the fans who were in Gasoline Alley. One of his trademarks is his infamous Sparco driving shoes. For years he used a Sharpie to write Stop and Go in Red and Green ink on the toes. Sparco took offense at its shoes being defaced and made to look bad, so it made special shoes for Hinch, with Stop and Go embroidered on the toes.
The eye-catching gold livery on Hinchcliffe’s car is so bright it can be seen glinting in the sun from one end of the garage to the other. It is a wrap, rather than paint job. His teammate, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 has a similar style livery in red. Their new teammate for the month of May, Jay Howard/No.77 has a bright, glittery blue highlighted on his car.
And no, you’re not going mad. Lazier did change the number on his car, from 49 as of yesterday to 44 as of Tuesday. No reason learned so far.