Day by Day At The Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Qualifying Week

Carlos Huertas was the first car to post a qualifying time but had the weather wipe out his run. [Russ Lake Photo]

by Mary Champion

Saturday, May 16 – It turned out to be a disappointing day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as rain literally put a damper on the day.

It was supposed to be the first day of qualifying for the Sunday, May 24 Indianapolis 500, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The practice sessions prior to qualifying were scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. but due to wet track conditions from overnight rain, practice did not begin until 10:00 a.m.

The field was divided into two groups for practice with each group scheduled to get 30 minutes of practice time. There was no guarantee the full 30 minutes would happen, but each group would get an equal amount of time on the track.

Track conditions were ideal for fast laps, with it being cool and cloudy with heavy air. And, were there fast laps!

In the first session JR Hildebrand turned a lap at 232.958 mph and, in the second session, three-time Indy 500 winner, Helio Castroneves, posted a lap at 233.474 mph, the fastest lap turned at the track since 1996.

Overall speeds were quite high in practice as a total of 19 cars recorded laps at over 230 mph.

Qualifying began promptly at the rescheduled time of 12:25 p.m.

The first car out to qualify was Carlos Huertas, who set a four-lap average speed of 228.235 mph.

Moisture was reported on the track as Ryan Hunter-Reay took his qualification run. Hunter-Reay completed the four laps at an average of 229.845 mph.

Scott Dixon was next out on the track and completed one lap at 231.357 mph before the yellow flag was displayed and the rain started coming down harder.

As a heavy rain covered the track, and, with more rain on the way, officials closed the track for the day at 2:06 p.m.

Officials cancelled Huertas’ and Hunter-Reay’s times and declared that qualifying would start from scratch tomorrow, with the original qualifying line restored.

On Sunday, there will be two short practices scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. with each car in the qualifying line to get one attempt to qualify, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

At 1:45 p.m., each of the nine fastest cars will get one run for a chance to win the pole and at 3:00 p.m., cars whose first qualifying attempt put them in positions 10-33 will get one attempt to set their final position in the field.




Friday, May 15 – It was “Fast Friday” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The day before qualifying is traditionally the day when the fastest speeds of the practice sessions are set.

In a preview of tomorrow’s qualifying runs, six drivers topped 230 mph on the speed chart and a total of 18 drivers turned in laps at speeds over 229 mph. With the field this tight tomorrow should be an exciting day as drivers fight for starting positions in the Indy 500 field.

Simon Pagenaud earned a $10,000 bonus for having the quickest speed on “Fast Friday” running a lap at 230.698 mph.

Other drivers over the 230 mile-per-hour mark were Scott Dixon with a speed of 230.655 mph, Tony Kanaan at 230.457 mph, Marco Andretti at 230.312, Will Power at 230.206 mph and Sage Karam at 230.166 mph.

With just a few minutes left in the practice session, Pippa Mann was back on track following her accident on Wednesday. Her Dale Coyne Racing team had to get one of the team’s tubs back from the fabricator where it was undergoing repair follow an incident earlier in the season and worked virtually around the clock to put a car together. The work paid off as Mann turned a speed of 225.457 mph with just six laps in the car this afternoon.

Virtually all of the 1055 Incident-free laps today were single car runs in preparation for qualifying.

Following the practice session the draw was held for positions in the qualifying line for Saturday’s first round of qualifying, which will begin at 11:00 am.

An announcement was made today of a new IndyCar team to premier next year at the 100th Indianapolis 500.

The team will be known as Grace Autosport, and it will all the first all-female IndyCar Team. The team principal is Beth Paretta of The Paretta Company and former motorsports director for SRT Motorsports/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Indy 500 veteran, Katherine Legge, will be the team’s driver. The aerodynamicist, top engineers and the P/R director will all be women.

No sponsors or affiliations with any other teams have yet been announced.




Thursday, May 14 – Speeds were down from yesterday in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Today’s top speed of 228.793 mph, set by Simon Pagenaud, was considerably slower than the 230.121 mph lap posted yesterday by Carlos Munoz.

