INDIANAPOLIS (May 11, 2015) – The chase for speed and unlocking the secrets of the new superspeedway aero kits began in earnest with the second day of practice for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Thirty cars logged nearly 1,100 laps on a day abbreviated by an early afternoon shower, with Sage Karam posting the fastest lap (225.802 mph) in the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet.
“It’s only the first day, so it’s not about how fast you are today,” said Karam, who finished an impressive ninth as a 19-year-old rookie in the 2014 Indianapolis 500. “It’s about how fast you are on Sunday in two weeks. It definitely feels good, though. It’s the first time I’ve ever been P1 at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway so it’s a good feeling.”
Two of Karam’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, were second (225.293) and third (225.217) on the speed chart, respectively. Marco Andretti led the Honda contingent, fourth overall at 225.184 mph in the No. 27 Snapple Andretti Autosport machine.
Chevrolet and Honda developed the aerodynamic bodywork packages that attach to the Dallara IR-12 chassis in the offseason. The aero kit components for road/street courses and short ovals were used in the first five Verizon IndyCar Series races of the season, with the superspeedway kit components unveiled May 3 at the opening day practice for the May 24 Indianapolis 500.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Karam said. “The car’s not anywhere near where we want it to be for race day or qualifying. I’ve got a great team. They worked really hard. They are making it a lot easier on us drivers by being as prepared as they are. We are picking this new aero kit apart and we’re figuring it out every time we go out.”
Also today, Stefano Coletti (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet) completed all three phases of the rookie orientation program, while Townsend Bell rolled through the veteran refresher program in his first Indy car action since last year’s “500.”
When asked about his first-ever oval experience today on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Coletti said, “It’s really fast … and fun.”
“I’ve been waiting for three months to be on this oval,” said Coletti, 26, the first native of Monaco to drive in an Indy car race since Louis Chiron competed in the 1929 Indianapolis 500. “I’ve always watched (the Indy 500) since I was a kid and I’ve always wanted to race in the ‘500.’ The atmosphere and all the people here look incredible on TV, and being here is a dream come true.”
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk was in Coletti’s pit to offer guidance.
“When I coach somebody, it’s almost as exciting as driving yourself because it’s nice to see somebody pick up the pace quickly and pick up the lines around the track quickly,” said Luyendyk, who 25 years ago won his first Indy 500. “So far, I’m happy with the lines he’s taken because that’s really important here.”
Practice resumes Tuesday through Friday (noon-6 p.m. ET), with two days of qualifying scheduled Saturday and Sunday to determine the 33-car field for the race.
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
IMS Track Turnaround a Herculean Effort
As soon as the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis was complete Saturday evening, a Herculean effort to convert the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for oval track use began. Verizon IndyCar Series teams relocated their pits for Indianapolis 500 practice while Will Power was still conducting post-race interviews from the grand prix. As soon as fans finished their “track invasion” grid walk, IMS crews began removing nearly two miles of green Angie’s List adhesive signage adorning track walls, which was followed by painting those sections of the walls a crisp new white.
The wall and fence crews started Sunday morning, removing fence panels and track fencing before they could focus on moving and resetting more than two million pounds of concrete wall and barriers – 16,000 pounds (eight tons) at a time. A fleet of equipment was involved, including a 100-ton crane, 70-ton crane, half-dozen fork trucks, pickups, trailers, four-wheelers, utility vehicles and more. Much of the work was centered on closing off the inside of the Turns 2 and 4 ovals, areas where the road course ventured off the oval.
All told, 80-some personnel and more than 1,000 man hours went into converting the track.
Minimizing Mental Mistakes Key to ‘500’ Success, Says Montoya
Now that he has experienced the Indianapolis 500 and Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis two times each, Juan Pablo Montoya can succinctly sum up the difference in his mind.
“Physically, the GP is harder and the ‘500’ mentally harder because of how precise you have to be with the margin of error,” said Montoya, who won the Indy 500 in 2000 and finished third in Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix. “It’s a longer race (the ‘500’), more chances for you to (mess) up. If you can minimize the mistakes, then you can have a shot at it.”
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is serving as a spotter for Townsend Bell (Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing) this month. He joins four-time winner Rick Mears (Team Penske) and 2004 winner Buddy Rice (CFH Racing) as former winners on the spotter stand.
