By: Spencer Neff
May 20, 2019 | 1:42 PM
At the conclusion of a drama-filled weekend of qualifying, 33 drivers earned a spot in Sunday’s 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. On Monday, the focus shifted to race preparations with a two-hour session at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
When the practice ended, polesitter Simon Pagenaud slotted in atop the speed charts. On Sunday, he earned his first career Indianapolis 500 pole and Team Penske’s record-extending 18th. Just as the practice session ended, the 2016 IndyCar Series champion recorded a best lap of 228.441 mph.
Completing a Team Penske 1-2 for the session, Pagenaud’s teammate Josef Newgarden ran the only other lap above 228 mph. By day’s end, the 2017 series champion turned a best lap of 228.273 mph, just .029 seconds behind Pagenaud’s lap time.
Following Team Penske’s 1-2 were three Honda-powered cars. After a thrilling run in Sunday’s Last Row Shootout gave him a 32nd-place starting spot, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe was the top Honda in today’s two-hour practice.
The 2016 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter ran a best lap of 227.994 mph, while the top five was filled out with 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) and 2016 winner Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.
Of the six rookies in the field, Dixon’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist was the fastest at 227.414 mph. After coming back from a crash on Wednesday, Rosenqvist will start 29th – the lowest of the rookies.
2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato ran the most laps of the day, completing 98 circuits around IMS in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry. On the other side, 2006 Indianapolis 500 Rooke of the Year Marco Andretti logged the fewest. In all, the No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda driver completed 50 laps.
Over the last few years, the Monday practice following qualifying has been the strongest indicator of race conditions. With that being said, today’s practice session was run under cooler conditions than what it is being forecast for this weekend – with ambient temperatures expected to be 15-20 degrees warmer.
In spite of the discrepancy between conditions, on-track action looks to be on par with years past. This was also the field’s first practice since Thursday without qualifying weekend boost increases.
During two hours on track, several drivers worked in traffic and practiced drafting. Additionally, there were times where drivers practiced entering and exiting pit road. The session featured two stoppages – one for a track inspection, and one for a slight brush with the wall.
With less than 20 minutes remaining, Hinchcliffe’s ASPM teammate Marcus Ericsson tagged the North Chute wall on the exit of Turn 3. Fortunately, the track was cleaned up before practice ended and Ericsson continued on as well. When the caution ended, there were just over 10 minutes remaining.
In addition to Ericsson’s contact, mechanical issues plauged a few drivers.
Early on, James Davison’s Dale Coyne Racing with Byrd/Holinger/Belardi entry suffered a fuel cell leak. Electrical issues also plagued third-place starter Spencer Pigot. Despite the gremlins, both drivers were able to continue on.
Practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 concludes on Friday, May 24. During Miller Lite Carb Day, the field of 33 will take to the track for a 90-minute session before Sunday’s 200-lap race. This is an increase from the usual 60-minute session that has been included as part of Carb Day.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com and our social media platform for continued coverage of everything Indianapolis 500.
Header Image By Tim Holle/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.