Indy 500 Opening Day Practice

Today was Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as teams and drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series began preparations for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The day began with Rookie Orientation and a veteran refresher session, where five Rookies had to go through the proper protocol in order to practice with other drivers, and eventually qualify for the race this weekend. Alexander Rossi was the quickest of the bunch, followed by Max Chilton, Spencer Pigot, Matt Brabham, and Stefan Wilson.

Marco Andretti had the quickest lap on the day, at 228.978 mph, leading an Andretti Autosport charge. The team took the top four spots, and five of the top six overall. Three drivers (Andretti, Carlos Munoz, Ryan Hunter-Reay) all eclipsed the 228 mph barrier. There were a total of 1,474 laps turned in the practice portion, with no incidents on the track.

Indianapolis 500 Opening Day Practice Results

chart

The official entry list for the race was announced earlier this morning, with no surprises. The 33 car and driver combinations will make up the field for the 100th Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on May 29. There are six former winners in the field, which include the 1996 winner, Buddy Lazier. He put in 7 laps of practice today, in the No. 4 Lazier Burns Racing Chevrolet. The team has more support this year, and is a much stronger program than what it has been the last few years.

Several familiar faces returned to the cockpit today, some we haven’t seen in awhile. In addition to Lazier, Townsend Bell returns in an Andretti Autosport entry. Bryan Clauson is back again, this time with Dale Coyne Racing. Two of his teammates (Pippa Mann and Gabby Chaves) are also returning to the 500-mile race. Oriol Servia is back, this time with SPM in a third entry for Sam Schmidt. JR Hildebrand is back again with Ed Carpenter Racing, and Alex Tagliani is in the No. 35 car for AJ Foyt Racing. Last but not least is Sage Karam, who makes his return to Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing, in his first time in an IndyCar since Pocono last season.

All 33 cars were on track today, which is the most on Opening Day since 2010. Mother Nature may have something to do with that, as the forecast for tomorrow doesn’t look very promising. There is rain the forecast, and the temperatures will be in the 50’s for the better portion of the day. There is a possibility of more rain later in the week, so teams really used the practice time that they had today, which made for a very busy afternoon at the Speedway. Practice is scheduled from Noon until 6 PM tomorrow, weather permitting.

Practice Photos

Driver Quotes

Juan Montoya: “Our car was pretty good out there today and we’re pleased with it. Still the first day of the oval and so we’re taking our time getting used to it. Overall, it was a solid, first practice for the Verizon Chevy.”

Helio Castroneves: “It’s great to be back. The Pennzoil Chevy colors were looking good out there. We collected some good data and we’ll learn from that. Hopefully, the weather helps tomorrow as we continue our quest for a good result.”

Buddy Lazier: “We’re just getting sorted out. Early in the session we worked on some electrical gremlins, and then we did basic setup stuff. It feels great to be back in the car. The track is in great shape. It’s a fresh car and the first time we’re all working together, and on the first day these things are to be expected. We’re only getting started.”

JR Hildebrand: “It feels good.  I think with there being some inclement weather throughout this week it’s important that we make good use of the time. We were able to get out there and work some traffic. With Josef (Newgarden), myself, and Ed (Carpenter), I think we all know what we’re looking for. Having three cars out there is enough to generally get a sense of what’s going on. We were able to run with the Penske guys for a little bit. It’s good for other people to feel comfortable running with us right away and we’re comfortable running with them and we can kind of get with the program. At the end of the day qualifying is really important but it’s all about the race. You can make a lot of stuff happen from a lot of places if the car’s good in race trim. That’s the focus right now.”

Max Chilton: “It was a good, solid first day. It’s good to get the rookie orientation practice out of the way. I really worked on the controls in the car and have an understanding of what things will be like and the tools you have moving forward. The Indy car is a bit different than the Indy Lights car with the amount of movement the car has and the different levels of downforce. I think taking that step back last year to Indy Lights allowed me to make a good step forward in the car today. Today was a good day for the Gallagher team and we have a good foundation for the month now.”

