Indianapolis 500 Practice, Opening Day

The much anticipated Opening Day practice for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 is in the books. With sunshine and warm temperatures, the teams and drivers took to the 2.5 mile oval. Rookie Orientation and Refresher courses took place during the first two hours, and then everyone got in on the fun.

Marco Andretti was the fastest on Monday, with a lap of 226.338 mph. In all, there were 1,501 laps turned by 32 drivers in the field. The only driver not present was Buddy Lazier, who hopes to be on track by Thursday. The only other driver to break the 225 mph barrier on Monday was 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, Scott Dixon. Ed Carpenter, Sebastien Bourdais, and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five.

Indianapolis 500 Practice Results

Dale Coyne Racing driver Ed Jones was the only Rookie to complete all three phases of Rookie Orientation. Oriol Servia, Sebastian Saavedra, and Jay Howard all completed the veteran refresher phases. To the surprise of no one, Fernando Alonso had most of the attention throughout the day, and finished 19th on the final speed chart.

The day was a mixed bag for Graham Rahal, who ended up sixth fastest overall. Unfortunately for he and the RLL team, his engine let go during Happy Hour on Monday. “We had a good and bad day,” he said. “I think the car has a lot of pace and is fast. Obviously, to lose an engine is frustrating but I know the Honda guys are pushing these things as hard as they can. I would have liked to be a little better but we are struggling a little bit in traffic. But it’s early days and we can’t panic. She’s in one piece, we going to change the engine and fire it up tomorrow.”

There was one incident on the day, when Rookie Jack Harvey had a strange encounter with the outside of the Turn 2 wall with two hours remaining in practice. Harvey had just come out of pit lane after a yellow, and the car seemed to keep going straight when he tried to turn. There was significant damage to the car, but Harvey was uninjured.

Team Penske didn’t show their hand on Monday, running limited laps with their five cars. Will Power was the fastest of the bunch, at 224.106 mph. Juan Montoya returns to the Indy 500 for a third consecutive year with Roger Penske, and was 12th fastest on Monday. Helio Castroneves didn’t run until just before Happy Hour, and was just 26th on the speed chart in his gorgeous-looking gold and white Shell livery.

Today also marked the return of Sage Karam, who is back with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the No. 24 Mecum Chevrolet. Sebastian Saavedra also returned, driving for Juncos Racing. The team is making it’s Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Saavedra and Spencer Pigot. Gabby Chaves is back, with a new team run by Mike Harding.

Practice resumes tomorrow from Noon until 6 PM ET, with live video streaming available from IndyCar. Qualifications are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with the 101st Indianapolis 500 set for May 28.

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “It’s good to be here for May. It’s the most exciting month of the year for us. It’s great to finally be in speedway mode – so far, so good. The Menards Chevrolet feels really nice just as it did last year. There haven’t been a lot of changes. It’s just about understanding with the temperature how the car is going to be in the race. It’s great that is was hot today like it will be later in the month for the race. We have five cars this month, so there is a lot of information. It’s nice to have (Juan Pablo) Montoya back. He’s a great resource for this place.”

Josef Newgarden: “It’s always great to get out on the track in Indianapolis. There’s just a feel about this place. We didn’t get too aggressive today. We just wanted to do some learning. I think we’ll have bigger plans tomorrow. The hum by Verizon Chevy felt good today.”

Helio Castroneves: “It’s the first day of Indianapolis 500 practice. How can you not be excited about that? This place is magical. It’s great to get started. The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy felt good and looked great, too. It’s nice to have Shell-Pennzoil on board for this event. They’ve had a lot of success and we hope to add to it as the month goes along. We kind of felt our way through today, but I think tomorrow will be different.”

Conor Daly: “Obviously, it was a good first day for us because we were able to get out on track and run. Performance-wise, I don’t think we got to where we want to be yet. But we just had to get out on track for the first day and just make sure everything is running fine, which it is. The next step is just to continue to go faster.”

