After another rather processional practice session Thursday afternoon for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet posted the fastest lap – 1:10.6971/124.197 mph. Practice Two, unlike the earlier session which was dominated by Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Mistic E-Cigs KVSH Racing Chevrolet, saw several lead changes.
The weather was 88 degrees F/31/1C with only slight breezes. The track temperature was 117 degrees F/47.2C.
Other leaders included Bourdais, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, and Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
The top six drivers were Chevrolets: Dixon, Power, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske, Bourdais, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske, and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 deVilbiss Team Penske. And five of those six were faster than the time set by Bourdais in the earlier session.
Of the twenty-five drivers on track Thursday, only five posted faster times in Practice One, including Saavedra, who was seventh overall for the day.
Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake was the top Honda in Practice Two in seventh position, at 1:11.1422. He said “It was pretty toasty out there. We get spoiled coming here because it’s so smooth. I’m glad to be leading in the Honda camp. I don’t know where a half second is going to come from, but we’re working on it.”
Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing was the top Honda overall for the day, based on his morning time of 1:11.1413. He ended up eighth overall for the day, followed by Rahal.
Charlie Kimball/No.83 Nova Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was tenth overall for the day, based on his afternoon time.
The only drama during Practice Two was from two Red Flags. Power went off in the grass in Turn Eight to Ten, bringing out the Red Flag for five + minutes. And, in his case as it was in the morning with Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, it didn’t hurt Power who led on and off in the last third of the 100-minute session, before finishing second.
The other Red Flag was caused by Montoya, who ended up in the grass after Rookie Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet rear-ended him. Coletti restarted, while Montoya was restarted. Montoya was sixth at the time, while Coletti was eleventh overall. Montoya ended up third, and Coletti was eleventh – a position he held. Coletti was the top Rookie. Total Red Flag time nearly ten minutes.
Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, noted that all four of the drivers present in the Post-Practice Media Conference were instrumental in the development of the Brickyard. He then went on to say “Simon got a massive 60 pound trophy for winning last year’s inaugural Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. So now he gets a massive ring to commemorate.” Thursday afternoon Boles presented Pagenaud with his indeed massive Champion’s ring, who couldn’t wait to show it off to the other three drivers.
Power said “The IMS road course is like an European circuit in that it’s so smooth.” The Aussie was teased by his compatriots about his off-road excursion. “I definitely explored the limit, and luckily there aren’t too many things to hit. We’re trying to get everything dialed in so I can catch the Kiwi guy next to me, sneaky guy.”
Kiwi Dixon said about the track – “It’s rewarding being at Indianapolis, road course or oval. The track is pretty slippery this year, but definitely going to be fun this year.”
Rahal said “The tire degradation is one thing, but you never know what’s going to happen here. The long straight away should be a good place to pass one or two cars..
Pagenaud remarked that “The heat and the weather should be interesting this weekend. The track is quite slippery in Turn Eight and Nine – there’s a lot of grass on the track. Will is cutting the race track too much.”
The inaugural IMS IndyCar road course race had a standing start, with less than stellar results. This year it will be a rolling start, as it is in most of the IndyCar races. The drivers were asked how that would work coming out of the last turn. Power said, in reference to Castroneves jump at the Long Beach street race, “Helio will have half a straight lead for the rolling start-Power.” Dixon said “Last year’s standing start caught a few people out, with stalling; and IndyCar has had rolling starts as long as most of us can remember. Rahal agreed with Dixon. Why mess with tradition (by having a standing start). I don’t think we need to do that. It’s not like Long Beach. Obviously, that wasn’t a good one; but with this long straight it will be a good one.
Simon was the lone dissenter. “Personally, I like diversity and excitement, so I wouldn’t mind a standing start. So, it is what it is, so we just have to do the rolling starts.
Eventually, the 800 pound elephant in the room was addressed – the disparity between the Chevrolet and Honda cars.
Rahal responded that he didn’t know he was losing horsepower going down the front stretch, or if it was still the downforce issue from not having the aero kits. “I know our trap speeds. I think all the Chevys are quicker than the Hondas here on trap speeds. I think it’s probably just a bit of the drivability. I mean, these guys are over here talking about adjusting it to their driving style. I’m finding a hard time doing that.
“You know, I think at this point we just have to find a little bit everywhere. The car is pretty hard to drive. It’s pretty pitch sensitive. You find you’re sideways more than pointed straight. As I said, if you’re doing that, it’s fast, that’s okay. That’s where we’ve been this year.”
The official Starting Line Up for the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda GP of Indianapolis has Rookie Weiron Tan starting on pole. The top six on the 21-car grid are Rookie drivers.