Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet is on a roll, figuratively, not literally. This year’s Indianapolis 500 pole winner turned the fastest lap of 228.441 mph on his last of 88 laps Monday, as the Checkered Flag flew at the end of the two-hour NTT IndyCar Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was only on the top for half a lap, after pipping Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Team Penske Chevrolet, who had just hit the top minutes before the end of the session. The last few minutes of the two-hour session were busy with everyone on track. All 33 drivers participated.
It was pointed out to Pagenaud how incredible it was that he was very consistent in his four laps, perhaps more than any other driver. “I must have had a magic — we used to call it the Franchitti wind. Do you remember that, when Franchitti used to get those magic winds? I think he gave me a bit of wind there. So I don’t know, the car was just phenomenal really. Joking aside, it’s just — the consistency of the car is phenomenal. We run really well on tires. We don’t really use the tires badly at all, and I think we’re not sliding, so we can run really low downforce without sliding, and I think that’s why the consistency is there. Obviously the conditions yesterday helped everybody be a lot more consistent compared to Saturday, but yeah, it’s quite amazing to see this average for sure. I don’t know what I was doing on the fourth lap, right? What the hell.”
The weather was cool and cloudy/overcast with a 12 mph breeze.
Other fast drivers included Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Kanaan finished 11th with 56 laps while his Foyt teammate, young Matheus Leist/No.4 ran 57, finishing 16th. Kanaan also ran four laps in Leist’s car. “Kanaan said “It was busy. We’re still trying to learn everything we can to the race. I had to drive both cars because we wanted to make a change that was going to be too big to do it between one car only, so I jumped in his car to get a feel for it. We’ll try to make a decision. We have a week — five days to decide until we get to Carb Day. A pretty cool day. I wish it was like that in the race, but it’s not going to happen, so everything is going to change again.”
Rookie Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was sort of squeezed up high on the track, into the dirty high line, and he grazed the wall. There was a brief caution, as he continued and pitted for the team to check his tires. And yes, they were covered in marbles.
There were three cautions for 18.39 minutes: Ericsson; track inspection; and one for Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who slowed on the back stretch, and it wasn’t clear if he’d make it back to the pits on his own. He did.
Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2SaveLives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet had an aha moment entering the pits, with Ferrucci coming in hotter than Mann, who had slowed in her approach. Monday was the first day the pit road speed of 60 mph was strictly enforced, meaning if someone exceeded the limit, he or she would get a drive-thru penalty. Maybe Ferrucci forgot.
The Monday Practice Day after two-day Qualifying was said to have been added these past two years as the drivers used to do their full-tank runs on Bump Day. Kanaan was asked how valuable the session was for the drivers. “Well, I think you saw it. Everybody put like 60, 70, 80 laps. Everybody is running together. It is helpful for sure. Although we have so much time to do those kind of things, I think it was — I liked everything about this year’s, the way qualifying went, the way the organized qualifying — I always felt like last year, I felt — I qualified in the top 12 in the first day, but I wasn’t in the show. I went to sleep, I’m like, I’ve got to do it again. I mean, what — so for us, it was — for me in my opinion it was a pretty good move.”
Left to Right: Tony Kanaan; Takuma Sato, and Marco Andretti.Photos by Pablo Matamoros.
Validating Kanaan’s point on the value of the Post-Qualifying Practice session were the numbers.Everyone did double digit laps.The most laps turned was the 98 laps run by former Indy 500 Winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda ran the fewest laps – 50.