INDIANAPOLIS (May 15, 2015) – “Fast Friday” proved just that at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with six Verizon IndyCar Series drivers running laps in excess of 230 mph on the final full practice day before qualifying for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Click HERE to view and download the results of Friday’s practice session and HERE to view and download the combined practice timesheet.
Speeds have been up in practice on the 2.5-mile oval this week from a year ago, in great part due to the new aerodynamic bodywork kits developed by Honda and Chevrolet this season. In addition, INDYCAR again granted additional engine turbocharger boost to the manufacturers today through qualifying weekend that will yield approximately 40 added horsepower and faster speeds.
Taking advantage of it all, Simon Pagenaud posted the fastest lap of the month in the final half-hour of practice. Battling shifting winds, Pagenaud’s top lap was 230.698 mph in the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet.
“The conditions were difficult,” said Pagenaud, who earned $10,000 and the F.E. Harding Fastest Lap Award for topping the chart on Fast Friday. “The conditions were finally hot and there are a lot of differences in how the body kits react depending on the weather. For Team Penske, the biggest thing is we worked really well as a team to get different versions of aero levels for tomorrow and understanding that, so we can look at that information tonight and decide very precisely what we need.”
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon (230.655) and Tony Kanaan (230.457) were nipping at Pagenaud’s heels on the speed chart, with Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti leading the Honda contingent fourth overall with a lap of 230.312. Also eclipsing the 230 plateau were Team Penske’s Will Power (230.206) and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sage Karam (230.166), the latter admitting he was wary of the windy conditions.
“It was very slippery,” said Karam, driver of the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet. “In qualifying trim in general, the cars are very sketchy. Every lap I was out there, I felt like I was going to crash. Tomorrow’s going to be the longest five laps (one warmup lap at speed and four qualifying laps) of my life. The car is really, really fast, but it’s on edge. I think we have a good shot at the Fast Nine, which is the goal. …I think it will come down to the most fearless driver winning the pole this weekend.”
A year ago, only one driver – two-time defending Verizon P1 Award winner Ed Carpenter – crested 230 mph prior to the first qualifying day. While many of the top laps today were set with aid of a “tow” from leading cars cutting through the air in front of them, three drivers – Dixon, Power and Karam – posted “no-tow” laps that still topped 230. All 34 cars entered in this year’s Indianapolis 500 took to the track.
Attention now fully shifts to qualifying mode. Two hours of practice are scheduled for Saturday morning, ahead of the six-hour, 50-minute qualifying session that sets the provisional field. All cars return Sunday for qualifying that sets the final starting grid, and with 34 entries, the potential for cars “bumping” their way into and out of the field looms large.
Huertas Draws First Qualifying Position, Pagenaud Down the List
Carlos Huertas, in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, drew the first qualifying spot in the blind draw following practice. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, was second. Backup cars were included in the draw, though some teams don’t have them and most don’t plan to use them.
Pagenaud drew the 52nd overall spot (23rd among primary cars), Dixon fourth (third among primary cars) and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Power 26th overall (14th among primary cars).
All-female Team to Race with Grace
The Indianapolis 500 has seen nine different women compete as drivers, but an initiative announced today at IMS would see participation expanded in 2016 to the first all-female team focused on drawing women into all areas of the sport.
Grace Autosport is the brainchild of Beth Paretta, former marketing director for SRT Motorsports/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. She has formed a core group that includes driver Katherine Legge, a two-time Indianapolis 500 starter, aerodynamicist Catherine Crawford, motorsports engineer Lauren Elkins, junior design engineer Jessica Rowe and motorsports public relations veteran Barbara Burns.
“This is a very visible campaign for women’s empowerment,” said Paretta. “Motor racing is one of the few sports where men and women can compete side by side and win.”
The initial plan, Paretta said, is to have the team ready to race in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May 2016. Longer-term goals include a full-season entry in the Verizon IndyCar Series and eventual expansion into other forms of motorsports.
Just as important, Legge added, is developing a path for young women interested in any area of motorsports – driving, engineering, mechanics, management and more. Legge has been a proponent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education as a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA.
