Practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500 got underway today and Team Penske rose to the top with Will Power pacing the field with a lap at 223.057 mph (40.3485) in his Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet/Dallara. The Verizon IndyCar Series points leader clocked 82 laps on the day, just one less than his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (83).
“Apart from the speed, it’s great to be at the top of the speed charts with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy,” stated Power. “The car felt really good, too, today and we got to do quite a few laps, try to get the mileage up. You know, just anticipating that it might be wet the next couple of days. It’s only practice, the first day, but always handy to be at the top.”
In his first official session on the 2.5 mile superspeedway since winning the race in 2000, Juan Pablo Montoya clocked the second fastest lap of the day at 222.502 (40.4490). The Columbian saw the day as a learning experience in getting comfortable in the car in traffic. “I did a lot of running by myself and then I ran behind someone just to start getting used to the feel of that; the understeer and how the car feels in traffic,” he said. Right now we just want to get comfortable in the car.” The final member of the Penske bunch, Castroneves was 3rd.
JR Hildebrand, making his first start of the season, was 4th quickest driving is Prefered Freezer Services Chevrolet/Dallara for Ed Carpenter Racing at a lap of 222.200 mph (40.5040). Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top 5 with a lap of 222.134 mph (40.5160).
After suffering a concussion in a freak accident in yesterday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis, James Hinchcliffe was grounded for the day and was seen at the track with his team while EJ Viso practiced his #27 United Fiber and Data Chevrolet/Dallara. Hinchcliffe could have a medical evaluation tomorrow but nothing is definite yet. The medical evaluation will determine whether or not the Canadian can return to the wheel of the #27 car, but INDYCAR standard operating procedure for concussions is a week off.
Nonetheless, Viso was chipper to return to the wheel of an IndyCar and helping Hinchcliffe at the same time and was 6th quickest at 220.104 mph (40.5014). “I love working with these (Andretti Autosport) guys,” he said. “Last year I had an amazing year, an amazing experience, and I only have positive things to talk about my teammates and my team. This opportunity just showed up overnight. Of course we all know what happened to (James) Hinch(cliffe) – at the same time, he is a great friend of mine, he was my teammate last year. Right now I’m helping him out, putting miles on his car and hoping he comes back soon and jumps back in.”
Sage Karam also completed the final phase of his Rookie Orientation Program and was cleared to practice for the Indianapolis 500 and made 77 laps total on the day in his #22 Comfort Revolution Chevrolet/Dallara for Dreyer and Reinbold Kingdom Racing. Karam initially started his ROP last Tuesday, but mechanical problems ended is run.
Also of note was KV Racing Technology’s Townsend Bell, who is returning to the cockpit of an IndyCar for the first time in a year for a one off deal for the Indianapolis 500, showed little signs of so and logged the 9th quickest lap of the day at 220:840 mph (40.7534). Kurt Busch also was on hand today after arriving from Kansas Speedway after competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Kansas City. Busch turned the 12th fastest time at 220.352 mph (40.8437).
24 drivers took laps.
Check out today’s lap times here