Spencer Pigot: “Yeah, it was a good first day. We didn’t really have any issues and that’s what we wanted. We didn’t do a huge amount of laps. We just did a few runs to make sure everything was working well and just kind of did our own thing today. As the week goes on we’ll get more aggressive and start running in traffic a bit more, find some people to get tows and go a little bit quicker. Today the goal was to make sure everything ran okay and we did that.”

Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy team is just looking to build on the momentum of our INDYCAR Grand Prix victory on Saturday. The guys did a lot of work getting the car situated yesterday. I was over in the garage for a bit and everyone was flying around. It was pretty crazy. Everything today felt pretty comfortable. We didn’t get after it very hard today. We just wanted shake it down a little and get some data to look at.”

Carlos Munoz: “On the first day we always check how everything works and see what the best line is for the car, which was OK. We still have work to do. We need to find a little bit more speed and that’s hard but we have to make the car feel good, but it was a good first day. We didn’t have any problems. We improved the car a little bit but we still have a long way to go.”

Graham Rahal: “We had a good and bad day. I think the Steak ‘n Shake car has a lot of pace and is fast. Obviously, to lose an engine is frustrating but I know the Honda guys are pushing these things as hard as they can. I would have liked to be a little better but we are struggling a little bit in traffic but its early, and we can’t panic. She’s in one piece. We are going to change the engine and fire it up tomorrow.” (About the feeling when the engine was letting go): “It rattles you good. When it goes like that, the whole car starts to shake. We didn’t get everything done that we wanted to today. We wanted to only run a limited amount of tires today so we didn’t run much – only two sets and not even fully two sets. We tried to save them up for later.”

Oriol Servia: “It’s great to be back in an Indy car. It felt like I was in a car only yesterday. It was a good, solid first day. If we can keep having good days like this, I think we have a shot.”

Sebastian Saavedra: All together a very positive first day for AFS Juncos No. 17 car. I felt as if I was a riding a bike. It came back to me quickly. I had to mentality ease through it, not put any pressure on myself which allowed us to get the small things out of the way. We focused on the initial setup and I started connecting with my engineer (Tom Brown). It’s been awhile since we worked together, so it was good to get to have this time together. It was also good to work back with my teammate Spencer Pigot. That is going to be crucial for us to have a good month of May. So, overall a very positive first day of testing. I’m very pleased.”

Sebastien Bourdais: “This was probably my best opening day ever here. We had a solid car to begin with. It needs tuning and adjustments but it’s OK. It’s not scary. It does kind of what you want it to do and you just have to manage the balance on your own with traffic, as usual but it’s promising. The only thing is I don’t see any very weak cars. You look at the speeds and how bunched up it is and it’s going to be an interesting 101st edition for sure.”

Ed Jones: “It was a good day. We completed the rookie orientation in the morning and that went very well, and then we started progressing after that. We started gaining experience on the track with the car, working on getting close to the other cars and getting comfortable. I’m looking forward to progressing throughout the week.”

Ed Carpenter: “It was a good start to the month. It’s always nice, obviously, to be near the top of the time sheet. For the most part, things went according to plan. We accomplished what we wanted to and worked through the list we had for today, not only for the 20 car but also with the 21. We would have liked to have a little bit better group run, but we just got a little bit disjointed. Every time we tried, we got caught in a yellow or people pitted, so we stopped a few minutes early because of where we were on tries. All in all, a good start. I’ve certainly had worst starts the past couple of years. It’s important to get off on the right foot and build some confidence, not only for myself but for the whole team. If we can keep having productive days like today every time we are on track, I’ll feel pretty good.”

JR Hildebrand: “It’s always great to be back out here on the superspeedway. Our first day went well. We did quite a bit of running today. The conditions were quite hot. I believe it will get hotter and windier as the week goes on, so we’ll have to prepare for that. I feel pretty good about our first-day progress. The team’s working well. We’ll see what we have for the rest of the month. It’s good to be back.”

Juan Montoya: “It’s great to be here in Indianapolis. I got a little taste last week with the grand prix, but now it’s down to business. The Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet was good today. No complaints. There’s still plenty to learn, but we should have the time to do that. We’ll probably take a little different approach tomorrow and run a little harder and get a little better feel of where we are.”