“What we’re trying to do is make it a positive thing, get rid of the stigma of being a woman in motorsport and make it something that everybody is very proud of,” Legge said. “It’s going to be very successful. So I’m very much looking forward to the challenge to seeing it from the beginning, from an idea, kind of turn out and bloom into something very special.”
Top Colts Draft Pick Waves Green Flag
Phillip Dorsett, the top draft pick last month for the Indianapolis Colts, was the honorary starter waving the green flag to begin practice. The fleet wide receiver saw up close just how fast the Verizon IndyCar Series cars are.
“They were flying,” Dorsett said. “I’m not that fast. It definitely is cool.”
INDIANAPOLIS 500 POST-PRACTICE QUOTES
WILL POWER (No 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Verizon Chevy ran well today, despite the heat as it took us a bit by surprise. We did a backtrack and have a better understanding of what to run. We’ll take another good look at everything tonight for tomorrow. But overall, we feel comfortable with the way we ended the day.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We struggled a little with the balance of the car today. Nothing major but we just need to figure out why before qualifying tomorrow. I’m pretty confident that we’ll have plenty of speed but we need to find just a bit more to get the Verizon Chevy to where it can win the Verizon P1 Pole Award.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet was looking strong out there today. We really worked hard on the qualifying setup and feel that we have a very quick car. Now we just need to wait and see what the weather will be like tomorrow to help guide us in the direction we need to go. I’m really looking forward to qualifying. We played around with a few sidepod configurations, going from one extreme to the other with them. We just need to look at data to see what we are going to do tomorrow.”
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “This is my first time on an oval so we had to take it slow. Going at that speed, it is not something I am used to. So we took it step-by-step, slowly reducing the aero and trying to go faster each time. I have to be honest. After the first two days it was pretty difficult because, like I said, I am not used to going these kinds of speeds. I finally did get used to it and today was the first time we actually started to get close to a qualifying trim. The car behaved well and I was comfortable. I was able to run a 229 and I think the fastest is 230, so we are not that far off. I think I still have a lot to learn and we have some things to do on the car for qualifying tomorrow. As far as qualifying, we haven’t gotten to the complete full qualifying trim yet. That is something we might try tomorrow morning in practice. I don’t dream of being on the pole. I am a rookie and it is my first time ever on an oval. I think it takes time and a lot of experience to be fast on this track. If we could be between 10th and 15th I think that would be a good result.
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 6 Preferred Freezer / CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was kind of a tough day. The conditions of the track were OK for the first hour of practice and then the track temperature went way up which was when we rolled out. We couldn’t even put a couple of laps together let alone four. Everybody was basically having that same problem. We didn’t see anybody do a four lap run for hours. We came back and put some more downforce on the car then went back out. We started to dial it in towards the end of the day. We’ve at least got a feel for the car which is important going into tomorrow. I think it’ll be tough, you hate to put it this way but I think it’ll just be luck of the draw; whoever ends up going out when the weather conditions are good and the track temp is low. It could be a little overcast for ten minutes while you’re making your run and it could end up making a huge difference with how sensitive these cars are. I think that if the conditions are nice, if the track temp stays cool, then I think we could see the type of elevated speeds that people were talking about, 233 or 234. I hope for the sake of the fans and everything that the cars are good and we can go out there and put up some big speeds. We’ll just have to see how it shakes out tomorrow.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution / Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “We knew that early in the morning or late in the afternoon would be the best conditions. In the middle there, you didn’t see a lot of track running just because of the wind and how hot the track was. It was very slippery. In qualifying trim in general, the cars are very sketchy. Every lap I was out there, I felt like I was going to crash. Tomorrow’s going to be the longest five laps of my life. The car is really, really fast, but it’s on edge. I think we have a good shot at the Fast Nine, which is the goal.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was hard to tell with the conditions changing so much out there today. It was hot and slippery in the late afternoon but better in the early afternoon. I was happy with the speed in the Target car but I think there is more in it. We have go look over everything tonight and look at where we can make improvements. Qualifying here at Indy is always a challenge and you never know what the weather will throw at you.