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Andretti cars set pace in busy opening day of Indy 500 practice

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, May 16, 2016) – The importance of track time was plainly evident on the opening day of practice for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

All 33 entered cars saw time on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, totaling 1,972 laps. The 33 cars on track is the most for an Indy 500 opening day since 2010.

CLICK HERE: Rookie/refresher practice resultsPractice 1 results

Andretti Autosport led the way with its five drivers all finishing in the top six. Marco Andretti sat on top of the leaderboard with a lap of 228.978 mph in the No. 27 Snapple Honda.

“It was a definitely a good start for the team,” said Andretti, the 11th-year Verizon IndyCar Series driver who has finished in the top four at the Indy 500 five times but has yet to win the race. “I think our team in particular looks pretty stout because we looked at the weather and moved things forward on the test plan from later in the week.

“I think we’re really going to see how things will shake out in the next few days. I know how this month goes. It’s definitely a roller coaster, so we’re prepared for that, but it’s a good opening day.”

Andretti was followed by teammates Carlos Munoz in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (228.945), Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda (228.033) and rookie Alexander Rossi in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda (226.865). Townsend Bell, driving the No. 29 Honda, was sixth at 226.724 mph.

Rossi was among the five Indy 500 rookies who participated in the two-hour rookie/veteran refresher session that opened the day. The 24-year-old Californian enjoyed the extra track time before the oval opened to all competitors for the final four hours.

“It felt fast,” the ex-Formula One driver said. “It 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 (rookie orientation) without any issues, and this afternoon we got to work and it was a very good day for the team in general.”

Scott Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, was fifth on the chart and fastest of the Chevrolet drivers with a lap of 226.835 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry.

“We tried a number of things today with the car, but no one is going for big numbers this early out there,” Dixon said. “No issues overall and looking forward to getting closer to qualifying trim tomorrow.”

Defending Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya was 13th fastest at 224.613 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The entire day ran incident-free.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rookie Spencer Pigot was the busiest driver in both of today’s sessions, turning a total of 161 laps in the No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowac Honda.

“It was a lot of fun out there,” Pigot, 22, said. “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 (rookie orientation) and did a lot of laps.

“The car feels good in traffic,” the Florida native added. “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.”

Practice for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 continues Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m. ET each day. Qualifying to set the 33-car field will be held Saturday and Sunday. The May 29 race airs at 11 a.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Rookies and refreshers get track time first

Five Indianapolis 500 rookies and five veteran part-time drivers took part in the two-hour rookie orientation and veteran refresher session.

Rossi, Pigot, Matt Brabham (No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet), Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet) and Stefan Wilson (No. 25 Driven2savelives – KVRT Chevrolet) completed all three phases of rookie orientation, which included 10 laps in the range of 205-210 mph, 15 laps at 210-215 mph and 15 laps at 215-plus mph. Those who didn’t complete all three phases during the two hours were able to later in the afternoon.

Veterans taking the refresher needed to complete the final two phases. All five – Bell, Bryan Clauson (No. 88 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Honda), JR Hildebrand (No. 6 Preferred Freezer Fuzzy Vodka Chevrolet), Sage Karam (No. 24 DRR-Kingdom Racing Chevrolet) and Oriol Servia (No. 77 Lucas Oil Special Honda) – did so.

Hinchcliffe to appear Tuesday on ‘Steve Harvey’

Is the Mayor looking for a first lady? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, James Hinchcliffe – the self-elected mayor of fictional Hinchtown when he’s not driving the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda – played a version of the dating game for a recent taping of “Steve Harvey” in Chicago.

From all accounts, the episode that airs Tuesday on the nationally syndicated talk show was a riot. It wasn’t the first time Hinchcliffe and Harvey have shared the stage. The driver was part of an all-Verizon IndyCar Series team that competed in a recent taping of “Celebrity Family Feud” hosted by Harvey. That show airs this summer.

