It was opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as 34 of the scheduled 35 drivers took to the famous 2.5-mile oval for the first afternoon of practice before May 27th’s Indianapolis 500. Matheus Leist of A.J. Foyt Racing was the only driver on the entry list that did not practice today.
The day started with veterans of the Verizon IndyCar Series taking to the oval for a two hour session, including each full-time driver plus part-time gunners such as Helio Castroneves (Team Penske), Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing), Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport), J.R. Hildebrand (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), and Jack Harvey (Michael Shank Racing).
Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold) did one install lap and parked his car until the afternoon session per INDYCAR rules.
Check out our practice recaps below, followed by the headlines from today’s opening day of practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Practice One Recap
Session number one occurred without much incident, with yellow flags flying only for track inspection periods. Chevrolet drivers started the day strong with the Bowtie filling five of the top six positions with the only Honda in the Fast Six being Marco Andretti (223.214 MPH).
Team Chevy representatives Simon Pagenaud (225.787 MPH), Helio Castroneves (223.445), Josef Newgarden (223.229), Ed Carpenter (223.124) and Will Power (222.839) all posted quick times to pace the session.
With many speeds buoyed by draft-aided circuits, it is difficult to judge performance by looking at the leaderboard on first glance. No-tow speeds are the most helpful indicator of outright speed, Honda drivers were the ones who commanded respect on that leaderboard:
No-Tow Speeds for May 15 First Practice
- Graham Rahal, Honda, 221.126 MPH
- Takuma Sato, Honda, 220.965 MPH
- Scott Dixon, Honda, 220.931 MPH
- Will Power, Chevrolet, 220.724 MPH
- Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 220.669 MPH
- Alexander Rossi, Honda, 220.663 MPH
During the quick two-hour sprint session, it was Jack Harvey in his No. 60 Michael Shank Racing entry that logged the most laps with 40 completed circuits, followed by Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot who completed 37 laps.
The slowest driver in session one was Max Chilton of Carlin who placed 22nd overall and had the slowest no-tow lap speed at 216.283 MPH.
In the middle of the day, veterans requiring a refresher test hit the track from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., as well as the fill-in rookie Zachary Claman de Melo. Claman de Melo was tabbed this morning to be Pietro Fittipaldi’s replacement after the 21-year-old Brazilian driver fractured both legs in an accident in Belgium on May 4.
Also on track for refresher tests were Andretti Autosport driver Stefan Wilson in the same No. 25 his brother, Justin, once drove; Dale Coyne Racing’s Pippa Mann, James Davison driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan-Scuderia Corsa driver Oriol Servia.
Of those drivers, it appears all passed their veteran refresher/rookie orientation tests with the exception of Mann, who arrived on pit lane later in the day for final practice.
Practice Two Recap
Closing out the afternoon was a three-hour session that would be halted in the first hour by severe thunderstorms that passed through the Indianapolis metro area. The North end (Turns 3 and 4) of the Speedway received moisture while Turns 1 and 2 remained dry. After a 45-minute waiting game, INDYCAR displayed the green flag at 4:50 p.m. Eastern with 70 minutes remaining in the session.
Happy Hour saw many of the participating drivers run in 6-8 car packs to test their machines in traffic. Within the last 20 minutes of the session, trains as long as 12 cars were found streaming down the straightaways and making passes to dazzle the fans in attendance and watching online.
With the weather aside, it was another clean practice without any yellows for accidents on this day.
Picking up right where he left off, Team Penske ace Helio Castroneves paced the final session of the day by posting a best lap tow speed of 224.665 MPH, followed by Ed Carpenter (224.523), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Jay Howard (224.518), Scott Dixon (224.353), Marco Andretti (224.217) and Sage Karam (223.998).
The Chevrolet drivers were quickest in the no-tow leaderboard for session two after Honda made up much of the top six in first practice today. The speeds for session two:
No-Tow Speeds for May 15 Second Practice
- Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 221.512 MPH
- Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 221.154
- J.R. Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 221.139
- Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 220.662
- Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 220.427
- Alexander Rossi, Honda, 220.399
Many drivers were busy in this abbreviated session with four pilots completing at least 60 laps in the final session. Those drivers were Howard (69), Rossi (68), Ryan Hunter-Reay (65) and Karam (60).
The first day of practice for the Indianapolis 500 was a relatively normal day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 34 of the 35 drivers on the Indianapolis 500 entry list took laps at speed, with Dale Coyne Racing drivers Conor Daly and Pippa Mann making abbreviated runs late in the afternoon. Matheus Leist of A.J. Foyt Racing is the only driver that did not take laps today that is on the entry list.
On a couple of occasions his No. 4 crew rolled the ABC Supply Chevrolet out to pit road, only to wheel it back to the garage area.
Which teams had good days? Ed Carpenter Racing has gotten off to another solid start for the Indianapolis 500 with team owner Ed Carpenter himself (1st, 221.512 MPH) and one-off driver Danica Patrick (7th, 220.233 MPH) both inside the top seven for no-tow speeds during the day’s final session.
Patrick completed 39 laps in today’s second session and was 18th-quickest by the end of the day counting tow speeds.
Another team that did well on this day was Dreyer & Reinbold Racing who placed two drivers within the top eight on the no-tow leaderboard this afternoon. Sage Karam returns to Indy with DRR for the fourth time, and was 8th-quickest without a tow at 220.138 MPH while his new teammate J.R. Hildebrand was 3rd on the time sheets with a no-tow lap at 221.139 MPH.
Always in the middle of the action today was veteran Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti. The Nazareth, Pennsylvania native competed 57 laps over the course of the two sessions and finished 4th and 5th respectively in each practice. Most of those laps were completed while following another car, testing the balance of his No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda in traffic.
Tomorrow, teams will be back in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for day two of Indianapolis 500 preparations. Practice begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern and will run throughout the day until 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Fans can visit the track to watch practice with gates opening at 10:00 a.m. Those who would like to watch from home can catch a stream plus timing and scoring of the event at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for the latest from Indianapolis as we prepare for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
Images courtesy of Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.