Overcast skies in the Wednesday morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing crews checking the radar for possible rain showers as the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice runs began.
But the skies cleared to a full seven hours of practice for drivers Sage Karam and J.R. Hildebrand in their continued preparation for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 27.
With the blue skies and higher temperatures, Karam, in the No. 24 WIX Filters/DRR Chevrolet, and Hildebrand, in the No. 66 Salesforce/DRR Chevrolet, worked through a variety of settings with their respective engineers – Jeff Britton (Karam) and Chase Kaufman (Hildebrand) – as the temperatures grew (mid-80s) during the afternoon at the 2-1/2-mile oval.
Karam, the 23-year-old Nazareth, Pa. driver, timed in 82 laps Wednesday with a best lap of 224.887 miles per hour which was initially sixth fastest on the day. After race prep laps and running in traffic, Karam finished tenth fastest at the conclusion of practice.
Hildebrand, the 30-year-old Boulder, Colo., racer, turned in 69 circuits Wednesday with a top speed of 224.128 m.p.h. and listed as 20th fastest.
“We were just going off what we had Tuesday and trying to improve it,” said Karam. “We made some improvements throughout the day, but we still need to come some more a bit. Still seems like everyone is struggling a little still running in traffic. That’s what we did mostly today. We didn’t do any qualifying stuff today. We focused on our race car and we still have some improvements there to do overnight and see what we can do.
“It’s not as comfortable as I want for a race car yet, but we’re making progress and going in the right direction. It’s still early in the month and we’re doing well with two solid days. Same game plan tomorrow as well. I think our qualifying speed, when we run alone, is good. Just going to focus on the race car for now.”
Hildebrand, an Indy 500 top-ten finisher on three occasions including runner-up in 2011, thinks his team is working hard with the new body kit to find that “sweet spot” for the famed IMS oval.
“It’s tough,” he said. “We are still coming to grips with the car, just as everyone else is. Seems like everyone is fighting the same problems, so it will be a race to see who can make the right set of changes the quickest. To address what I think is a common handling problem, I think here at Dreyer & Reinbold, our cars are fast and I look forward to doing some qualifying prep tomorrow. I think we will be able to show how great of a job these guys have done in the off-season. I know for me I wouldn’t hate to have another day for prep and to continue to make the car better.”
Practice continues on Thursday and Friday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at IMS with qualifying rounds scheduled for Saturday – to determine the top-nine and the 33-car field. Sunday’s qualifying runs will set the entire 33-car lineup including the pole position.