Indy Speeds Climb As Teams Get Serious

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 16 2012

Helio Castroneves logged a lap at over 220 mph on Tuesday at Indianapolis. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

After three days of working primarily on race day setups for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske got serious about qualifying Tuesday. The results produced the team’s fastest laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with all three Penske drivers exceeding 220 mph.

Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves led the way with a lap of 222.025 mph in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Castroneves ranked second-fastest to Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport, who was clocked in 40.2367-seconds and 223.676 mph in the No. 26 Team RC Cola Dallara/Chevrolet. Marco’s lap was fastest of the four days of practice for the May 27 event.

“I’m really pleased with where we’re at with the race car so far,” said Andretti, third-generation star who is the son of team-owner Michael Andretti and grandson of 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti. “I’ve just been really working on the car in a pack, and just trying to stay flat in traffic. We have the car to the point now that I’m confident to say we would be the ones to beat if the race was today. The speed on its own, I’m a little concerned about. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again _ if we start 33rd, we can still win this race.”

James Hinchcliffe (221.864 mph) was third-fastest in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Dallara/Chevrolet also fielded by Andretti Autosport. Graham Rahal’s No. 38 Service Central Dallara/Honda was fourth- fastest (221.855 mph) with Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth in the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Dallara/Chevrolet (221.814 mph) fielded by Andretti Autosport.

The pits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are a busy place this week. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Led by team founder Roger Penske, Team Penske is the most successful organization in Indy 500 history with 16 poles and 15 victories. Team Penske has won the first four street/road-course events of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season, with Will Power on a three-race streak after Castroneves claimed the season-opener.

“We worked some more on the race setup and towards the end we were able to get a good draft,” said Castroneves, who last won at IMS in 2009. “(It’s) always good to put up a fast time and we will continue to work hard to get things where they need to be.”

Power, the series championship leader, posted a hot lap of 221.169 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, turning a team-high 85 laps. Power’s fast lap was seventh-best of the session. “We mostly worked on race setup and also got the chance to see what it’s like running behind a bunch of cars,” said Power, who has earned wins at Barber Motorsports Park, the Streets of Long Beach and Sao Paulo, Brazil, this season. “It was another day of collecting information and we feel good about where we are.”

After posting the fastest time among the three Team Penske drivers on Monday, Ryan Briscoe was clocked at 220.094 mph in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet while completing 70 laps. Briscoe’s speed on Lap 53 was his fastest of the day and ranked 14th overall. “We had a good day working on the race setup,” said Briscoe, the pole-winner at Long Beach. “We were running in a lot of traffic out there, maybe even busier than it normally would be in the race.”

The top 25 cars were separated by one second as teams continued working on various simulations. Pole Day qualifications are set for Saturday, when all teams will be afforded an extra 40-50 horsepower for their respective Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus 2.2-liter V-6 engines via additional turbocharger boost approved by sanctioning body INDYCAR.

Practice will resume Wednesday at noon. A total of 35 cars are at the Speedway, with 35 passing technical inspection. Thirty-one drivers have been on the track to-date, turning 1,602 laps Tuesday and 4,632 laps this month. James Jakes, driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Dallara/Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing, turned 100 laps Tuesday, most of any driver. There were five cautions for a total of 45 minutes.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 16 2012
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