If yesterday’s weather was cold, then today’s might best be described as Arctic. It was definitely colder than Opening Day. But the fans were still coming through the gates, eager to see some IndyCar action, and there were plenty of mothers who decided to spend their special day at IMS.
Most of the action came late in the afternoon, but there was always someone turning laps at some point throughout the day.
I arrived at the Speedway around 9 AM, and it was about 38 degrees. The wind was whipping around at 15 mph, and it only got stronger throughout the day. Instead of hiding from the sun and drinking a lot of water, most people were hiding from the wind and grabbing something hot to eat or drink. Many people were wondering how much action we would see on the track today. Most of the teams I spoke to said they were targeting the 4:00 hour as the time they would head out.
When practice began, last year’s polesitter, Ryan Briscoe, made his way onto the 2.5 mile oval. His white and blue number 8 Ganassi machine took 10 laps around the course before heading back to Gasoline Alley. Ryan’s new teammates, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti also went out to put in some more laps.
That wasn’t the only team on the track, though. Andretti Autosport had all of their cars out early with each of them taking the track by themselves. One at a time, they went out for about six or seven laps before coming back in. One team member told me that all of the teams were “burning the midnight oil” last night. They were working just as hard on the track as well, providing some excitement in the last 90 minutes of practice.
At around 4:30, all five Andretti machines went out together in a pack that AJ Allmendinger quickly found himself a part of. There were some dicey moves, some questionable decisions, and nearly one big mistake by rookie Carlos Muñoz. He got below the white line going into turn 1, nearly taking out a few of his teammates. Luckily, a yellow came out about two minutes later for track inspection, and team owner Michael Andretti could breathe a sigh of relief.
To no one’s surprise, the five Andretti cars and Allmendinger took the top six spots on the speed chart today. It was the rookie Muñoz on top of them all, though, with a lap of 223.023 mph.
It was interesting to note how much support Takuma Sato had today. There were many Japanese fans in attendance, and they were all surrounding AJ Foyt’s garage and pit stall. I talked to a few of them who said they have always supported him but that the support has grown in Japan since his win in Long Beach earlier this year.
The RLL trio of Graham Rahal, James Jakes, and Michel Jourdain, Jr. all got some valuable track time today. I spoke to Jourdain’s spotter this morning, and he said that the team is still trying to get a feel for each other but things are coming along nicely.
Another team that didn’t run yesterday but did today was Dragon Racing. Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra turned quite a few heads when their cars left Gasoline Alley. Bourdais’s car is all chrome and red, while Saavedra’s is a shiny blue that reflects the sun like a mirror.
The theme today must have been liveries because another team had a good one to show for the first time. Panther Racing usually supports our heroes, the National Guard. This May, they are riding with another kind of hero: Superman. Hildebrand’s car features the superhero himself, who is displayed nicely on the sidepods of his Chevrolet-powered machine.
According to Curt Cavin, Sam Schmidt said that he had heard from Jaques Lazier, Buddy Rice, Jay Howard, and Richie Hearn about his third car. Buddy was in Gasoline Alley and said that he hoped he would be able to get into Tristan Vautier’s car sometime later this week. There is still no driver assigned to drive the number 99 car that Schmidt entered yesterday.
Conor Daly is expected to run tomorrow, where he will attempt to complete all three phases of his Rookie Orientation Program. He finished 5th in the GP3 event earlier today and is en route to Indianapolis.
There were 23 cars that turned a total of 730 laps on this chilly Sunday afternoon. Monday’s practice will run from noon to 6 PM, and the weather forecast looks a little better. It should be very similar to today but a few degrees warmer. The temperatures are supposed to climb into the 80s for the rest of the week.
I’ll be covering events at the Speedway for More Front Wing all month long. Follow me on Twitter at @IndyCarChad, and check for daily updates here at MoreFrontWing.com.