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Hunter-Reay Rules Wednesday, Says Wait ‘Til Friday

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 18 2016
Ryan Hunter-Reay was fast on Thursday but said wait until Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was fast on Wednesday but said wait until Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Ryan Hunter-Reay maintained Honda’s spot atop the speed chart at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the close of Wednesday’s practice for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

bugindy500But Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 champion, said better talk to him after “Fast Friday” _ when he fully expects the rival Chevrolet camp to “turn up the wick” in preparation for Saturday’s opening day of qualifications.

“Yeah, I fully expect things to come a little bit more into the norm by the time we get to Friday,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport. “I’ll put money on it. I will. Once the boost gets turned-up, everything changes. You have different torque curves in these engines, different…where some are better in other areas, and it’ll be all over the place. Come Friday, yes, absolutely expect Ganassi, Penske, Carpenter, these guys all to be up in the mix. Hopefully, we’re still in the mix.

“We felt good, so we’ll see. It’s early days still. I know better than to start thinking that I have a shot (at pole position) yet.”

Hunter-Reay earned P1 Wednesday after touring the 2.5-mile IMS oval at 228.202 mph, a tick off the hot lap turned by teammate Marco Andretti (228.978 mph) Monday in his No. 27 Snapple Honda. Andretti Autosport placed five drivers in the top six Monday, with RHR’s best lap slotting him third at 228.033 mph. Tuesday’s session was rained-out.

RHR’s pragmatic outlook is the product of his race day experience at IMS from one year ago. Arriving for the Month of May as the defending race champion, Hunter-Reay started 16th, ran mid-pack most of the afternoon and finished 15th.

“Coming off the year we had here last year where I couldn’t get the car to do anything I needed it to, it’s nice to have the No. 28 DHL Honda up towards the front, especially here at Indy,” Hunter-Reay said. “We couldn’t get out of our own way here last year, and when you don’t have a car _ you have a car that doesn’t do what you need it to do, which is what I need to do in traffic, where the front of the car works and things like that _ I didn’t have that last year.

We’ve found some things with the setup that we really didn’t like last year, and we’ve improved on them for this year. For the No. 28 side of it, we had some issues that we fixed (aero-wise) halfway through the year last year that we found out really doing our Indy 500 effort.”

All 33 entered cars made it onto the track and completed a total of 2,779 laps _ an average of 84 per car. Hunter-Reay clocked his fast circuit early, on the 11th of 94 laps turned. Much of the late afternoon saw cars running in packs to get the feel of driving in traffic.

“We’re working through things, working through setup, some qualifying stuff, some race stuff, just getting in the mix, getting in traffic and it’s been a fun day, a challenging one at times,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “When that wind switches around, it certainly throws you for a loop. Compared to (Monday), it’s been a big change. But I was pretty happy with the car there at the end.”

Carlos Munoz, Hunter-Reay’s teammate in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, was second-quick at 228.066 mph. Will Power was third-fastest in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at 227.733 mph, but didn’t give the lap much credence since _ like most of the fastest circuits turned _ it came with an aerodynamic tow from cars in front.

“The tow is worth about six miles an hour, so it’s not really representative,” Power said. “It’s just a matter of finding good traffic and understanding your car and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. I think the cars are a little slower this year, for sure, and the Hondas look strong, very strong.”

Josef Newgarden was fourth in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing (226.998 mph) with Gabby Chaves fifth in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda (226.889 mph).

“We had about 30 minutes of running on Monday, so today was our first full day and we got through a lot of changes, got through all our program, did some traffic running and, like I say, I’m pretty pleased,” said Chaves, the 2015 Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year who joined the Coyne team prior to Saturday’s third annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road-course. “I haven’t had any uncomfortable situations out there, so I’m honestly just very, very pleased with the way the day has been going.”

Practice continues from noon-6 p.m. (ET) Thursday and Friday. Both sessions will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Qualifying will air Saturday on ESPN3 (11 a.m.-3 p.m. ET) and ABC (4-6 p.m. ET) and Sunday on ESPN3 (2-4 p.m. ET) and ABC (4-6 p.m. ET). Race-day coverage on May 29 will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Wednesday’s lone incident occurred when rookie Spencer Pigot lost control of his No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowac Honda and spun into the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver was uninjured but his car sustained significant left-side damage.

“The car was feeling pretty good, I think we’d been making improvements,” Pigot said. “We’d just done our quickest lap I think the run before, so everything was feeling good.  After we looked at the data, we found that the right front tire went down followed immediately by the right rear, so I must have run over something that cut the tires and caused the spin.

“It’s obviously a big setback for me, for the team, not what you want to happen on just the second day. We’ll just try to put everything back together and then pick up where we left off.”

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Sage Karam has been hosting racing peers from other disciplines the past two days. One day after greeting Sprint Car legend Steve Kinser to the Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing garage, Karam welcomed NHRA drag racers Shawn Langdon, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Leah Pritchett to Gasoline Alley at IMS prior to practice.

All three enjoyed taking a turn stepping into Karam’s No. 24 Gas Monkey Garage Chevrolet in the garage and learning more about the intricacies of the car, especially the steering wheel. Pritchett, a Top Fuel winner earlier this year at Chandler, Ariz., who drove Formula Fords as a youngster, said she would relish an opportunity to drive an Indy car.

“I have a huge amount of respect for speed and other people’s equipment,” Pritchett said, “but I would definitely entertain that possibility, especially since I grew a love for it with the small amount of road-course racing I have done. I definitely don’t suck, but I’m definitely no professional at it. I think if I had the opportunity to hone some skills that I would be OK. But these are true professionals out here who have dedicated their lives to this and I don’t think I could hold a candle to them by any means.”

Karam, the 21-year-old looking to drive in his third consecutive Indy 500, enjoyed tutoring his fellow racers. “It is way different, what they drive, compared to what I drive. But at the same time there are a lot of similarities and it’s cool hearing what they have to say,” Karam said. “I’ve never sat in an NHRA car before, but I would like to. Hopefully I can get down to Englishtown (N.J.), get to experience what NHRA racing is all about and see all those similarities and differences in my own eyes.”

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In true British demeanor, longtime Indy car engine-builder Ilmor Engineering quietly added to its open-wheel history on Saturday. When Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud won the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road-course, it marked the 300th victory in Indy car competition for Ilmor, which produces all 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines for partner Chevrolet.

The company was founded in the United Kingdom in 1983 by engineers Mario Illien and Paul Morgan, along with Verizon IndyCar Series team-owner Roger Penske. Ilmor’s first Indy car race win came on the Streets of Long Beach in 1987 with Mario Andretti. Ilmor’s victory list includes 19 Indy 500 triumphs.

Additionally, Chevrolet and Ilmor have teamed to win four consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturers’ championships. “When Paul Morgan, Roger Penske and I started Ilmor, we all had high ambitions and the will and drive to win, but we could not imagine at the time we would reach the success we have,” Illien said. “I am very proud of the many Ilmor employees who have contributed to this achievement. It’s an indication and reflection of hard work, consistency and talent.”

Co-founder Penske has been a major beneficiary of Ilmor’s success. Team Penske has collected 114 of its 181 Indy car wins and nine of its 16 Indianapolis 500 victories via Ilmor-produced engines. “Team Penske is proud to be associated with Ilmor and the legacy of success that the company continues to build in motorsports,” Penske said. “This achievement is certainly a credit to the hard work and dedication of all the employees, the leadership of Steve Miller, Steve O’Connor, Paul Ray and their teams and the vision created by Mario Illien and Paul Morgan back in 1983 when Ilmor was first formed.”

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 18 2016
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