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a good last day of practice before qualifying. We were able to get quite a few laps in today for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet and really work on how we want to approach tomorrow. The weather was a little difficult to work through, but it’s better to know you’re fast in difficult weather just in case we run into it tomorrow or Sunday. We’ve had a really solid week and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to be fast this weekend.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Hydroxycut – HAUS Vaporizer KVSH Chevrolet): “It was a very challenging day for the Hydroxycut/Haus Vaporizer team. We tried to make the low downforce setup that we had yesterday work today and it never did. So we backtracked and put more downforce on the car, but by that time we had messed with the setup quite a bit and we couldn’t quite hit our marks after that. We are just going to have to take a good hard look at the data tonight and try and get the proper setup for the conditions for tomorrow’s qualifying. Fortunately we have one more practice session before we qualify, so hopefully we will get it right.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was an interesting day, very different from the last couple of days. It’s very warm with heavy air and a lot of humidity. So that made for a loss of track grip and at the same time we’re trimming out the car, so that makes for a doubly hard time. It was a good test, a good experiment, because under very low grip conditions you’re trying to maximize the mechanical grip with the low downforce. I think we made good progress in gathering good data from the three cars so hopefully we can put it all together and go faster tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “We didn’t run much today, we were just trying out some qualifying simulation stuff. It was so hot, and windy, and sunny which is the big thing so the track temperature was pretty high. I think it was a pretty tricky day to be out there and we ended up calling it a day early just because we didn’t want to confuse ourselves too much before tomorrow. The Steak ‘n Shake car has been competitive all week. I feel like we are right in the hunt as far as being the top Honda. I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and seeing what we can do.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a positive day out there for the No. 17 AFS Chevrolet. We worked on getting the balance right for the qualifying setup and making sure I was happy with where the car is leading into tomorrow. It was pretty tricky conditions with the wind – it definitely made the session interesting. We’re hoping that everything maintains for tomorrow.”
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Today was positive and I ran some faster times than I have this week. The car felt really good, but we still have some trims we can do to get some more speed which I’m sure we will do tomorrow. We will see how it goes tomorrow. We could have trimmed more today, but it is just practice and tomorrow we have a lot of time to try things. Also, the temperature went up quite a lot in the middle of the session today so we didn’t see the point in running that much. It cooled down at the end but we didn’t see the point in going out at the end.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Today was good. We didn’t run much in the afternoon because of the temperatures. The car was running well when I was out there. The team is doing a great job but it is a bit different because the goal is just to get the car into the big show for James (Davison). We are focusing on this task. It is a bit of a strange approach compared to everyone else because the car will start at the back no matter where I qualify it. I want to be conservative to make sure nothing bad happens but at the same time it is when you do things not natural that you end up doing mistakes so we are trying to take it normally but not allowing us to make any big chances. It has been a bit special but we are doing well at it!”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “With today being the first sunny day with warmer track temperatures, it really threw things for a loop and slowed things down. Everyone was running with much more down force and we’re not running anywhere close to last year’s down force. The way today went, I’ll be thrilled if we make it into the fast nine. We’re on the outside looking in now. Last year we were pretty solid so I think we can get in, but we got to play our cards right and find a little bit overnight. The thing we’ve got to figure out is how to make the fourth lap still be good. It was definitely a tricky day, I think everyone was struggling at times and it’s really hard to tell who’s good and who’s not.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet): “The guys did an amazing job. They prepared another car really quickly and got us ready to go. We’ve been out here today just getting up to speed and we are relatively back in the game. Qualifying will be tricky because it’s slippery when it’s hot. Looking at the heat, I think whoever draws the first spot is going to be the luckiest guy. It’s only going to get worse as the temperature comes up so you want to draw early if anything. I like the fast nine and obviously you want to get into the fast on Saturday and go for the shootout for the pole on Sunday. We got a lot of good data today, as did my teammates, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet): “Today was a good day. The conditions were difficult. The conditions were finally hot and there are a lot of differences in how the body kits react depending on the weather. For Team Penske the biggest thing is we worked really well as a team to get different versions of aero levels for tomorrow and understanding that, so we can look at that information tonight and decide very precisely what we need. Really excited about that.” (Do you feel like a favorite for pole?): “No. I don’t feel like I’m favorite. I feel like I have a great race car and the whole Team Penske is doing a great job. The car is amazing and really fast. There’s so many outside factors that will come into play tomorrow. The biggest one is the draw. The decision that we make with the aero level may be too low or too high for the temperature. It’s going to be really tough for the engineers. I hope my engineer Ben (Bretzman) still has some hair at the end of the day.