News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 14, 2012

With mom watching, Saavedra turns fastest Indy time

Lori Wood
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastian Saavedra gave his mom a great Mother’s Day gift. The Andretti Autosport pilot was the fastest of the day in second-day practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Saavedra’s mother was visiting from Colombia to be with him. “All the moms of athletes have to go through a lot supporting us in our careers. They give us good energy,” he said afterward.

Saavedra pulled his best lap late in practice, finishing the day with a 221.526-mile-per-hour clocking.

“I think since the beginning, we knew we had a solid car. Still a long way to go, but if we can keep doing this, we should be very good,” he said. “More than anything, I owe [teammates Ryan] Hunter-Reay and [James] Hinch[cliffe], who were in the front. It’s exciting. We’ve been struggling the past couple of years and so starting the month of May this way, it’s a very satisfying feeling.

“There’s some big strategy at Andretti Autosport. We’re five cars and all of us, we have homework to do every day. We have things to try, and we sit down all together to see what works, what we need to try for the next day, but everything is a big strategy. Everything needs to be very well established. It’s the professional way to do it,” said Saavedra.

The top three clocked speeds were all over 221 mph. Bryan Clauson was second to Saavedra with a 221.173. On Saturday, Clauson was third-fastest of the day. “If you were to tell me we were going to come out here the first two days and be at the top of the speed charts, I would have told you I thought you were crazy,” he noted.

“It’s been a lot of fun to step into,” said Clauson. “I would like to say I’m doing an awesome job, but [the team is] making my job a lot easier with the race cars they’re putting out there.” Clauson is the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team’s second entry for the Indianapolis 500. He has just a one-race deal, but is making the best of it.

Josef Newgarden, who was fastest Saturday, finished third on the speed chart Sunday with a best lap of 221.158. “Finishing second and third shows how competitive [my team] is,” Newgarden said. “Our consistency and speed solidifies the job that they do and how well they go about it. We’re learning a lot more having a second car here, and it’s really elevated the program overall.”

Scott Dixon climbed into the top five, finishing fourth with a 220.829, followed by Justin Wilson with a 220.615. “Generally, I think both Team Target cars are doing pretty well,” Dixon said. “I think the car has speed in it. Until we get to Fast Friday and Pole Day, we really don’t know who’s going to be where.”

Another from the Andretti stable, Ryan Hunter-Reay was sixth-fastest at 220.357, and Saturday’s second-fastest, J.R. Hildebrand, came in at seventh with a 219.559. Hunter-Reay said, “We did a lot of work on our own in single-car runs and then working on how the car handles in traffic and in race conditions. Each of the Andretti Autosport crews worked really well as team today as we tried to learn as much as we can between the five cars.”

Rounding out the top 10 were James Jakes at 218.995, James Hinchcliff at 218.890 and Charlie Kimball at 218.812.

Ed Carpenter was very disappointed in his car’s performance on Saturday, but had a much better day on Sunday. His 218.481 was 11th-quickest of the day.

“Today was a huge step forward from where we were Saturday,” he said. “If we can gain half the progress in the next couple of days that we made today, we’ll be in a good position. We need to keep our heads down and keep working on the car. We must work on getting the Fuzzy’s Chevrolet a little faster. I think it will be a little work chasing down the Hondas, but I think we can do it.”

Again the cars with Lotus engines lagged behind and were at the very bottom of the charts. Simona de Silvestro could only post a 201.963 and Jean Alesi was slightly quicker with a 205.265.

“I think it’s definitely better now that we’ve run more laps,” de Silvestro said. “I think it’s a lot of me just trying to get comfortable out there and things like that, so we’re working on that and taking our time. We’ve improved the car quite a bit, so I’m happy with that. I’m happy that the team is working with me to make improvements, so that’s good.”  

Last year’s pole-sitter Alex Tagliani turned laps in the Bryan Herta Autosport’s entry, finishing at 217.116. Herta, who was the Indy 500 winning team last year, is anticipating a good month. “The cars seem to race well, and I think we’re all waiting to see how it goes this month of May, hoping these cars will produce the same kind of excitement on the ovals as they have so far on the road courses,” he said.

Cars on the track nearly doubled the mileage from Saturday, turning in 1,138 laps on Sunday. To date, 31 drivers have been on the track.

Practice continues from noon to 6 p.m. daily this week. Public gates open at 10 a.m.