It’s the second day of practice for the Verizon INDYCAR Series leading up to the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s not even noon yet and the temperature has already reached 78 degrees F. There is an inconsistent breeze, gusty at times and otherwise not. Gasoline Alley seems pretty quiet although most activity is hidden behind closed garage doors. The Scrutineering Bays have almost no customers and the INDYCAR Scrutineers are relaxed and enjoying the lull. For the most part there’s no worry about dodging the speeding pit carts, which are always on a mission. And in Pit Lane there is no activity at all … yet.
At noon, the track will open for fifteen minutes of private time for two Rookies, Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, and Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. Both drivers have passed Phase One of their ROP and have two phases to go.
Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda completed all his phases Monday. This is his first Indy 500, but he’s been running the full INDYCAR Series. Veach and Harvey are ‘one-off’ Indy 500 drivers.
Completing all phases of their Refresher Sessions were Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet completed all phases of their Refresher Session, and were cleared to compete in the Indy 500.
At 12:15pm the track will open for all drivers.
Reviewing Monday’s first day of practice: Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda was fastest at 226.338 mph. He was pleased that he was again able to be first fastest on Opening Day – repeating last year’s accomplishment.
Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.
Andretti’s teammate Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie in nineteenth position, and he was fastest in the earlier Rookie/Refresher session. He met with the media after the session ended. “Good day. I will a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, much hotter today than the test we did here on the 3rd. But no, the car felt good, felt as good as in the test, and I was able to make some setup changes, yeah, without, as I said, losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth.”
When asked what he thought would be the most difficult or dangerous, Alonso said “I think the most difficult thing will be the race itself, you know, all the things that happen in a race like this one, which are the traffic, running in traffic, and learning all the little tricks to overtake, and then to use the performance of your car in which moment of the race, why, you know, and all these little things that only with experience and with races you can learn. And I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that time, so I know that I will be weaker in some of these aspects. I need to learn as quick as I can in the next 10 days, 12 days, and apart from that, I need to try to use other things that is not experience to try to close that gap that I will have, you know.”
Alonso admitted that running in traffic is part of his program yet to be experienced. Andretti added that “I think as we do these group runs we can almost simulate a race with all the cars we have on our team, almost a fifth of the field.”
Andretti isn’t usually overly emotional, but he seemed genuinely pleased with his top status Monday.”We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup item boxes today, the ones that took — the changes that take long. That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers. You know, that’s all you can ask for. We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week on the car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car.
“Obviously ran good here last year. Car felt good when I tested for Fernando and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”
Monday afternoon’s two on-track sessions went almost without incident. There were twelve cautions, ten of which were for track inspection / debris. Total caution time was nine seconds short of an hour. The Cleanup vehicles probably clocked as many laps as many of the drivers.
One exception was Rookie Harvey, who had a brush with the SAFER Barrier in Turn Two. He hit with the side panel and rear wheel, and spun to the opposite side of the track. He was unhurt and after being checked in the Infield Care Center, Harvey was released and cleared for driving. The crew went to work on repairing the damage. And it was truly a team effort, with crew members from all the six Andretti Autosport teams pitching in. Harvey said “To have that happen, and I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight. I was coming out of the pits. I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre. We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that. A random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”
Not exactly a drama, but causing a caution, to be cautious, was Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda who pitted with a smoke trail. He lost an engine. Third one for Honda. Saturday Bourdais and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda each lost an engine in the Indianapolis Grand Prix.t only ran six laps, and he was 32nd fastest.
Rookie Jones turned the most overall laps, counting his ROP and Open Practice – 94. He finished twenty-second.
More Indiana students are on campus for a STEAM talk by Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda in the East Chalet. Tuesday the students are all from high schools.