Pagenaud was pleased with his run today.

“Today was a really good day,” he said.

“We’ve been focusing on understanding what the car does in qualifying runs. (I’m) very happy to see the preparation from Penske and how fast the 22 car is. So far, so good,” he added.

Munoz was second quick today at a speed of 228.126 mph. Sage Karam, who was fastest on Monday, was third fastest at 227.683 mph, while Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan were fourth and fifth fastest with speeds of 227.634 mph and 227.527 mph, respectively.

A serious crash occurred today at 5:19 pm when Josef Newgarden did a half spin to the left and hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1 with the left front of the car. The car then got into the air and came down on its left side and slid down the track on its side, coming to a stop in the warmup lane in Turn 2.

Fortunately, Newgarden was unhurt. He was checked by the track medical staff and cleared to drive.

The crash was very similar in appearance to Helio Catrneves’ crash yesterday. Both care sported the Chevy aero kits and both became airborne.

Newgarden commented after the crash, “I got around pretty quick in Turn 1. It definitely surprised me. I knew it happened when it did, so I’m just lucky that everything’s good.   The Dallara tub held up well. I just want to get back to my guys and see what the damage is. I’m sure its bad, but we’ll see what we can do going forward. It was a hard hit. I feel fine. I think Dallara and INDYCAR do a great job and so does everyone else involved to make the safest race cars possible.”

It was announced today that there will be two drivers in the #19 at Dale Coyne Racing. James Davison passed his refresher test and posted the day’s fourth quickest time yesterday, but Tristan Vautier was in the car today.

Vautier passed his refresher test and practiced in the car today as it has been announced he will qualify the car for Davison, who will be competing in a sports car race in Canada on qualifying weekend. After Vautier qualifies the car, he will leave for England to compete in the Blancplain Endurance GT Series event on race day and Davison will drive the car in the “500.”

Tomorrow, the day before qualifying, is “Fast Friday.” In preparation for qualifying, the boost level will be increased from 130 kPa to 140 kPa. The pressure change adds about a 40-horsepower boost to both the Chevy and Honda engines. The boost will remain elevated for qualifying on Saturday and Sunday, but will be back down to 130 kPa for final practice and the Indianapolis 500.





Wednesday, May 13 – On a busy practice day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a Honda-powered car broke Chevy’s stranglehold on the top speeds and two fan favorites crashed.

With just six minutes remaining in the session, Carlos Munoz, driving an Andretti Autosport Honda, posted the fastest lap of the day, and the season so far, at 230.121 mph.

Munoz admitted he turned the lap while getting a tow from another car. “I said to the crew, ‘let’s go in the group and see if we can just cop a tow and feel the car in traffic a little bit.’ I went back to the pack and it’s practice, so whoever gets the best tow is the one who is going to finish first. In traffic and on my own, I feel fast.”

Earlier in the day three-time “500” winner Helio Castroneves had a serious crash.

Castroneves did a half spin and made hard contact with the end of the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1. The car became airborne and rotated 180 degrees vertically in the air before landing on the roll hoop, sliding and flipping upright, coming to rest at the entrance to Turn 2.

Castroneves climbed from the car unhurt and was cleared to drive by the track medical staff.

Castroneves later commented on the crash. “The car was really good and I am very blessed. Unfortunately, I still do not understand what happened. I got loose in Turn 1 and spun out. The good news is the impact wasn’t very strong and the landing was smooth as well. The accident was very impressive, but the good news is, I am feeling very good.”

Team owner Roger Penske analyzed the crash in relation to the new aero kits.

“It looks like the car got backwards, air got underneath it and the car flipped,” Penske said.

“We’re playing with new areas from the aerodynamic standpoint, and of course, going backwards at that speed, you don’t know what kind of lift it had. But obviously, it got airborne which we were surprised about. We’ll take a good look at it,” he added.

In the final two hours of practice the fastest speeds to date were posted, with speeds going higher until Munoz set his fast lap right at the end of the session.

