For the third day in a row, speeds rose as drivers continued practice Monday for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
For the second time, rookie Josef Newgarden led the pack with his best lap at 222.486 mph. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s lap of 221.639 was good enough for second and Marco Andretti was just a few ticks behind at 221.519.
“It was just a tow lap. A lot of people were working race setups at the end. That’s really where we got our big speed. We seem to have a good handle on the car. I hope that holds up,” said Newgarden.
Newgarden also believes his team has a little bit more to show.
“Hopefully that keeps carrying through the week,” he said. “Normally when you do start off strong, you can normally hold your form, so we’ve just got to try to make that our case.”
Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay spent much of the day easing into the changes on his car.
“We ran on our own most of the day just trying to sort out some pretty big setup changes,” he explained, “and then at the end we ran in a group with our teammates here and a few others joined in. Everybody is trying to run in groups and get that feel for the car in traffic and I think we accomplished that today.”
Like Hunter-Reay, Andretti was pleased overall with the balance of the car and thought the speed for the day was good.
“As far as the balance, I think we’re ready to race now,” he said. “All this extra time will just allow other people to catch up. My fuel alarm came on and my crew said, ‘Pit this lap.’ I was like ‘What? I can’t hear you.’ I knew I was on a good one.”
Scott Dixon again made it into the top five with his top lap of 221.499. Like some others, the Target team worked on various mechanical options, returning to the garage to make the changes before taking more laps.
“We had some issues after our first run and then came back to the garage to sort that out,” Dixon mentioned.
Rounding out the top 10 were Sebasition Saavedra (220.785), J.R. Hildebrand (220.677), Dario Franchitti (220.453), Oriol Servia (220.304), Takuma Sato (220.304) and James Hinchcliff (220.00).
Servia, whose Dreyer and Rynbold team partnered with Panther Racing this year, has been working every day for more speed and consistency,
“It’s great because we loved some and we hated some,” he said, “and that’s what you want to learn in a new car on an oval. At the end, we had a few tows and that’s why we had a pretty fast lap out there like everybody else and that’s the game of the Speedway and Happy Hour. I’m genuinely happy with how we finished the day with the car. It was another solid day and we need to keep doing this every day.”
Ana Beatriz had her best day of practice. She managed a 219.447.
“We were able to run a lot and make progress with the car,” she pointed out. “The crew guys and myself are one step closer to understanding the car and working even better together”
No Team Penske entry cracked the top 10, but instead came in at 14th, 15th and 16th quickest, with Ryan Briscoe being the fastest at 219.370. Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power all worked on race setups and testing the cars in traffic. All seemed pleased with the outcome of the experiments.
“We got some race work with the long runs, which are always helpful. Since it was the first time in some traffic, it will give us lots of information to look at tonight and get ready for tomorrow,” Power commented.
Practice continues daily from noon to 6 p.m. Qualifications begin Saturday, continuing with Bump Day on Sunday.