INDIANAPOLIS – A trio of Indianapolis 500 winners paced the field of 34 cars that hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for the opening day of practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500 on Tuesday.
Despite a brief interruption for moisture on the track that delayed the start of the rookie orientation program and refresher laps, the track was open to all drivers beginning at 4:10 p.m. Eastern Time and running until 6 p.m.
By the time that session got the checkered flag, 2018 Indianapolis 500 winning driver Will Power of Team Penske was the fastest driver of the day with a fast lap at 226.470 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Power’s speed came in the final hour of practice.
The Chevrolet driver completed 87 laps, the most of any driver of the 34 that took to the race course. There was a total of 2,369 laps completed on Tuesday, counting the ROP runs.
“It was just big tow, as simple as that, trying to catch that train,” Power said of his fast lap, aided by the draft of other cars on the track. “But as far as stuck in traffic I felt pretty good just running with two or three cars in front. Felt more comfortable than I have for a while.
“That was promising. I think cooler conditions can make everything feel pretty good. I think when the heat comes it’ll certainly change everything and become harder to follow.
“I think adding that downforce is certainly going to help the racing. I think you’re going to have one of the old-style races where the front three are just swapping positions constantly because you can follow so close now. I think it’s good for the fans.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, who is off to a miserable start to the season, was second quick with a lap at 226.371 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda. The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner completed 55 laps.
“It was nice; the car was good today,” Hunter-Reay said. “I just got through a checklist, kind of usual first-day stuff. Yeah, got a good lap.
“I thought it was going to be good enough, but Will had to put me there. That was a pretty good practice lap. We usually don’t focus on that type of stuff, we just kind of fell into it and rolled with it, but car seemed good in traffic, good start, but these conditions are really nice right now, and the heat is coming later in the week, so it’s going to get a lot harder for all of us. Setups are probably going to change, as well.”
Two-time and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing rounded out the top three of former winners with a lap at 226.132 mph in the No. 30 Honda.
“I think it was a pretty good day, obviously repeat what Ryan has said,” Sato said. “It’s a lot of checkup lesson, and we’ve done a single lap by yourself, sweet, ride height, wings et cetera, et cetera, and then a bunch of the group running at the end. So very productive day. Yeah, it’s a good day, but like he was saying, it’s a cooler day today.
“It’s going to be different than the race day for sure.”
Sage Karam was fourth at 225.942 mph in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet with Indiana’s own Conor Daly rounding out the top-five at 225.640 mph in the No. 47 US Air Force Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Simon Pagenaud, the 2019 Indy 500 winner, was sixth for Team Penske in the No. 22 Chevrolet at 225.230 mph.
Stefan Wilson, who hasn’t competed in an IndyCar race since the 2018 Indianapolis 500, was 34th at 218.573 mph but has completed all phases of his refresher. The 35th driver to take practice laps was rookie R.C. Enerson, who has yet to complete his rookie orientation program and will attempt to finish that beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday morning.
Enerson has completed phase one of the three phases in the rookie orientation program.
Wilson and J.R. Hildebrand were the other two drivers to participate in the ROP portion of the practice day because of their limited participation in IndyCar.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter of Chevrolet was the fastest of the no-tow drivers with a fast lap at 219.163 mph. That is measured without a car 10 seconds in front of another car, eliminating the draft. Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon was second at 219.144 mph in a Honda. Daly was next in a Chevrolet at 219.024 mph followed by Pietro Fittipaldi’s No. 51 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR at 215.671 mph.
The only incident in the all-day practice session was a fire on Sebastian Bourdais’ No. 14 Chevrolet that sent him to the garage. Bourdais ended up 33rd on the timing sheet at 220.371 mph.
Juan Pablo Montoya was 12th in the session, but the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner is at Arrow McLaren SP and is considered a prime candidate of the one-off drivers to have a chance at another Indianapolis 500 victory.
“I felt like we really gained a lot and had really good ideas, and this morning the track was really grippy,” Montoya said. “It was cool. It’s hard when it’s so cool because you can fool yourself a little bit. Overall, it’s okay. I’m pretty happy. I’ve got to wait and see what it brings.”
Practice continues Wednesday with Enerson allowed to complete his rookie orientation program at 11 a.m. Full-field practice follows at 12 noon running until 6 p.m. ET.