After a slow start in the first two days of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500, Monday got under way much more quickly.
I arrived at the Speedway at around 8:30 this morning and could hear the familiar sound of Honda engines in the two-seaters that were taking people around the track. That ended at around 9:30, and then the real fun began.
Conor Daly was here for his first day of practice for the Indy 500. He was in the car getting fitted at around 9:45 and was on pit lane by 10:00. Things didn’t go so smoothly on his trip back to Indy, though. His luggage was lost at the airport last night, and he didn’t make it home until around midnight. He actually had to borrow a HANS device from Marco Andretti.
Conor was ready to begin phase 1 of his ROP just after 10, and his supporters were on hand to watch: his father Derek, driving ace Arie Luyendyk, team owner AJ Foyt, and teammate Takuma Sato. Conor wrapped things up before the official practice session began at noon. Pippa Mann also ran some laps early in the day as part of a refresher course.
Aside from all of the action in the Foyt garages in Gasoline Alley, there were a couple of other things that caught my eye. Townsend Bell was here, and his Sunoco/Turbo DW12 was being put together. The car passed through inspection just after 2 PM. The other car news was the peek at Tristan Vautier’s Lucas Oil livery. His car is almost entirely white with red lettering.
The other bit of news that became official today was the hiring of Derrick Walker as the new President of INDYCAR Operations and Competition. He will begin his job on May 27th.
The weather today was slightly better than the first two days. The sun was out all day, but there was still a strong wind blowing with the high temperature reaching 64 degrees. The track temperature was high enough that many teams went out as soon as practice began.
There were quite a few drivers reaching the 221 mph barrier without any significant tow assistance. Tony Kanaan eventually broke the 222 mph barrier, but he said that was a tow lap. The teams were mostly practicing at the same time, but they were keeping the cars spaced out so there wasn’t any drafting.
You might think that a chilly Monday at the track wouldn’t draw in many fans. I didn’t notice a significant decline in the amount of people here, though. There were people in the grandstands, down near pit lane, and a nice crowd over by Gasoline Alley.
There was a lot of track activity today, which included pit lane. The two Target Chip Ganassi cars were practicing pit stops in the afternoon. They would do one lap on the track, then pit. While not many other teams were doing this, it’s nothing new for these guys. They typically shake down their T (backup) cars during the first two days, then get down to business.
Things got interesting in the last 75 minutes of practice. Just before Happy Hour, about 14 cars took to the track, creating some mini packs on the course. Marco Andretti got a huge tow and recorded a lap at 225.100 mph, the quickest of the month by far. A few laps later Helio Castroneves nearly matched him with a 225.075 mph lap.
Happy Hour was very typical with a lot of cars swapping positions left and right. Drivers were mixing it up, making many of their owners, engineers, and crew members into nervous wrecks. Despite all of the activity, there were no incidents for the third day in a row.
Yesterday I was ready to declare Sebastien Bourdais’s livery the best at Indy for the second year in a row. Today, I’m actually leaning towards giving it to his teammate, Sebastian Saavedra. Both Dragon cars look very good, but the team is still searching for speed on both cars.
There were a total of 1,732 laps turned today by 32 different cars. The fastest lap of the day went to Marco Andretti, who turned a speed of 225.100 mph. Tomorrow’s practice session runs from noon to 6 PM once again. The temperatures should be much higher, though, as the forecast for the next two days calls for 80 degree temperatures with no major threat of rain.
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.