Sage Karam: “The Mecum Auction Dreyer & Reinbold Chevy was pretty good today. I was pretty pleased with how the day went. Being 13th after not driving all season so far is pretty respectable. I’m excited. The team worked very hard. We’re building the foundation of what the car is going to be. The car feels very similar to last year’s car and last year I had a rocket ship. I’m feeling good. I just wanted to get in the car. I was really nervous this morning and had a lot of emotions going through. Once you go through one run, all the emotions go away and it feels good to go flat around here again.”

Takuma Sato: “It’s great to be back at the Speedway, especially I was looking forward to driving with Andretti Autosport at the Indianapolis 500. The car worked really well today as expected. No surprise the car was straight away out of the box very consistent and very stable, and building up the confidence helped a lot. At the end of the day we did the first group run of my life — in racing you do get to drive in traffic, but I’ve never done it with three other teammates all together, particularly on day of running.(Having teammates to run with) is the best environment you can possibly imagine, so I feel very positive and very confident. But it was a good day and I’m looking forward to more progress to come.”

Marco Andretti: “We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup item boxes today, the changes that take longer. That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers. You know, that’s all you can ask for. We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week with the UFD car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car. Obviously, the team ran good here last year. And the car felt good when I tested for Fernando and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It’s great to be back on track at IMS. We had a good first day of preparation for the ‘500,’ I think we checked off the boxes we wanted to today, which was getting a better understanding of our car in traffic and alone. I think we had more speed, but we never threw another set of tires at it. With a new tire run, I think we could have been up there with (Marco Andretti), which is good. The DHL Honda has speed in it and looking forward to the week to come.”

Fernando Alonso: “I was a little bit concerned (heading in) about the conditions, about the temperature, as it was much hotter today than at the test we did here on May 3rd. But no, the car felt as good as it did at the test, and I was able to make some setup changes without losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth. The last half an hour maybe we had some issues with the rear suspension, and we could not complete the program that we had planned to run a little bit in traffic at the end of the day, so we missed that part, but overall it was an amazing day. I’m happier than the first day with the car because I was able to feel some of the setup changes that we were planning in the morning.  We did not do much running in traffic, so that’s still the thing that I need to go through in the next couple of days. But I did two or three laps behind some cars that were going out of pit lane, and it was good fun.”

Zach Veach: “Overall, even though we only got a few laps of running, we’re really happy with today. We’re still just getting last bits of body fit done on the car and getting us prepared for the rest of the week and qualifying of course. I really want to thank my A.J. Foyt guys for working so hard and getting us out there at the end. I’m really excited, the car showed a lot of speed just even in rookie orientation, so the effort that we were having to do the laps we were doing is really surprising because the car just wants to go fast already. I think that we have a really good platform for the rest of the week, so I’m really excited to see what the IWiT (Indy Women in Tech) car can do later this week, but tomorrow I expect us to be running towards the front for sure.”

Jack Harvey:  “It’s been a pretty challenging day for what was meant to be an easy process. We had some issues this morning, but we had managed to work through them. To have that happen, and I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight. I was coming out of the pits. I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre. We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that happened. It was so random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”

Pippa Mann:  “It felt great to be back in an Indy car pounding out laps for the first time in nine months and great to get the first laps of 2017 under my belt here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s always nice to break the 220 mph mark on the first day, and we’ve got plenty of time and plenty of days to keep working away and getting back up to speed.”

Gabby Chaves: “Obviously we didn’t get as many laps as we would’ve liked on day one here in the Harding Racing 88 car. But our plan has always been to go through both of our cars and make sure we know they’re both working, and we did that. We would’ve liked to get some more laps but now we’re ready to roll first thing tomorrow.”

Alexander Rossi:  “It was a pretty good first day. There is always a lot of down time, I think, on Day 1 to have everything in order. A P3 (third place on the timesheets) on the no-tow list is pretty good and the NAPA car there at the end of the day felt pretty strong. So, it’s a good starting point and we’ll keep moving forward tomorrow.”

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