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I have been waiting for three months to get on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. I didn’t get to do the first ROP (Rookie Orientation Program) because I was stuck in Europe because of my visa. I finally got to go out on track and I am very happy. It is very fast. I’m also happy because I got through the first two phases of my rookie test. I still have one more phase to go, which I can now do with the other drivers on track. I am very excited to be at Indy. It is my first time on an oval and I want to thank all the guys at KV Racing for helping me. I also want to thank Arie Luyendyk. He took me around the track this morning and gave me some tips which really helped today.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “The first day of practice was pretty solid. Obviously, we didn’t get running when we’d hoped at the beginning there with the weather, but once we did get out, the car felt pretty solid. We made a really big step even just from the test. We weren’t super happy after the test and now, for the first day, I’d say we have a really good car that we can work with. The pace looks decent in traffic and it’s a really good starting point. I’m really proud of all the Arrow Electronics guys and just looking forward to getting the rest of the week underway to fine-tune this beast.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 6 Preferred Freezer / CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I feel pretty good. During the day I felt like we made a lot of progress. I wasn’t super happy with the feel of the car right at the beginning but we got dialed in a pretty fair amount as we went through the day here. All three of us are working towards the same thing and we’re definitely reaping the benefits of working together closely so far. All in all it was a great day. The Chevy felt strong. We don’t really know how that all pans out until later in the week but I feel good about our first day’s work for sure.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was nice to get out on track here at IMS today for the first practice. Obviously it was very cool and very windy as well. We had an unfortunate incident with our starter and I hope Trey (Harkins) is okay. Other than that, we accomplished what we set out to do on our test checklist today and I’m looking forward to getting at it again tomorrow.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution / Big Machine Records Chevrolet, fastest of the day): “It’s only the first day, so it’s not about how fast you are today. It’s about how fast you are on Sunday in two weeks. It definitely feels good though. It’s the first time I’ve ever been P1 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. I’ve got a great team. They worked really hard. They are making it a lot easier on us drivers by being as prepared as they are. We are picking this new aero kit apart and we’re figuring it out every time we go out.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Today was an opportunity for Team Target to really shake down the car and see what we need to work on and where we are. We had a couple of items from the oval test we wanted to work on today with dampers and new additions to the car, so we were able to work through those and get some good data.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I really like the new May format we have with the GP opening up the month of May, but I’ve got to say it felt really good to be back out on the oval with all of my focus going towards the 500. The weather didn’t cooperate with us early on, but we were able to get some time on-track to shake down the cars. The No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet felt good out there today and I think it’s a great way for the team to start practice for the Indianapolis 500.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Refreshing day because now we are going the proper way around IMS, two days ago we were going opposite. It’s nice to be back in a speedway car. It feels very fast. Today our program was straightforward; we just needed to get the engine mileaged out which took about 40 laps. Since it was such a gusty day, we did a minimum test program but it was very successful and I feel very positive about the car. Tonight the boys will install the second generation spec engine for tomorrow and hopefully the wind has calmed down by then.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “We made some gains over last year, but we’re still struggling with the consistency of the grip level. On our own, it’s pretty good but then when we get in traffic its good for a little bit but then it seems to slide the longer we go so we’ve got to be a little cautious. We turned a lot of laps out there in the Steak ‘n Shake car and I got behind (Scott) Dixon on old tires and we were doing 221s, which I don’t think is too bad. When we’re behind one car, it’s OK. But when we’re behind two or three the car seems to struggle a little bit. We’ve got a lot of time left to dial the Steak ‘n Shake car in.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Today was my first day out with the new Chevy oval aero kit and I think it went pretty well. We just wanted to get out there and shake down the car and get me comfortable with the new aero kit and with the crew. I think overall it was a very productive day and we have a lot to build on leading into the next week of practice before qualifying.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a good day to get in a bunch of laps. We didn’t have a bad day, but I wouldn’t call it a good day either. Most of the things we learned were things we didn’t want to do. So to learn from that and come here today and re-attack it again with all three cars I thought we made some good improvements. I feel pretty good where we are after the first day and as much as anything we spent a lot of time running together, working together, and sharing the test lists so I feel pretty happy with what we accomplished today.