Thursday was off to a warm and sunny start. There was a thin opaque haze everywhere, but it was 71F ambient and 91F on the track. The breeze was just waking up. As the afternoon progressed, it got darker and windier. The temps reached 79F ambient, with 100F on track. At 4:29pm the Lightning alert came and everyone was told to evacuate and excute one’s own personal plan. Ten minutes later the rain came down. At 5:26pm power went out in the Media Center. Fortunately, not for long. Welcome to Indiana – all four seasons in one day.
Track wise, an hour and 17 minutes into the seven-hour practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there was yet another crash, in Turn 2. Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet is unhurt, but the rookie will probably have some down time while the Carlin crew goes to work on the backup (road course) car. O’Ward said he’s OK, a bit sore and really disappointed. He has been cleared to drive, as have the other two/Wednesday accident victims. The 19-year old was quite shaken when the TV crew showed him the crash video for the first time.
The accident was spectacular, with him spinning and hitting the right side concrete wall hard left side and flipping up. He was air borne and teetered in the air balancing on the left front wheel, before the car landed hard on all four wheels. It didn’t do a complete flip, but nearly. The good news is that the well-build IndyCar held up and did all that it was designed to do, safety-wise. The team quickly went to work preparing teammate Max Chilton’s road course car for Pato.
Meanwhile, back in the garages, the McLaren Racing team were working away on their backup car. At 1:10pm, McLaren Team Owner, Zach Brown, it would be another two hours or so. He said driver, Fernando Alonso, is in great spirits. Earlier in the day, seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson, visited with his buddy Alonso, and they did some filming. Scott Goodyear, former IndyCar driver and TV motorsports broadcaster, is working with the team this month as a consultant. Goodyear said Alonso seemed quite fit and fine this morning – not sore. Goodyear will spot for Alonso. Spotters are used in Practice, in Turn One and in Turn Three.
Later, Tim Bampton, Group Communications Director for McLaren Technology Group, said that the car was still being prepped, and the plan was to get out today, although he wasn’t sure when. The team doesn’t have a US base, per se, and are working out of a shop in Brownsburg IN and the track garage. The team brought over crew from England and hired locals, so it’s about a 50-50 mix at this point, with team members coming from England, New Zealand and America. Bampton did draw a connection to his (one-off British-based) team to the full season, Indianapolis-based Ganassi team working on the damaged car of Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Honda, saying it wasn’t as easy for his team as Ganassi’s team to repair in a timely fashion.
The No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Rookie Felix Rosenqvist was repaired after Wednesday’s crash. The crew worked long into the night and it was ready Thursday for track time. He turned 41 laps and was thirty-fourth overall out of 35 drivers, and his best lap was near the end of his run.
Ed Jones/No.63 Scuderia Corsa Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was fastest most of the day. His best speed was 227.843 mph on Lap 8 of the 37 he ran. He also had the fastest No Tow speed of 224.957 mph. He said it was different driving on a team where the owner is also a driver. He said “It was a great day! To be quickest in overall and no-tow is a goal. More importantly, I think we made more gains with the handling of the car. As the conditions have changed, we’ve been able to keep up. We just have to keep adapting to the track changes for tomorrow and for qualifying. With the rain, the grip level may come down a bit, so it’s all about optimizing the car for the track conditions.”
Thirty-five of 36 drivers were on course. Alonso was the only one who missed the Thursday session.O’Ward has turned the fewest laps of all drivers-94. Having run only two (one 1/2) days of the three, Alonso’s total is 96.Those two were the only drivers with double digit totals. Everyone else reached triple digit numbers. Spencer Pigot/No/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps – 302.
The overall top five drivers were Jones, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, and Top Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Honda. Of those, Sato and Bourdais had led very early on, for a short while, before Jones took the top slot.
Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet remains the top driver overall, with a speed of 229.745 mph. The overall top Rookie is Santino Ferruci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Power sad “We tried some qualifying stuff, so we’re definitely narrowing in on what we need for setup. We still need to make the racecar a bit better. We’re going to go completely for qualifying stuff tomorrow and see how we run.”
There were four cautions, two for drivers and two for track inspections/debris. Total yellow time was . 40.57 minutes. The day effectively ended when the last caution was called for lightning near the track at 4:29pm. O’Ward’s caution was and the one for Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2 Save Lives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet was so brief ithardly counted. She stalled on course but restarted before the emergency crew reached her. She experienced a vibration and was concerned. The team was still diagnosing but was hoping it was just a bad wheel weight.
Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Meyer Shank Racing Honda narrowly avoided any aftermath from Rosenqvist’s accident. Despite graphic TV footage showing debris heading his way, Harvey was able to avoid the flying missiles. Only one piece hit a rear panel, making a small dent.
According to NTT IndyCar Series Technical Director, Kevin Blanch, aka ‘Rocket’- no driver has had his or her AFP tested since they were first installed on the race cars at the Open Test last month. The Advanced Frontal Protection device is now mandated on all cars, until the next iteration of driver safety has evolved. IndyCar has promised the AFP is just in its first stages, and something new is coming soon. Maybe we’ll have some news on Carb Day. The mission of the AFP is to protect the driver from low, broadside projectiles. The current device is a 3 inch tall titanium deflector built by Dallara and bolted onto the leading edge of the chassis. It’s thinner than the Halo, which is mandated in F1 and FE. The Halo wouldn’t work on the current IndyCar. All IndyCar teams buy their deflectors from Dallara, who makes them according to IndyCar specs.
It’s been great to see IndyCar driver Robert Wickens whipping around in his manually-operated wheelchair.
He’s quite often seen in the Pit Lane, with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team. Sometimes he hitches a ride with a traveling golf cart. He said he’s up at 5am for rehab and then goes to the track in time for practice, which is getting a bit tiring. He’s helping out his four teammates.
WELCOME TO INDIANAPOLIS! FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY.