Is crashing contagious? First former F1 phenom – Fernando Alonso crashed the No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet at noonish. He was on a fairly clear track, and hit three times on both sides of the track, knocking all four corners. Then just at the start of Happy Hour, Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crashed in Turn 2. He is unhurt, but the car is not. He spun around and hit the concrete wall on the right and bounced spinning across to the SAFER barrier. The drivers behind him evaded and avoided quite skillfully. Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet missed the spinning Honda by inches. Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM was on the receiving end of flying carbon fiber debris. Rosenqvist lost a whole wheel assembly which went flying down the track. The track was down for 17-18 minutes. The car will require major work and the team may go to its backup car – the road course car he drove last weekend. Rosenqvist said “I was behind Colton (Herta) and just trying to run in traffic, and I felt just a very sudden change of having a bit of push and it went very loose, very fast. I couldn’t react to it. A shame, but that’s how it is.”
With the two crashes causing about 42 minutes of down time, the other four cautions for track inspections and debris brought the total of caution time to 1:18.42 hours. Rookie Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda turned the most laps – 132. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet ran the least, with 37 laps. The team noticed something in the vitals that it felt would jeopardize the health of the DRR engine, so opted to change the engine proactively. The total numbers of laps turned Wednesday was 3219.
Basically two drivers led the charts all day – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet led the last half of the session at 228.856 mph. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was fastest in the morning and into the early afternoon wth a lap of 228.835 mph.
Newgarden brushed it off that it was a big deal, saying “It didn’t really anything to have his number at the top of the trylon. “It’s really nothing. It was an OK day, for us at least. You saw it’s not easy. A coupe of wrecks today. I think that shows that it’s not super straightforward to try and get around here even on a practice day.”
Dixon was second; with Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet third; the top Rookie, Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda; in fourth and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penkse Chevrolet.
Left to Right: Spencer Pigot; Santino Ferruci; and Helio Castroneves.
Overall for the two days combined, the defending Indy 500 winner, Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet is still fastest overall at 229.745 mph. The fast five overall are Power, two of his three Penske Chevrolet teammates-Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards and Newgarden, with Dixon and Pigot fourth and fifth overall.
The 2017 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, was the fastest in the No Tow category, despite being thirty-fourth overall. He agreed with Newgarden that the times and rankings this early on in the week weren’t significant in the long scheme of things. He didn’t go out in the late afternoon as he’d already accomplished all the items on the team’s checklist – “We were really efficient in the first two days of our specific checklist on the 27 car.” There was nothing to be learned from running at 5pm in the afternoon when the Indy 500 would be over by 3pm. Rossi only turned 46 laps. He spent time on the stand of teammate Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda. But it wasn’t to help Marco, it was to learn from him. But that’s not as crass as it sounds. The Andretti drivers gather daily for debriefing around the round table and share all their ideas and experiences. Rossi said this took getting used to at first, because it wasn’t the way they did it in Europe. “Just running through a checklist of things to try ad understand everything we learned over the offseason and applying it to kind of all five cars in different ways and compiling as much information as we can. That’s the advantage about being on a big team for this event When you have this much practice, you can really kind of divide and conquer, and I think we’re doing that well so far. It’s an open book. We share everything.”
The McLaren Racing team will be changing engines and cars overnight after all. They will be ‘building’ the Carlin backup car, which was built to McLaren specs. The McLaren Primary car will be rebuilt as a backup car. “When the engine cooled after the incident, the cam cover cracked, which is not uncommon with that sort of impact. McLaren is changing engines this evening due to crash damage.”
Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet passed all three levels of his Rookie Orientation Program in his early-morning track session, so it’s all systems go for all 36 drivers from here on out. O’Ward’s afternoon went so smoothly, the team packed up and called it a day early on. He turned 70 laps for the day.
The speeds are picking up, but they can be deceptive as there are two variables – with a tow and running alone. Tuesday the teams were busy working on setups, so they were in and out of the pits and garage. Wednesday the drivers spent more time on the track, and in the pits with crews working on tweaks and fine tuning.