Pagenaud Fastest in Practice; Vautier to Qualify for Davison

INDIANAPOLIS (May 14, 2015) – Simon Pagenaud has watched his teammates grab the headlines since he joined Team Penske at the beginning of this season, but the Frenchman stole the spotlight in the fifth practice session leading up to the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Driving the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, Pagenaud logged the best of nearly 2,000 laps turned on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval, at 228.793 mph. Carlos Munoz, who eclipsed 230 mph in practice Wednesday, was second fastest today in the No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda, at 228.126.

“Today was a really good day for the Avaya car,” Pagenaud said. “We’ve been focusing on understanding what the car does in qualifying runs. Very happy to see the preparation from Penske and how fast the 22 car is. So far, so good.”

Pagenaud is teamed with a pair of Indianapolis 500 winners – Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya – and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power in the Penske armada. Montoya and Power have each won a race this season, while Castroneves has won two Verizon P1 Awards for taking the pole position.

“We’re happy but we can be happier,” Pagenaud said. “At the end of the day we did some pack running and once again we’re very happy so far. What’s difficult is it’s really cold right now, so you get more downforce because the air is so thick. We know it’s going to be warmer in the race, that’s what makes it tricky. You’re trying to understand what the car’s going to do in the race. It’s definitely going to be warmer.”

Following Pagenaud and Munoz on the speed chart were Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Sage Karam (227.683), Scott Dixon (227.634) and Tony Kanaan (227.527). Friday marks the final day of practice prior to two days of qualifications that will set the lineup for the 500-mile race on May 24.

The lone incident of the day came in the last of the six-hour practice session. Josef Newgarden was uninjured when his No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet spun and hit the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 1 in nearly the same spot where Castroneves’ car hit a day earlier. Newgarden’s car slid on its top before coming to rest in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2.

“I got around pretty quick in Turn 1; it definitely surprised me,” Newgarden said. “I knew it happened when it did, so I’m just lucky that everything’s good. The Dallara tub held up pretty well. I just want to get back to my guys and see what the damage is. I’m sure it’s bad but we’ll see what we can do going forward. It was a hard bit, (but) I feel fine.”


De Silvestro Returns, Mann Recovers

Andretti Autosport driver Simona de Silvestro returned to practice today, two days after her No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda sustained heavy damage from a fire sparked by a fuel leak. De Silvestro was uninjured in the on-track incident and the team rebuilt the car at its Indianapolis shop.

“Today we ran mostly in traffic … we learned a lot,” de Silvestro said. “I have a little bit of work to do, and I’m looking forward to going back out there tomorrow and working on it.”

Meanwhile, Pippa Mann spent the day recuperating and watching her No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda being repaired after a crash Wednesday that saw her car hit three different walls. She hopes to be back on track Friday afternoon to log important laps prior to qualifying this weekend.

“I can’t overstate how horrible I feel for these guys,” Mann said of her hard-at-work crew, “but at the same time, unfortunately it is a part of racing. … It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’re going to work hard. That’s the biggest thing, the amount of work it’s created for these guys.”

Vautier Will Qualify Car for Davison

Tristan Vautier will drive the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in Indianapolis 500 qualifications this weekend in place of James Davison, who will be competing in a sports car race in Canada. Davison, who finished 16th in his first “500” start a year ago, is expected back in the car for the final two practice sessions, on Monday and May 22, before the race on May 24.

Vautier, meanwhile, is scheduled to compete in the Blancpain Endurance GT Series event on the same day as the “500.”

“It is an interesting tradeoff,” said Vautier, the 2011 Pro Mazda and 2012 Indy Lights champion who earned Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “Obviously, we’re not going to get out there trying to break records but work toward the qualifying. It’s an interesting task to be in an Indy car and qualifying it for another driver, but I’m approaching it like I would any other race.”

Vautier completed his refresher program on the 2.5-mile oval today and logged 93 laps with a top speed of 225.406. Davison recorded the fourth-fastest lap (228.043 mph) in practice Wednesday before departing for Canada.

“It all came together last minute, but we have been talking about it for quite a while: that if James’ deal would come through I would qualify the car,” Vautier said. “So, yeah, it was not really a surprise for me but more of a long wait to see that everything was confirmed. But it’s really cool. I was happy to get back in an Indy car – it’s been a year and a half now. The first two or three laps were kind of weird, but it came back pretty quickly, so really cool. It was cool to have Simon (Pagenaud, his former teammate) on the track with me for quite a while. It reminded me of the Schmidt (Peterson Motorsports) days, so it was fun.

IMS to Honor World War II Vets at Race

In observance of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, 11 WWII veterans will be honored before the national anthem at the Indianapolis 500. Among those honored will be U.S. Army Air Corps Capt. Jerry Yellin, 91, of Fairfield, Iowa, who flew the final combat mission of the war on Aug. 14, 1945, the day the war ended.

The veterans recently took a trip to Washington, D.C., on an Indy Honor Flight, a program that offers free-round trip travel to veterans so they may visit the memorials in our nation’s capital that stand in their honor.

Of Note:
The No. 91 Wynn Iowa Vision Research Chevrolet driven by 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier became the 34th entry to take to the track this week. Larry Curry is team manager for the Lazier Racing Partners entry, with David Cripps the engineer. … All entries will receive an additional 10 kPa of engine turbocharger boost beginning in practice Friday, which should equate to approximately 40 additional horsepower. The engine boost bump will continue through qualifying weekend, with the original limit of 130 kPa reinstated for next week’s final two practice sessions and the race. … INDYCAR announced that the chassis centerline wickers, added to all cars prior to the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9, are optional for the Indianapolis 500.


HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Today was really good. It felt great to get back in the car for a full day. We decided to focus a bit more on qualifying with the Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet in the afternoon, after running in the race pace during the morning session. We feel very confident. Now, tomorrow is just going to be a focus on qualifying to be ready for Saturday. I have to say that my Shell guys did a great job in switching over to the backup car. There is no difference in the way the car felt or drove. It’s really amazing how they were able to put everything together. We are looking good for the weekend.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet): “My day was a little trying. We had a couple of issues that we ended up running with unknowingly for a bit of the day. It’s never a good thing, especially around this place. Fortunately I think we’ve got everything under control. Tomorrow will be pretty crucial for us to not only understand what we have with a speed perspective of the car, but still to continue to improve the car. So it was a good day generally for the team in that regard of knocking things off the program list to put ourselves in a good position going into qualifying and then the race next weekend. We still have a bit of work to do. As far as Josef, you never want to see anybody have that type of accident, let alone a teammate. Glad he’s OK and hopefully we can all take it in stride and move forward.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We continued exploration from yesterday in both qualifying trim and race setup. Both did qualifying simulation and running in traffic, too, and we made some progress which was good. We have some unfinished business, but we’re at a good level and hopefully we have a very productive day tomorrow for Fast Friday. I’m looking forward to the extra boost as INDYCAR allows the teams extra boost for qualifying, so we will see a significant increase in the speeds tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “Today was a really good day for us; we’ve really improved the Steak ‘n Shake car a lot in race trim. Most of our day was spent working on qualifying stuff. We figured out a couple of tricks there and I’m pretty comfortable with the car. Tomorrow we will work on qualifying trim all day. We will work on trying to improve the car, get some consistency and a little more speed, but I think the biggest thing is consistency at this point.”

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “It all came together last minute, but we have been talking about it for quite a while: that if James (Davison’s) deal would come through I would qualify the car. So it was not really a surprise for me, but more of a long wait to see that everything was confirmed. But it’s really cool. I was happy to get back in an Indy car – it’s been a year and a half now. The first two or three laps were kind of weird, but it came back pretty quickly, so really cool. It was cool to have Simon (Pagenaud) on the track with me for quite a while. It reminded me of the Schmidt (Peterson Motorsports) days so it was fun.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I don’t know any more than what everyone saw at this point (regarding Newgarden’s crash). We haven’t gotten the data off of the car or been able to look at anything yet. He’s OK and that’s the important thing. Helio’s (Castroneves) crash looked a little different. I think Helio got loose a little earlier and chased it and Josef just lost it right in the middle. I’ve only seen one replay so I don’t really know at this point. Ultimately he spun around earlier in the corner than Helio did.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It’s still early for me, I am still trying to gather my thoughts from it. I got around pretty quick in Turn 1, it definitely surprised me. I am just lucky that everything is good, the Dallara tub held up pretty well. I want to get back with my crew and see what the damage is and see what we can do going forward.”

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 24 The Robert Graham Special Chevrolet): “This is the first day that we tried some different aero bits with the Robert Graham Special. We are gathering as much information as we can at this point since we gain additional engine boost on Friday. We want to be a little ahead of the game for Fast Friday. It’s nice to get a head start today as you always seem to run out of time closer to qualifying. With the added boost, it seems to be a little more electric in the car due to more speed. It definitely increases the buzz factor for a driver.” (On expectations for qualifying): “I think around 233 (mph) for the pole. We currently don’t have a car for those numbers just yet. If we qualified Friday, we wouldn’t be ready for those kind of numbers. But we are moving in that direction and I’m pleased how the team is working through the process. Hopefully, on Saturday, we’ll have a car to go that speed.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “I think today was a pretty good day for us, we learned a few things and that’s always good moving forward. We made some changes, got our balance better in traffic and I think it was a step forward for the No. 25 Honda. There is still a little bit more to find, but I think as a whole team we’ll keep creeping up on it and now we’re going to switch gears and get ready for qualifying.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “Another practice day, today we were really just focusing on pack racing and long runs with my teammates. The car feels really comfortable – I’m really happy. I feel that I’m competitive, more competitive than last year. Now for tomorrow, we’re going to focus on qualifying and see where we are speed-wise.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda): “Today we ran mostly in traffic. We learned a lot. I have a little bit of work to do, and I’m looking forward to going back out there tomorrow and working on it. It seems like (teammate) Carlos (Muñoz) is pretty quick, so let’s see what he’s doing!”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “Today was much, much better at the end of the day. Yesterday we ran full tanks and I was not really comfortable and one day later I am a lot more comfortable after we made big improvements. We only worked on the race car. We didn’t do much qualifying work today, but my super teammate Graham (Rahal) started working on a couple of things in qualifying trim, so we know what direction to go in tomorrow. I feel pretty good. It was an easy day today. It wasn’t as hot as it will probably be on race day, but it’s a good step towards where we need to go.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “The car had understeer in traffic today, as it did yesterday. We need to understand why. In qualifying trim, we still had a little bit of push in the car. It was a little better yesterday, but not where we need it to be. We need to find the issue so we can move forward.”

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 48 Al-Fe Heat Treating Honda): “It was really good to get to work with all the boys, you know, it’s kind of like breaking the ice, everybody starts to gel together. We ran a good amount of laps today; the car ran well, I was quite happy with the balance, so it’s nice. First real day at work, a couple of changes, we got the whole Al-Fe group really stimulated and now we’re back where we needed to be a couple of days ago, so we’re happy. The No. 48 Al-Fe Heat Treating Honda looks good on track, nothing to complain about, just a matter of continuing to do our own routine and get into sequence, getting everything correct, and getting in the mindset of the big race and what we need to do to have a good showing.”