In what has become another May tradition, the Indianapolis 500 practice session on the day after qualifications provided a true indication of the thrills that fans can look forward to in this year’s running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
All 33 drivers turned precious laps in race-like conditions on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, the three-hour session serving as an appetizing preview for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. In all, 2,526 laps were completed, with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam setting the pace.
The 23-year-old from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, who will make his fifth Indy 500 start on Sunday, set the best lap of the day – 226.461 mph – early in the day in the No. 24 WIX Filters/DRR Chevrolet. Karam took the honor in stride.
“I ended up P1, which is cool and all,” Karam said. “It doesn’t really mean too much, though. We have some work to do for the race. The main goal for today was to work on the race car and work on pit stops. I haven’t done pit stops since last May. We got those done and did some traffic runs to make the car better.
“We always have a really good race car here,” added Karam, who has been with Dreyer & Reinbold for four of his five Indy 500 appearances. “I was able to run with the ‘fast guys’ and ran with them steadily. This race will be very challenging and probably the most challenging in my five years here. We have to get the car right and have perfect pit stops to win this race.”
Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner making his 17th start in the race, was second fastest on Monday with a late lap of 225.123 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. The 21st-year Indy car driver was pleased with the progress made on his car, with a 60-minute practice on Friday’s Miller Lite Carb Day the final chance for teams to get their cars race ready.
“At the end of the session, we found something that worked for us,” Kanaan said. “I’m happy to start the way it is. We have a lot of work left to do, but luckily, we still have Carb Day. I thought we were going to have an easier Carb Day, but we’ve got a lot to figure out on Friday.”
Team Penske’s Will Power and Helio Castroneves were the busiest drivers of the day. Power turned 120 laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, posting the sixth-best lap (224.507 mph). Three-time Indy 500 champion Castroneves logged 118 laps and was seventh fastest in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet (224.368).
Ed Carpenter, who captured the Verizon P1 Award pole position in qualifying on Sunday, was 14th on the Monday speed chart in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet (223.573).
Rookie driver Robert Wickens was involved in the only incident of the day. Wickens, in the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, drifted into the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 2. The car continued down the backstretch as it decelerated before making a sharp right turn and hitting the outside wall nose first. Wickens was not injured.
“I caught it, then just ran out of track and brushed the wall,” Wickens said. “It was suspension damage on both sides and I was just trying to slow down and get it under control, and the car just pretty violently went to the right and went head on into the wall halfway down the back straight.
“It’s a bummer, obviously, no one wants it, especially this close to the race. Lesson learned, I guess.”
Practice on Miller Lite Carb Day starts at 11 a.m. ET Friday and airs live on NBCSN. The 102nd Indianapolis 500, the sixth of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, airs live on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday.