INDIANAPOLIS — It was Indianapolis 500 Media Day on Thursday, when each of the 33 drivers meets various members of the media from around the world and talk about why they believe they will win the 107th Indianapolis 500.
But this Indy 500 Media Day had a twist.
There were two cars on 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
Graham Rahal, who replaced injured driver Stefan Wilson in the No. 24 Cusick Motorsports/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, and Katherine Legge in the No. 44 Hendrickson Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, were allowed to take installation laps from 4:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. (ET) on Thursday.
This was so each team could check out the installation to the cars that were either replaced for rebuilt from Monday’s serious crash in Turn 1 that involved Legge and Wilson during the two-hour practice session.
Legge’s Honda was rebuilt by RLL, but Wilson’s Chevrolet is a backup that was used for pit stop practice and was installed with a go-kart engine before it was reconfigured for Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500. A system check allowed the team to run the car down pit lane, around the track before returning down pit lane to be checked.
Neither car was allowed to run across the start/finish line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Because Rahal is a Honda driver who only became available after he was bumped out of the 33-car starting lineup by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Jack Harvey, it creates the unique situation now that he is driving a Chevrolet.
According to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing teammate and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, the driver is shielded from some of the proprietary information regarding the Chevrolet engine.
“Correct. He’s not getting a lot of information,” Hunter-Reay said. “Basically, it one is a different map based on fuel, maybe drivability, all this other stuff. The extent of the information that he’s being given is — we are going to tell you which map to go into and that’s all the information you’re getting.
“And I get it. I mean he’s coming over for one weekend and next weekend, he’s going to be back with the competition again, which is Honda. I get it — it’s a sensitive situation and big props to both manufacturers for making it happen because quite honestly, that seems like that might have been the biggest hurdle.”
Hunter-Reay used to be a full-time IndyCar competitor and a Honda driver at Andretti Autosport, but his last full-time year was 2021. Romain Grosjean of France replaced Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda. Hunter-Reay is back at this year’s Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 2021, but this year he is driving a Chevrolet at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
“I just made kind of a similar switch, right,” Hunter-Reay said. “I was with Honda for many years and now I’m back with Chevy. I won the championship with Chevy, so I’ve got a great relationship with them. Really happy to be back with them.
“I can give him some tips on the nuances of the drivability of the Chevy versus a Honda. Some of the details of pit lane — launching out of the pit box is a little bit different. So just helping him get up to speed on that stuff so it’s not a surprise. But Graham (Rahal) is a pro, he knows what to do. It’s an Indy car and he knows his way around this place, around IMS.
“Like I said earlier, I spent some time with him, discussing what I thought would be the major points that would help him get acclimated quicker. I’m an open book to anything that he needs. I think he’s going to like the car.”
Despite coming from a rival brand, Hunter-Reay believes Rahal was the perfect choice to replace the injured Wilson, who had back surgery on Wednesday night at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Wilson fractured the 12th thoracic vertebrae in a practice incident on Monday, May 22.
On Wednesday night (May 24) at IU Health Methodist Hospital, he underwent surgery with a T10-T12 Posterior fusion and internal fixation of the fracture. The surgery was successful, and Stefan is in good spirits and ready to start recovery.
“He’s a pro,” Hunter-Reay said of Rahal. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s one of the best IndyCar drivers out there, and he’s current. He’s got a great relationship with the Wilson family; good relationship with Dennis Reinbold and the team. He’s one of my good friends.
“I think when you put all the factors together, it was the perfect fit to fill in for Stefan (Wilson).”