Home » INDYCAR

Newgarden Blossoms In Race Day Conditions

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 24 2016
Josef Newgarden shook the lonesome Pole Day blues to post the fastest lap on Monday at Indy. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Josef Newgarden shook the lonesome Pole Day blues to post the fastest lap on Monday at Indy. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Josef Newgarden’s Pole Day pity party officially reached closing time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday afternoon, when the rising American open-wheel star paced practice in conditions expected to mimic Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

bugindy500All 33 entries turned laps around the 2.5-mile IMS oval during a 3.5-hour session scheduled for the same time of day as Sunday’s historic race. Newgarden, who will start from the middle of Row 1 after being pipped for pole by James Hinchcliffe, clocked the day’s fastest lap at 227.414 mph in his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

“I think today is the most representative day that we’re going to get going into Sunday, which was great,” said Newgarden, a two-time Verizon IndyCar Series race-winner in 2015 for team-owner/driver Carpenter. “Everyone was in a pack together, which was great, because that’s what we need to see. To me, some guys looked good at certain points and then they looked really bad at other points. I think that’s how it’s going to be on race day.”

Newgarden’s bid for P1 in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was spoiled by Hinchcliffe, the final driver competing in Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout. Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, collected his first series pole for what will be his 79th race by averaging 230.760

The cars, drivers and teams which qualified for the front row of Sunday's 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 watched the birdie on Monday. They are, left to right, P3 driver Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, P2 Josef Newgarden of Ed Carpenter Racing and pole-winner James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

The cars, drivers and teams which qualified for the front row of Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 watched the birdie on Monday. They are, left to right, P3 driver Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, P2 Josef Newgarden of Ed Carpenter Racing and pole-winner James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

mph over his four-lap/10-mile run. That computed to a difference of 0.0407-seconds over Newgarden’s 230.700 mph effort.

Overcoming his disappointment, Newgarden went to work on his race day setup under hot conditions.

“It was hard. Even yesterday, guys were loading up on downforce,” Newgarden said. “Now with our race downforce on, even more guys were loading up than we were last week. You’re going to be good at one point. You’re going to be bad at the other. It’s about making your race more good than bad. You need to minimize the bad stints and maximize the good stints. I think that’s going to be the game.”

Newgarden completed 111 laps _ more than half a race _ on Monday, and noted he almost got caught-up in a four-wide scrum before deciding to back off.

“I was going to be four-wide on the frontstretch,” said Newgarden, a 25-year-old native of Hendersonville, Tenn. “I don’t think you’re going to have much worse of a race than last year. The race couldn’t have gotten much better over the last two or three years. People just expect that now. Just spectacular racing where people can’t get away from each other and there’s passing, passing, passing. I think you’ll see that again. Maybe at the end of the stint it may trail off more.

“I think 20 laps into the (Firestone) tires, the cars are a little bit more susceptible to moving around in the heat. If it’s windy they’ll be more difficult, too. You’re going to see a great race day. If you can run in this condition like we did, you’ll see that at stages in the race. That’s not going to go away. It’ll be about how each stint finishes. You’re going to have a great show. I have no doubt about that.”

Hinchcliffe followed his Pole Day heroics with what he termed a “productive day” of hot-lapping. “This session is very important and I’m really glad we get it,” said Hinchcliffe, the popular Canadian who suffered near-fatal injuries during a crash in this session one year ago. “During the week, you try and do some race running but guys are on different programs, it’s a six-hour session, some guys

Driver James Hinchcliffe and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team will start from the pole in Indianapolis on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Driver James Hinchcliffe and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team will start from the pole in Indianapolis on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

are on-track, others are in the garage, so it’s a bit tough to get a really good read on what the race will be like.

“Today, everybody’s on-track running race runs all day. It gives you an opportunity to gather some really valuable data and I think we made some positive changes to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car. Some negative changes too, so at least we learned a direction and at least we can tune on it a little bit for Carb Day and hopefully be in a good position come Sunday.”

A pair of teammates who have both won the Indianapolis 500 followed Newgarden on the speed chart. Tony Kanaan, the 2013 race-winner, was second-fast in his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy at 226.393 mph. Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and four-time/reigning series champ, was third at 226.339 mph in his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.