Scott Dixon: “It was a good opening day on the oval for Team Target. We had Kyle Larson here this morning as well from Team Target for a cool team announcement with Charlie. He came by the pit for a while so it was good to catch up with him after nearly winning the Cup race yesterday in Dover. We tried a number of things today with the car but no one is going for big numbers this early out there. No issues overall and looking forward to getting closer to qualifying trim tomorrow.”

Tony Kanaan: “We made an engine change today after we took our install lap, so we didn’t get quite as many laps out there today as some of the other guys. We spent most of our practice time just shaking the car down and getting a feel for what we need to do this week in practice. Our finishing position didn’t show it, but the car actually felt pretty good today.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a decent start of the week for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team. We started with a setup that was quite different than what we are used to. We are still trying to acclimate to the aero configuration for this year and come up with something that makes sense. The car is very sensible right now. It gives me good confidence on entry. We just need to dial out the understeer in traffic and find some speed. So, that is what we are going to do.”

Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy car was very strong today. We had favorable conditions when it came to the weather. No wind and cool conditions. So, we had a really good first practice and we feel pretty confident going into the rest of this week.”

Takuma Sato: “It was a short day but at least we were able to do a proper shakedown and went through very basic study. We ran in very light traffic. Primarily today I ran just by myself to get into rhythm. The last safety aero test, it was too windy, too gusty and cold and we didn’t run very much. Today it was much more comfortable.”

Graham Rahal: “Our focus today was to try to be more towards race trim in terms of setup and pound some laps. We didn’t run a ton of laps but I think we got some good efficient work in. We learned some stuff already, which is good. We got ourselves a direction that I think will help us for the rest of the week. We weren’t out here to go for a lap time so I’m pleased with the performance. To see us in the top eight without even getting a huge tow, just a single car tow is good. I’ll definitely take that. We’ve got work to do for sure, but I think we’re probably better off than we were last year.”

Spencer Pigot: “It was a lot of fun out there. I have always been looking forward to the day that I got to drive an Indy car around this track so it was a great experience. We gradually built speed through the day and got through ROP (Rookie Orientation Program) and did a lot of laps. The car feels good in traffic. There is a lot more for me to learn and get used to as the days go on but I think it was a good first day. I will just continue to get more comfortable with it.”

Gabby Chaves: “It felt great getting back out there today in our first official day in preparation for the 500. I’m very pleased with the way the car felt, confident, a lot of speed to find and I feel like it’s in the car. I’m really happy with the first day and we’ll just keep working.”

Ed Carpenter: “Pretty happy with our first day. I felt like we came in with a pretty good plan as a team from the last test we had and we felt like we had a good idea of what we were going to face today. Things seemed like we thought they would as far as what we thought we would need to be working on today, which was nice because the things we had planned were things we really needed to focus on. I feel like on the No. 20 car, we got through a good amount of test items today. They made the car better, so good Day 1. As far as where we ultimately want it to be, it’s not there yet, but I feel like we’re on the right track. I feel like we’re in a good place.”

Josef Newgarden: “It was a good first day. Good, clean laps. I think all of us, JR (Hildebrand), Ed (Carpenter) and me, had a fairly clean day, which is good for starting the month. I think we’ve got some fast cars. It’s cool to get out here and I’m excited to represent Fuzzy’s and Preferred Freezer and have a good run this month.”

Simon Pagenaud: “Good first day at the Speedway. It was interesting to go through the list of items we wanted to try. I’m pretty happy already. There’s still a bunch of stuff I want to try, but the conditions were very good today. Hondas seem very competitive, so we’ll see how that goes. Certainly we have a lot of work to do for the next few weeks.”