Right at 5:00 p.m., the second serious incident of the day occurred when Pippa Mann lost control of her car and spun exiting Turn4, slid and made a half-spin before the right rear of the car hit the inside wall SAFER Barrier, continued spinning and hit the end of the pit wall, then spun three more times before hitting the frontstretch outside wall.

Mann suffered a few bruises, but was checked and cleared to drive by the track medical staff.

Following Munoz on the speed chart was Townsend Bell with a speed of 228.969 mph.

Bell was very matter-of-fact when discussing his speed. “It was good. We’re staying in a tight little box, being a single car program, only event of the year so far with the team. Trying to be pragmatic and just stay focused on the fundamentals. So far, so good,” he said.

Tony Kanaan had the third quickest speed of the day at 228.172 mph, while James Davison, who just completed his refresher test earlier in the day, posted the fourth quickest speed of the day at 228.043 mph, and Monday’s fastest driver, Sage Karam, rounded out the top five at 227.822 mph.

Practice continues tomorrow in preparation for qualifying on Saturday and Sunday, May 16 & 17 and the 99th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24.




Tuesday, May 12 – Helio Castroneves posted the fastest speed of the day on a busy day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today.

Castroneves turned a lap at 227.514 mph early in the session and it stood up as the day’s quickest lap for the remainder of the day.

His Team Penske teammate, Simon Pagenaud, was second quick today at 227.382 mph, while Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon posted the third quick time at 226.769 mph.

Justin Wilson, piloting an Andretti Autosport entry, had the fourth fastest time of the day at 226.688. However, after setting the time, the Honda engine in his mount expired just five minutes before the day ended at 6:00 p.m.

It was not a good day for Andretti Autosport as Wilson’s teammate, Simona de Silvestro, had a fuel leak that started her car on fire. By the time the fire had been put out, the car was severely damaged, however, de Silvestro did not suffer any burns.

Unfortunately, fire seems to follow de Silvestro. She was burned in an incident at Texas Motor Speedway in 2010 and, in 2011, while practicing for the “500,” she crashed and the car caught fire. In that incident she suffered second-degree burns to her hands.

“It’s definitely unfortunate because the car is pretty burnt down, and it’s really frustrating that it seems like fire follows me. Maybe this time is ‘third time’s the charm,’ and hopefully the team can get the car back together as quickly as possible,” de Silvestro said.

It was definitely not a good day for the Honda engines as the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry piloted by John Jakes also suffered a Honda engine failure.

Castroneves was pleased with his quick time today.

“It was a good day. Now we’ve just got to keep working with this new aero kit. Things are looking in the right direction. We’re not focused on just the lap, we’re focused on the performance of it all,” he said.

34 car and driver combinations were on track today, turning 1,958 laps.

Practice for the May 24 Indianapolis 500 resumes at noon on Wednesday.



Monday, May 11 – Following the conversion of the track back to oval status following Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis, practice began for the Sunday, May 24 Indianapolis 500.

The practice session was shortened due to periodic showers.

The first portion of the session was devoted to Rookie Orientation and refresher tests plus those drivers who were not at the May 3 aero kit test were allowed the additional practice time.

Rookie Stefano Coletti completed two phases of his rookie orientation program during the special session and completed his orientation program later in the day.

Townsend Bell was required to take a refresher test because he had not driven an IndyCar since last year’s “500.” He got through past of his refresher during the session and completed it later in the day.

Despite it being a shortened day, 30 cars and drivers ran 1,094 laps today with Sage Karam topping the speed chart with a speed of 225.802 mph.

Despite being the day’s fastest speed Karam felt the team still has a long way to go.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been P1 (fastest) at the Speedway so, you know, it’s a good feeling. We have a lot of work to do. The car’s not anywhere near where we want it to be for race day or qualifying. We are picking this new aero kit apart and we’re figuring it out every time we go out,” he said.

Following Karam on the speed chart were Scott Dixon at 225.293 mph, Tony Kanaan at 225.217 mph, Marco Andretti at 225.184 mph and JR Hildebrand rounded out the top five with a speed of 224.760 mph.

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