“I’m glad we were finally able to get the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet up to speed for practice today,” said Kanaan, who will start on the outside of Row 6. “I’ve felt really good about my race car since the early sessions and it showed how strong the car is in race setup today on-track. We made a lot of progress overnight and it helped put our qualifying run behind us. We’re 100 percent focused on the race now and just figuring out the best strategy to get back up front.”

Dixon said he experienced “Happy Hour” conditions compressed into the day’s final quarter hour. “With about 15 minutes to go it started to get crazy out there with all 33 cars on-track,” Dixon said. “It was very similar to race conditions and things went well for Team Target. It’s still a long way to go but you never know what the weather will bring so you saw a lot of people on-track today. You always want a little more practice time and Carb Day will be pretty busy if the weather holds up.”

Sage Karam was fourth on the chart at 226.045 mph in the No. 24 DRR-Kingdom Racing Chevrolet. Pippa Mann, meanwhile, topped Honda-powered entries at 225.833 mph in her No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing car.

“Due to the weather forecast (for rain) later in the week, I think everyone was really trying to get their car running well in race trim,” said Karam, who will start in the middle of Row 8. “That’s what we were trying to do today, too. We worked on fuel numbers, pit stops and many things. I think we have a good baseline moving into Carb Day and the race.” Only Friday’s one-hour Miller Lite Carb Day practice remains on the pre-race schedule.

Mann logged her first number of significant laps _ she completed 116 _ since crashing in qualifying Saturday and seeing minimal track time before qualifying on the inside of Row 9 Sunday. “This was like Carb Day on steroids because we were out there doing it for (nearly) four hours,” Mann said. “Nobody wants to go out there and tear up a race car this close to race day, for sure. It was pretty hairy out there, but that’s representative of what it will be like in the race. When you have that many cars in a group, you won’t be able to run fast times. You’ll have to use all the gears and occasionally use the brakes. I know that sounds weird here. It gets really interesting and difficult and you’re reacting to what everyone is doing, not just what your car is doing.”

Graham Rahal, who qualified 26th on Sunday at 225.847 mph, was much happier with his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Theodore Racing Honda at the close of Monday’s session. “We started off good and then we made some changes which kind of took us sideways in terms of progress,” said Rahal, whose father, Bobby, won the 1986 Indy 500. “Then we had to go back to the garage to replace the left rear upright. We went back out and just pounded around and made a solid, good improvement. We ran on old tires and again, I could pass everyone I wanted to pass.

“I’m pretty pleased with the Steak ‘n Shake Honda. If we could go out next Sunday and the conditions were just like this, I’d be a happy man. Legitimately, I felt like there was nobody that I was around that I couldn’t pass and I don’t think I’ve ever said that on the Monday before the race. We’ll probably just polish it (car), put it away and then go for Carb Day and see what we’ve got.”

That plan was echoed by 2011 Indy 500 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani, who will start last in a repaired version of the No. 35 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda he crashed Sunday morning. Tagliani was unable to make a qualifying attempt. “We made a few runs today, with big thanks to the crew for working hard to put the car back on-track today,” Tagliani said. “I’m sure it was a lot of work for them. I guess our Carb Day will become very important to us, and hopefully we have a good race.”

A total of 2,886 laps were completed Monday, most of any day since the track opened May 16 in a session that was 2.5 hours shorter than most others. Nine drivers ran more than 100 laps each, led by Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda) and Max Chilton (No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) with 117 apiece.

Coverage of the 100th Indianapolis 500, sixth of 16 races on the schedule, will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

###

Pit crews eligible for Friday’s TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition were confirmed Monday. The contestants: No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet (with two-time/reigning Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya), No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet (with three-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves), No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (James Hinchcliffe), No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda (Mikhail Alehsin), No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet (with 2008 Indy 500 champ Scott Dixon), No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda (Takuma Sato), No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Theodore Racing Honda (Graham Rahal), No. 24 DRR-Kingdom Racing Chevrolet (Sage Karam), No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (Carlos Munoz), No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda (with 2014 Indy 500 champ Ryan Hunter-Reay), No. 42  Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet (Charlie Kimball) and the honorary crew for No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet (rookie Matt Brabham). The bracket will be set by a draw Thursday. … Zach Veach became the first driver in Indy Lights history to turn an unofficial lap of more than 200 mph on the IMS oval during Monday’s open test session. Veach was clocked at 201.455 mph in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing entry. Official lap records, however, may only be set during qualifying or the race.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 24 2016
No Comment

Comments are closed.