At 5pm on the nose Verizon IndyCar Series race cars took to the finally-dried Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an anticipated two hours of practice, after waiting all afternoon for the rain to stop and a dry track. IndyCar had extended the practice time from 6-7pm local time. The flag was green and the skies were gray, as it had been all day. The drivers wasted no time getting on track to run laps. As pointed out by several drivers earlier in the week, they all wanted miles on their engines to reach the new, higher milage limits set by IndyCar before a new engine can be installed. The 2014 engines must have 2500 miles before a new engine can be installed, and drivers want a fresh engine for this weekend’s qualifying. The session ended early by rain at 6:24 pm local/ET.
SIMON PAGENAUD/No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda was the last fastest, at 226.122 mph. He was politely vague when asked exactly where he was on his engine’s mileage and when he would swap out for a new engine. He said, with a large grin, that he left that to his team and engineers. He felt his chances of winning this year were really good. “No one has left the team in the last three years so there’s a lot of experience, good communication and we’re a good group.”
Second fastest was J.R.HILDEBRAND/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. He said “I don’t care about putting up a big lap time; I care about how the car feels. It’s great to see that the car has the speed in it because you rarely go through practice with guys that are capable of setting those fast laps. Certainly our focus is not that we can put up a big tow lap time, but we can catch-up to that guy, pass him and leap frog through the next guys ahead of that. That is what we are working on right now. Glad we were able to get out today. We learned a few things with the conditions being quite different than they were over the last couple of days, and we will continue plugging away.”
The top Rookie was MIKHAIL ALESHIN/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, who led for awhile, and was P5 for the day and overall.
The first accident of the week happened an hour into the session. Rookie JACK HAWKSWORTH/No.98 BHA/BBM with Curb Agajanian Honda hit the SAFER Barrier Driver’s Right in Turn Three and ended down in the grass, doing “moderate” damage to his car. He walked to the ambulance. Hawksworth was P17 at the time. He was seen and evaluated by IndyCar Director of Medical Services, DR. MICHAEL OLINGER, in the infield medical center and cleared to drive.
The Turn Three wall had to be repaired, using serious torch power and equipment, but it took less than twenty minutes.
Hawksworth said he had no idea what happened. “We just went into 3 and it just snapped, so we’ll have to look into it. I don’t know if it’s – honestly, I wouldn’t want to comment just yet because I have no idea. Suddenly it just snapped.”
While the temperatures were cold – 61 degrees F, the practice was hot. One driver topped 226 mph, and eight others went over the 225 mph mark set by RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.28 Andretti Autosport Honda on Tuesday.
The first caution was 31 minutes into the session, for debris. Three cautions in all, for 33+ minutes of the 84-minute session.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet ran the most laps – 61 and his teammate, WILL POWER/No.12 ran the least – two.
One driver not on track was Rookie KURT BUSCH, who is driving No.26 Honda for Andretti Autosport. After three days of practice, often in traffic being towed by his teammates, Busch was third fastest overall. Busch expected rain in Indy, so Thursday he flew back to Charlotte to spend time at his day job – racing his NASCAR Sprint Cup Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. He is expected back for Indy practice Thursday and Friday. After Indy 500 qualifying on Saturday, Busch will jet via Cessna back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR All-Star Race. He then flies back to Indy for more qualifying and practice. Got that – there’s a test at the end. And that’s just this weekend. Wait til next week’s schedule.
During the long hours of waiting, some of the drivers were clearly and admittedly bored. Several came up to visit in the Media Center. The always animated JOSEF NEWGARDEN, he of vlog fame, finally said for lack of anything better to do, he was going back to the garage to annoy his engineer.
Regarding the afternoon’s announcement from IndyCar regarding fines and penalties assessed to Chevrolet, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for driver SIMON PAGENAUD and Penske Racing for driver HELIO CASTRONEVES, there were still no comments. Pagenaud was most gracious in declining, and the others were all polite but tight-lipped. To date, only Chevrolet has commented, and that was to advise it was appealing its penalties.
JAMES DAVISON/No.33 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet is on the ‘short’ program, which for him starts Thursday. The car is nearly ready. Wednesday afternoon the team had rolled the car across the road to the garage of teammate SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/No.11. Davison’s car was using Bourdais’ set-up platform to download set-up data, which was then uploaded on Davison’s car on his set-up platform.
BUDDY LAZIER/No.91 Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet is also on the ‘short’ program, and his team was busy readying his car for Thursday’s session.
Left to Right: James Davison, KVSH Tire Carrier, and Buddy Lazier.