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was an OK day. It was good to get some running in. Fortunately the weather let up and we were able to get a lot of good running with all three cars. I think we got through a lot of good stuff, the engineers seem pretty happy for today. We just need to have another five solid days and then see where we qualify. I think so far it’s looking pretty good, happy to be running with this whole CFH Racing team.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 24 The Robert Graham Special Chevrolet): “We really didn’t have any issues today as the crew did a great job preparing The Robert Graham Special for me. I want to thank Davey Hamilton for shaking down the car at the test. The driver (Bell) has a few kinks to work out here at Indy but it feels so good to come back to the Speedway. Compared to what I race in the sports cars, this feels like a rocket ship. Not much was different from last year for me except that the gusts of wind were coming across the front straightaway from the tunnels of the main grandstand. That did affect my car at times. In fact, I thought the car was broken at one time due to the wind bouncing the car around. It was an interesting experience but I’m glad I felt it today. Overall, it was a very good first day and I think we can improve on it. (On Al Unser Jr. as his spotter) It is an honor to have Al helping us this week. Whatever tidbit of information I can take from a legend like Al is a benefit at Indy. It’s great to have him help us this week.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It was a good day today – definitely pleased with how things went. The No. 25 Honda was working well and we tried a different setup today, so we’re happy with that and what we found. We’ll keep chipping away over the next couple of days and we’ll see what happens.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “The first day finished – a day to make sure everything is in order. The car feels pretty good. It’s fast, but we have a long week ahead. We have a lot of things to try out, but it’s good to know we have the speed.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “We got through a lot of test items on our list today. We needed to mileage out the engine and for only having one set of tires, I’m pretty pleased with where things progressed to for the Snapple team. But I think there’s still a lot of speed coming for the 27 Honda.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We worked today to get to a certain point in mileage with the engine so we can get on to the next (Honda engine). You have to meet those markers for the rules of the Verizon IndyCar Series to move on to the next engine. It was really gusty today – the car is moving around a lot but we found some things that we like. I think the conditions being cool like this, everyone is pretty planted right now. Other than the wind gusts, we’re seeing some pretty good times and a decent start to the week for the DHL team.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda): “Today was a pretty good day. We tried a few different things, so it was a good day, especially with it being a little bit shortened by the weather. We have some work for tomorrow, but I think we have a good direction. I hope we can fix those little issues we had today.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “It was good to get back in the car but not as much fun as it should be because it was really windy and gusty. And it’s never fun when it’s like that but you’ve got to run because you never know if on race day it’s going to be as windy or worse. It was a good opportunity to try different things on the aero package to see which ones worked best in windy conditions and traffic. It didn’t feel great but I could see that everyone around me was feeling similar or worse. It was a good first day to get back in the ‘Month of May’ mood. Hopefully we don’t get much rain in the next week so we can keep running miles and learning.”
CONOR DALY (No. 43 FUELED by BACON Special Honda): “I think the wind made for a very sketchy afternoon. I’ve never driven in these kind of wind conditions, but the No. 43 Smithfield ‘Fueled by Bacon’ Special is running well so far. We had a few things on our test plan and we got through them so we just have to look at what we want to do for tomorrow.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing): “Despite the fact that we had the car out there running here last week, this really was the true opening day for us and our team. It was the first time getting our timing stand up and running and we had to do an install check with our new Honda engine. It was great to get the car back on track, to get the telemetry up and running on our new stand, and gather some more data to work from. We only really did one run out there today. The Dale Coyne racing car supporting Susan G. Komen kept my hands a little busy on the one run we did, but I’m looking forward to getting back on track and checking out the changes we’ve come up with to address that tomorrow. We’re also hoping that now we’re getting this car onto the racetrack regularly throughout the week, it’s going to help us keep reminding people why we are running the car in these colors, and the campaign that goes with her to raise money.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a pretty good day for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing running at the first practice for the Indianapolis 500. The new livery for the No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch looks really good and it was fun to debut the new colors out here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We definitely have a little more speed to find, but thankfully my teammates are finding that speed so we can learn from what they’re doing and make the most of it leading into qualifying this weekend.”