Sage Karam: “It’s great to be back in an Indy car and it’s even better to be back in a car at Indianapolis. With the nine-month break, I really have been looking forward to this day. And now the day is here and everything felt great. The team has been working hard and I feel good with how the day went with the Gas Monkey Energy Chevy. The car felt really good and we didn’t do a lot of laps. For us to be where we are right now, I feel confident going into the rest of the week. We ran in traffic well today and I have never been able to do that here. The team has put together a solid car right now and we’ll see what the rest of the month brings.”

Carlos Munoz: “I’m excited it’s the first day of 500. All of the cars from the teammates had around the same speeds, but today is the first day – there is still a long way to go. We still have a lot of things to try. I think it is good that we start the week with good pace in the United Fiber & Data car. Compared to last year, I know for sure we have made a big improvement this year overall. It is too early to talk but the car feels good, we still have some work to do. It’s a long week ahead so there is a lot of work.”

Marco Andretti: “As a team, because of weather, we kind of accelerated our program and moved some things forward that we had planned for the end of the week. I think that’s why we look pretty stout right now. By Fast Friday you’ll see things where they really pan out across the field. I’m pretty happy with the behavior of the Snapple car but there’s some work to do still. The thing about this track is, you can be on top one day and then have to completely start over the next.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Good day – I think we had a good run in traffic. I think the No. 28 DHL Honda was one of the best cars in traffic, if not the best out there. I was pretty happy with it. This is about as good of conditions as it’s going to get and we need to be prepared for worse conditions and for when the full field settles in.”

Townsend Bell: “The CPK/Robert Graham car felt really good today and the team ran strong. We are still settling in – it’s still early – but I’m getting to know the guys and I’m pleased with the direction we are heading in. We’ll see how things continue to progress throughout the week, but I think we’re going to have a competitive May. I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.”

Alex Tagliani: “Opening Day was OK. It was interesting to feel the car with some new things on it. We have work to do obviously, but it was good to get the car on track and run it. I think we were quite conservative with downforce for the few laps we did. We now have a baseline and we’ll review the data to bring the car level up for the rest of the week bit by bit.”

Jack Hawksworth: “Today we were trying to work in the engine. We didn’t get many laps in so we don’t have a clear vision of where we are. The car was a little pushy so we made a few wing adjustments. It was nice to go over 200 mph again on an oval like this. We’ll see where we are tomorrow with more laps under our belt.”

Charlie Kimball: “Frankly any day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a good day. Getting our first laps out on the oval this year was fantastic. The No. 42 Tresiba Chevrolet felt good. We made some changes and improvements and learned a lot of things. We spent the session just kind of figuring out where we are as a team. It’s Day 1 and we have a lot of practice left to go. We’ll keep an eye on the weather for the next few days. If weather is anything like today on race day, I feel confident about where we are.”

Matt Brabham: “It is great to finally be out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the weather was good today and I just had fun out there in the PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet. It took me a while to build up to speed, I was slowly learning the lines and getting used to how to get around the Speedway. The focus for me today was becoming acclimated to the car in Speedway trim. With the Rookie Orientation Program, we were required to go up in increments of 5 mph from 205 mph after completing a number of laps. It was our No. 1 goal to get through that program today, which we did.”

Pippa Mann: “It felt great to be back in a race car today. I just really enjoyed being able to get back out on track and I think we have a good starting place to work from to improve for the rest of the month.”

Bryan Clauson: “It felt really good being back in an Indy car. Opening day is always exciting and the first day back in the car after a year. I’m really happy with how our day went. We logged 91 laps today between the refresher test and practice so we put in a good day’s work. Our Cancer Treatment Centers of America Dale Coyne Racing car was strong and comfortable all day long and it built a lot of confidence for the rest of the week.”

Alexander Rossi: “Today was good, the car felt fast. This morning was definitely eye-opening in terms of not having any kind of prior comparison to a place like this. I was glad we got through ROP without any real issues and this afternoon we got to work and I think it was a very good day for the team in general. I think the biggest thing for me is the group running and getting comfortable with that. That was another new experience for me this afternoon. Overall, it was a good start to May. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the week and settling in with the track.”

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