Today was the fourth day of practice for the Indianapolis 500, and it finally felt like a typical practice day.
After putting up with chilling temperatures during the first three days, we felt a little bit of May heat today. There was still plenty of wind, which was gusting at nearly 25 mph throughout parts of the Speedway. Still, as strange as it sounds, it was better to be sweating during practice instead of having teeth chattering from the cold.
The attendance seemed to be up a bit from yesterday, especially in the afternoon. There were a lot of people who snuck out early from work. On top of that, there were a bunch of children from nearby schools packing different parts of the grandstands. There is nothing better than seeing the looks on the faces of these kids when the cars get going. I think it’s because that same emotion and awe they display is in all of us.
As one would expect, the high temperatures meant a lot of track activity, and it was fast and furious from the start. Within the first 30 minutes of practice time we had already seen 22 cars take to the track. Things never seemed to quiet down, which is always a good thing at the Greatest Race Course in the World.
During an interview with radio station Q95 FM here in Indianapolis, I noticed that all of the focus in the Target Chip Ganassi garages was on the primary cars. One crew member told me that they hadn’t even touched the backup cars. It was clear that their main focus was on getting these primary cars dialed in.
There were a number of teams out turning laps just trying to get to a particular engine mileage. Teams would like to have fresh engines to work with toward the end of this week. James Jakes, as first reported by Kevin Lee, reached that limit just after 2 PM today and will start tomorrow with a new one. His teammate, Graham Rahal, also hit that mark at around 3:30 and will also get a new Honda.
There were a few things worth noting in today’s practice session. Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe swapped cars throughout the day, trying to get a feel for the different set ups. Each was faster in the other’s car. I also saw Buddy Lazier in Gasoline Alley today, and he said he will get out for practice tomorrow or Thursday. The car was still in the Jean Alesi livery that was used in last year’s race.
There was also an incident on pit lane involving Graham Rahal’s team. He had just come in to practice a pit stop. The left rear tire changer stumbled over the air hose and fell into the concrete wall. He was holding his leg in pain and couldn’t walk very well, but the team told me he was going to be okay.
To no one’s surprise, Josef Newgarden was in a playful mood, even on pit lane. He joked about stealing our expensive cameras and said we could have spent the same money and bought a small car. He also made some “interesting” poses for the cameras, which I’m sure you’ll see floating around the internet sometime this week.
There were a total of 2,226 laps turned on this busy Tuesday at the Speedway. The fastest driver of the day was James Hinchcliffe, who posted a lap at 224.210 mph in Marco’s car. We were accident free on the track for the fourth straight day.
As hot as today seemed to be, the weather forecast shows it will be even warmer tomorrow. Practice runs from noon to 6 PM, and public gates will open at 10 AM.
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.