News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 16, 2012

Andretti has fast time at Indy practice

Lori Wood
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — A few new names appeared in the top 10 of the speed charts as practice for the Indianapolis 500 continued Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the final minutes, Marco Andretti claimed the top spot with a lap of 223.676 miles per hour, dethroning Helio Castroneves, who made his first appearance of the week in the top 10.

Castroneves turned a lap at 222.025 around 5:30 pm. James Hinchcliff, driving for Andretti Autosport, initially had the hot lap of the day at 221.864 until shortly after Happy Hour began.

“We’re running in bigger and bigger packs now and learning more about this car because it's still so unknown in a proper race condition, but you can see by the end of the day where everyone has the same mindset compared to last year,” Hinchcliff said. “We're running a lot more in traffic earlier in the week than we were [last year], and it’s just a function of everybody working to figure out what the car will do on Race Day.”

Hinchcliff maintained the third slot, but several new faces raced to the top.

Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball and Will Power all moved into the top 10 for the first time. Rahal was fourth quickest at 221.855 and his Ganassi teammate Kimball was sixth at 221.677. Rahal found the Happy Hour activity a little crazy.

“There were some bold moves today for practice,” he said. “It got wild out there.”

Rahal’s team changed engines on Monday night.

“I was pretty pleased with the car today. We got to run in traffic a little bit at the end. It was a little hectic and maybe a sign of things to come in the race.”

Andretti predicted an exciting race for fans.

“I think it’s going to be great for the fans,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to be able to lead for more than a couple laps, because the leader is a sitting duck.”

Drivers are able to get a great tow and do a lot of passing. He does have some concern about the huge draft that the cars are able to get.

“What happens is you get a decent tow, but the last couple of car links it really sucks you in,” Andretti said.

With that scenario, Andretti can see the potential for many last-second dives to another position.

“You will just have to be heads up.”

Rahal agreed with Andretti.

“These cars punch a big hole, and you just get a massive tow,” he said. “I got behind Tagliani a couple of laps, and I didn’t have a gear big enough. It is going to be pretty exciting.”

Andretti did not feel that being a five-car team this year would yield any big favors in the race.

“We might give our teammates a couple of extra inches, but we want to beat them too. It is just going to be being at the right place at the right time.”

Rahal did not take advantage of his multi-car team either.

“I don’t think there’s an advantage to having a four-car or five-car team because everyone is running together. Everyone is out there. We ran with the Rahal-Letterman guys, with (Simon) Pagenaud and the Schmidt guys. I don't think I ran with my teammates at all today. That’s the main thing. Everyone is trying to work together to figure these cars out.”

Three of the five cars in the top 10 belong to Andretti Autosport. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fifth fastest with a 221.814.The two remaining Ganassi cars of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were eighth and 10th quickest of the day with a 221.056 and 220.8, respectively. Takuma Sato, driving for Rahal-Lettermen-Lanigan, found a lap good enough for ninth at 220.843.

Simona de Silvestro managed to find some speed as she turned in a best lap of the week for her at 210.315.

“It was good to run today and improve on things,” she said. “We have a lot of work on the engine side, but we just need to go through the program. I'm looking forward to getting back out there.”

Ed Carpenter continued to improve with his best lap of the day at 218.714.

“It was way better than yesterday’s car here,” Carpenter said. “It’s been a bad day, a good day, a bad day and pretty good day today. We did get a lot of things done today. We are making progress now with the car. We have been trying so much stuff with the new DW12. “We didn’t make the car perfect today, but I was pleased with the direction we are going now.”

Speedway officials confirmed that Food Network star Guy Fieri will drive the pace car for the 96th running of the Indy 500.

Fieri, a popular TV personality, restaurateur and the host of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” will lead the start of the race in the 2013 Chevy Corvette ZR1. Fieri is an avid classic car collector and owns over 10 cars of his own.

The 2013 model year will be historic for Corvette, marking its 60th anniversary and the final year for the current “C6” generation.