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 24 The Robert Graham Special Chevrolet): “We have had a good week of practice in gathering information for race day as well as running traffic. And parallel with that, we have had to work on our pit stops every day. We have made many hot stops each day so far. Now it’s time to worry about getting the car ready for qualifying. We have been gaining more data for the fastest four laps we can put together. Qualifying on Saturday really depends on track temperatures and conditions – plus getting a good draw position for the qualifying line. You have to remember that the qualifying speed is the average of four laps and that is the challenge everyone is facing right now. Are you a little soft on Lap 1 and pick up speed for the rest of the run or do you have a fastest one first and then fall off for the final three laps? It’s a tap dance to get your tires just right throughout the four laps. This Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom team is a great group and they have put together a solid and strong program this week. Now, it’s up to me to execute on Saturday.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “For today we really just focused on qualifying simulations and stuff. The speed in the car was really good. Just making it for four laps is the tricky part. We kind of went from understeer to oversteer and never found a happy place for four laps. Now, we need to fix some things tonight and see what we can get tomorrow.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 48 Al-Fe Heat Treating Special Honda): “Today was a very important day for us, but unfortunately we spent a lot of time in the garage. We showed up on pit lane with a little over an hour to go, and we tried to do too much in an hour to get a strong qualifying setup. But the positive thing is that the car is good in race trim. I just want to do so much for AJ Foyt Racing, I want to do so much for our sponsor in Al-Fe Heat Treating and be fast. But with the limited amount of running we’ve been able to do, we couldn’t really put the car where it needed to be for a qualifying run. But tomorrow’s another day. We’ll try to be ready to go early in the morning and see what we have. That’s going to be the key – that we try to get the best position we can in qualifying. Obviously it’s important to be in the show, and I think we will be, I have no doubt about that. But I also think there’s a bit more to it, and I would really like to extract everything out of what we have to put on a great showing for qualifying.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Words cannot describe how proud I am of the Dale Coyne Racing crew for getting this car built and getting us back out on track today for an install lap and a shakedown. I’m so thankful to them for all the work that went into this and it is so great for us to have that baseline going into tomorrow for the qualifying effort. I am hopeful going into tomorrow that I’ll have a strong qualifying effort in my Dale Coyne Racing car supporting Susan G. Komen.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was kind of a frustrating end of the day with people coming out of the pits in front of us when we were trying to get out to do some final qualifying runs. Overall the No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet is pretty good and Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing has worked really hard all week to make the car better. I think we have the opportunity to go out tomorrow and put ourselves in the Fast Nine and try for the pole on Sunday.”
BRYAN CLAUSON (No. 88 Jonathan Byrd’s / Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chevrolet): “It’s been a roller coaster week, but our car has been fairly comfortable all day. We have been moving the balance around all day and we finally got it right at the end. We ran some pretty good laps on our own. We’ll look at our notes tonight and see what we can do to get even quicker. We have a short laundry list of things to do in the morning before qualifying. We’re right there to be in the top 30 when it’s all said and done tomorrow, all we have to do is give it four good ones”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins / Curb Honda): “I think we had a very positive day today. We made some good changes. The car was working well. It’s definitely been the hardest day out there for me. I think here, today, tomorrow and Sunday will be the hardest days. I think once we get back to race trim downforce configurations it will be a lot easier. I’m sure you’ll hear the same for Sage (Karam) – it’s not easy out there. I think the track conditions weren’t very favorable, as well. Very strong winds. The track was very greasy, as well and it definitely made for some tough times out there. But I was very happy with the car. We made great progress all day. Made some good changes that allowed me to post some quick speeds.”