Helio Castroneves, Justin Wilson and Simon Pagenaud
The only serious moment in a levity-filled conference.

All thirty-four Verizon IndyCar Series drivers entered for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 were on track by Happy Hour Tuesday afternoon at The Brickyard. The weather was cool, windy and mostly sunny with clouds all afternoon, sometimes more so than others. But … it was dry and rain never even was mentioned, much less threatened.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet set the fastest time of 227.514 mph at 12:37pm ET – his seventh lap, and was never challenged, even by his teammates. He ran a total of 72 laps. He said “It was a good day. The Shell V-Power Nitro+ car was super strong, super solid, felt comfortable. Now we’ve got to just keep working with this new aero kit. Today was basically the second day that we’ve been working constantly, but I like what I see.

“Things are looking in the right direction. We’re not focused on just the lap, we’re focused on the performance of it all.”

Simon Pagenaud

Second fastest was Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, also with a time set early in the session, his fourth lap of 92. His was the only other time in the 227’s – 227.382 mph. He said he was in a tow. “It’s been a lot of fun. With Rick Mears with me, it’s been an interesting couple of days. He has lots of experience and has been a very good mentor. We put a couple of items on the car that I’m happy with. The cold condition helped. Working with teammates, it’s interesting to see the lines the other drivers take. I’ve never had oval-experienced teammates before. Now the information is a lot more valuable, and I’m learning things all the time.”

Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet jumped into third place at the last minute, knocking off Justin Wilson/No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda, who had held that spot for most of the afternoon.

Then – with less than four minutes to go, Wilson pulled off in the grass with a smoking car and the caution came out for the sixth and final time, followed by an early checkered flag.

Justin Wilson

Wilson was the top Honda, finishing fourth. But, to add injury to insult, he (probably) blew an engine.

Wilson said he couldn’t say until he got back to the shop, but “I felt a good vibration and a big knock. I knew straight away that I had lost the engine, rather than having an engine fire like Simona. When you get vibration, smoke and clunk – you know what it is. I tried to get out of the way quickly, off the line so as to not oil the track, and find a good place to stop.”

For someone who knew he’d just lost an engine, Wilson was upbeat and philosophical. “It was just something that happened. Here it’s about what kind of tow you get out there, how you go in traffic. We’ll know more on Saturday when we’re out there on our own.”

Justin Wilson

“Other than that, it’s been a pretty good day. I’m pleased with today. I enjoy working with Craig Hampton, my engineer. There’s more to come. We’re going faster and doing well in traffic.”

Regarding his engine swap strategy, Wilson admitted “I don’t know exactly but I guess we put the other engine in early. It’s not a big issue and I’m not concerned about it. We have lots of miles and won’t reach the maximum of 2500.”

Castroneves, Pagenaud and Wilson were brought in for the fun-filled, post-practice media session. There was a lot of levity and joshing, mostly at the expense of Castroneves, who, among other things, admitted he’s now forty and it’s fun. “But, I can’t lie about my age any more.” And it was nice to see Pagenaud loosen up and join in the fun. Being the polite Frenchman that he is, Pagenaud was very subtle about flashing his 2014 Indy road course victory ring in front of the others. Wilson was in the thick of it, jibing both of the others and taking it in return. A good time was had by all. As Moderator Sullivan said, “We all need some levity from time to time.”

Fifth fastest for the day was Townsend Bell/No.24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet. He set his fast time early on and was in the top five all afternoon.

Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the top Rookie, in sixteenth position.

There were six cautions for more than 53 minutes. One was for the fiery fuel problem of break-less Simona de Silvestro/No.29 Andretti Autosport Honda, another to rescue a brake-less Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda, and the last was for Wilson. Others were for track inspections.

In other news – Dale Coyne Racing is not saying anything at this point regarding the No.19 Honda other than to confirm that James Davison is in the car. No other news. But, DCR “hopes to have an announcement soon.”

Davison turned 15 laps, with his fastest time of 214.877 mph turned on the seventh lap. He finished thirty-third, followed by Alex Tagliani/No.48 Alfe Heat Treatment Special Honda in last place with three laps. His fastest time was 121.952 mph.

Davison said “It’s a fantastic feeling to be back in an Indy car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the windiest conditions I have driven in. I was quite fortunate last year to drive in very ideal conditions, so there was a lot more movement in the car than I had experienced before. We were regulated to run under 215 (mph) and I’m just really looking forward to getting on with our proper program tomorrow.”

True to form with Indiana weather, the sun came out brightly at 7:30pm in time for a spectacular sunset. And to all a good night.