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Ganassi Cars Looking Good At Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 12 2015
Sage Karam topped the time charts at Indy on Monday.

Sage Karam topped the time charts at Indy on Monday.

RacinToday.com
By John Sturbin/Senior Writer

Sage Karam led a 1-2-3 sweep atop the speed chart for Chip Ganassi Racing Monday during the second day of official practice for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Thirty cars logged nearly 1,100 laps during a scheduled five-hour session shortened by an early afternoon shower. Karam posted the fastest lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Speedway oval at 225.802 mph in the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet.

“It’s only the first day, so it’s not about how fast you are today,” said Karam, a resident of Nazareth, Pa., who finished an impressive ninth as a 19-year-old rookie in the 2014 Indianapolis 500. “It’s about how fast you are on Sunday in two weeks. It definitely feels good, though. It’s the first time I’ve ever been P1 at the Speedway so it’s a good feeling.”

Two of Karam’s CGR teammates _ former Indy 500 and Verizon IndyCar Series champions Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan _ were second at 225.293 mph and third at 225.217 mph, respectively, overall.

Marco Andretti led the Honda-powered camp in fourth at 225.184 mph in the No. 27 Snapple Andretti Autosport entry. Marco’s teammate, reigning Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, stood 21st overall after logging 68 laps with a top speed of 222.034 mph.

“We worked today to get to a certain point in mileage with the engine so we can get on to the next (Honda engine),” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. “You have to meet those markers for the rules of the Verizon IndyCar Series to move on to the next engine.

“It was really gusty today _ the car was moving around a lot but we found some things that we like. I think the conditions being cool like this, everyone is pretty planted right now. Other than the wind gusts, we’re seeing some pretty good times and a decent start to the week for the DHL team.”

The session marked the second time the superspeedway aero kits developed by Chevrolet and Honda were put through their paces at IMS. The kits made their series debuts during an Open Test on May 3. Chevrolet and Honda developed the aerodynamic bodywork packages that attach to the Dallara IR-12 chassis during the offseason.

The aero kit components for road/street courses and short ovals were used in the first five IndyCar Series races of the season, including the second annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday. While Chevrolet teams have won four of five events heading into the Indy 500 on May 24, the superspeedway kits remain an open book.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Karam, who completed 41 laps. “The car’s not anywhere near where we want it to be for race day or qualifying. I’ve got a great team. They worked really hard. They’re making it a lot easier on us drivers by being as prepared as they are. We’re picking this new aero kit apart and we’re figuring it out every time we go out.”

Also on Monday, rookie Stefano Coletti completed all three phases of the Rookie Orientation Program in the No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, while Townsend Bell rolled through the veteran refresher program in his first Indy car action since last year’s 500.

“I’ve been waiting for three months to be on this oval,” said Coletti, 26, the first native of Monaco to drive in an Indy car race since Louis Chiron competed in the 1929 Indianapolis 500. “I’ve always watched (the Indy 500) since I was a kid and I’ve always wanted to race in the 500. The atmosphere and all the people here look incredible on TV, and being here is a dream come true.

“It’s my first time on an oval and I want to thank all the guys at KV Racing for helping me. I also want to thank Arie Luyendyk. He took me around the track this morning and gave me some tips which really helped today.”

Luyendyk, a two-time Indy 500 champion, also spent time coaching Coletti in his pit. A multiple race-winner in Europe’s GP2 series, Coletti finished eighth in Saturday’s 82-lapper on IMS’ road-course.

“When I coach somebody, it’s almost as exciting as driving yourself because it’s nice to see somebody pick up the pace quickly and pick up the lines around the track quickly,” said Luyendyk, who scored his first Indy 500 victory 25 years ago. “So far, I’m happy with the lines he’s taken because that’s really important here.”

Luyendyk set the track’s one and four-lap qualifying records at 237.498 mph and 236.986 mph, respectively, driving a Ford Cosworth-powered Reynard in 1996.

Bell, meanwhile, worked with former two-time Indy 500 champion Al Unser Jr. as his spotter during a 70-lap outing, posting a top speed of 223.637 mph. “It’s an honor to have Al helping us this week,” said Bell, driver of the No. 24 The Robert Graham Special Chevrolet fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing. “Whatever tidbit of information I can take from a legend like Al is a benefit at Indy. It’s great to have him help us this week.”

Bell originally completed the Speedway’s ROP in 2006. The Californian has driven in eight Indy 500s, with a best finish of fourth in 2009 for KV Racing Technology after starting 24th.

“The driver (himself) has a few kinks to work out here at Indy, but it feels so good to come back to the Speedway,” said Bell, 40, a race analyst for NBC Sports Network. “Compared to what I race in sports cars, this feels like a rocket ship. Not much was different from last year for me except that the gusts of wind were coming across the front straightaway from the tunnels of the main grandstand. In fact, I thought the car was broken at one time due to the wind bouncing the car around. It was an interesting experience but I’m glad I felt it today.”

Practice is scheduled to resume Tuesday through Friday (noon-6 p.m. EDT), with qualifying on Saturday and Sunday to determine the traditional 33-car field.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 12 2015
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