“Steve’s hilarious,” Hinchcliffe said. “We got to meet him and know him a little bit for the ‘Family Feud’ taping.
“That kind of led to this opportunity and I figured you only live once, so why not give it a try. It was fun to get to hang out with him again and see how he operates in a different environment.”

Check local TV listings or visit to find when the episode airs in local markets.

Kimball’s car number for Indianapolis 500 has special meaning

Charlie Kimball has become well-known as a successful and winning Verizon IndyCar Series driver who happens to have type 1 diabetes. In partnership with sponsor Novo Nordisk, the Chip Ganassi Racing Teams driver is taking another step to raise awareness in the fight against the disease by changing the number of the car he will drive in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Kimball, who normally drives the No. 83 Chevrolet, will “borrow” the No. 42 from CGRT NASCAR teammate Kyle Larson to run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. The change was made to recognize that Tresiba, a once-daily, long-acting basal insulin approved for blood sugar control in adults with diabetes launched by Novo Nordisk earlier this year, lasts at least 42 hours after eight once-daily injections.

It also pays tribute to Larson, whose cousin, Justin Hinton, has diabetes and will be one of 42 people whose names are affixed to the car’s sidepod this month. Other leaders in the diabetes community whose names will be on the car include actor Ben Vereen, retired NBA great Dominique Wilkins and tennis star Billie Jean King.

“It’s going to be fun to cheer him on as well as all the other Chip Ganassi teammates,” said Larson, who joined Kimball, team owner Chip Ganassi and Novo Nordisk executives in announcing the number change today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “My cousin is a type 1 diabetic. I believe his name will also be on the car. That’s pretty special to myself and my family. Gives me more reason to cheer on Charlie.”

Novo Nordisk is also making a $4,200 donation to the Indiana chapter of the American Diabetes Association on behalf of the driver leading Lap 42 of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and another $4,200 to the Charlotte chapter of the ADA for the driver who leads Lap 42 of the NASCAR Coke 600 that night.

“As an individual living with diabetes, Charlie continues to be such an inspiration and leader for the community of others affected by diabetes,” said Camille Lee, senior vice president, diabetes and obesity marketing, Novo Nordisk Inc. “By changing the number of the Tresiba Chevrolet to 42 and displaying names of real people touched by the disease on his car for this historic race, he is making great strides to honor the diabetes community.”

Hunter-Reay sets young minds racing in STEM fair

An hour from the first practice for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Ryan Hunter-Reay could be forgiven for being focused on his upcoming work in the No. 28 DHL Honda. Leave it to a room of sharp students to get the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion thinking of life outside the car.

The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner took questions from 600 Indiana middle schoolers today at the Honda Purdue MSTEM3 Student Fair at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The fair uses motorsports to provide students with hands-on experiences in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and shows how STEM applies to exciting future careers.

“I’d be doing something on the engineering side of the sport if I wasn’t racing,” Hunter-Reay said to one student’s question about where his career might have gone, and the good questions kept coming.

One student asked the Floridian how old he was when starting in racing. Hunter-Reay surprised with an answer that put him squarely in the room’s demographic: 12 years old. Hunter-Reay arrived late to the sport compared to most of his peers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, who were karting at age 6 or 8.

“I tell them that I’m inexperienced,” Hunter-Reay said with a smile.

Another smart question asked what were the best and worst things about racing, to which Hunter-Reay said were blocking everything else in the world out when inside the car (best) and the pressure when it’s not going well (worst).

One of the last questions – before Hunter-Reay had to run to that aforementioned first practice – involved the top speeds he has hit in his career.

The answers dropped some jaws in the room: 242 mph at Auto Club Speedway (California), 232 mph at IMS.

Of note

Andretti Autosport announced that United Fiber & Data will sponsor the No. 26 Honda driven by Carlos Munoz in this year’s Indianapolis 500. UFD has sponsored Andretti cars at Indianapolis in 2013 and ’14. … The preliminary overnight television rating for ABC’s broadcast of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday was a 0.78. It represented a 13 percent increase from the 2015 rating.