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Same Old, Same Old: Penske Cars Fast At Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 16 2018

Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud laid down the quickest lap as practice got underway for the Indianapolis 500 on Tuesday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Team Penske, the most successful organization in the history of Indy car racing, was out-of-the-box fast Tuesday during the official start of practice for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

Simon Pagenaud topped an expanded speed chart as all 35 entered drivers completed laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Pagenaud posted a best lap of 225.787 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet during the two-hour session that started the day. Teammate Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 champion, was fastest in a three-hour, end-of-day session at 224.665 mph. Castroneves’ lap in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevy ranked second overall.

“It’s exciting. Usually in the past, especially when you’re a driver that doesn’t have much experience on ovals, you take your time,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion whose best Indy 500 finish in six tries is eighth in 2013. “Throughout the years, I learned you shouldn’t take your time, you should get going pretty quick. Take your chance when you do.

“The No. 22 Menards car is looking really, really fast. Yeah, I think this year we have a pretty strong opportunity. Chevy has done a tremendous job, so we feel like we have a lot of power. You know when you come and you feel you have a chance _wow _ it’s an

Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves leads Team Penske teammate Will Power around the track at Indy.

early Christmas, I tell you.

We’ll see. I feel like this year could be a really good one. We’ve had some good ones before here. Let’s make it happen. But, you know, when you drive for Roger (Penske), that’s definitely No. 1 goal. For us this year, it was clear from the beginning of the year, that’s No. 1 goal is to win Indy, then the rest will come next.

So we put all the effort we can in it. The team’s done a lot of work on understanding the car and trying to extract the best out of every component on it. So far it’s working.”

Tuesday’s sessions marked the Indy 500 practice debut of sanctioning body INDYCAR’s new-for-2018 universal Dallara aerodynamic chassis.

We worked on understanding the aerodynamics on the car today,” Pagenaud said. “That was our main goal, try to take things to extremes and see the limits. We think we have a good mechanical package to start on the car. Then we could work on the aero. That’s what’s interesting. There’s obviously a lot less options than what we had in the past. With all the winglets we had, it was very complicated. Now it’s more simple, but it’s a different way to make the car work.

You got to keep an open mind, that’s for sure. But tomorrow’s going to be a different checklist, different items that we’re going to try, probably more mechanical. Today was more an aerodynamic day. There’s still a lot to learn for everybody, I believe, but we’re on the right track.”

In between the two open practices, a two-hour session allowed Dale Coyne Racing’s Zachary Claman De Melo _ named early Tuesday to replace the injured Pietro Fittipaldi in the No. 19 Honda _ to complete his Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program. Additionally, one-off Indy 500 veterans James Davison, Oriol Servia and Stefan Wilson finished their refresher programs.

Castroneves, who turned 43 last Thursday, made his official return to the IMS oval in style. After 20 years of driving Indy cars, the popular Brazilian has moved fulltime to

Simon Pagenaud is off to a quick start in pursuit of his first Indianapolis 500 victory.

Team Penske’s new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Acura prototype program this season. But Helio is back in an open-wheeler for the Month of May in search of a record-tying fourth victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“We started right away with a good pace,” Castroneves said. “Good job (by) everyone, running issue-free. We still have a long way to go but it was a very base test with the new car actually, with traffic and everything.  Looking forward to another day tomorrow, so we continue to work and pursue that right result.”

Pagenaud said Castroneves’ strong showing was not a surprise among a Penske lineup also featuring reigning series champion/2018 point-leader Josef Newgarden and 2014 series champ Will Power.

Well, it’s Helio. We call him the ‘Speed King.’ That’s his nickname in the team,” Pagenaud said. “Helio, you know, he lives for this. It’s his passion. He loves Indy. He’s been very, very focused on trying to get his fourth win. So he’s back here. He’s been working on the simulator. He’s been studying everything, listening to what we have to say about the car. He’s fully ready. He’s very aggressive already. I think he’s just like a fish in the water.

I wish him good luck. I just hope he’s going to be just behind me. If I don’t win, I want him to win his fourth.”

The day also featured the official return to IndyCar Series racing for Danica Patrick, who is looking to complete the “Danica Double” and end her racing career in the Indianapolis 500 after racing in NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 in February.

Patrick ran 91 laps and was 20th on the overall speed chart with a lap of 222.728 mph in the No. 13 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.

“I felt like it was a really solid day,” said Patrick, first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 (19 laps as a rookie in 2005) and highest female finisher in race history (third in 2009). “I feel like the car has a lot of good natural speed in it. It was very smooth. We tried a handful of things and found some stuff that worked. I would say today went really well. We accomplished what we wanted to. We ran alone, we tried things, we got the car to turn a little bit better. We got in traffic for a good few laps, quite a few.”

Patrick’s teammate, ECR owner/driver Ed Carpenter, logged the fastest lap of the day without benefit of a tow from a car in front _ 221.564 mph, in the No. 20 Chevrolet. In total, 2,261 laps were turned without incident. Practice was stopped twice for a total of 71 minutes for light rain and lightning at the track.

Takuma Sato, who won last year’s Indy 500 driving for Andretti Autosport, placed 14th on the chart after hot-lapping at 223.305 mph for his new team.

“It was really nice to get back in the car on the legendary oval,” said Sato, now driving the No. 30 Honda entered by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “We had an open test a few weeks ago and we just continued the work and learned quite a few things today. It was quite productive, but having said that, the day didn’t go as well as we expected.

“Hopefully, the weather cooperates and it stays dry for the rest of the week, because I think we need to work really hard to get this car to go faster, because it’s definitely a different type of car due to the aero kit. But I think it was a good, productive first day with three (team) cars gathering data.” 

Practice resumes from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday through Friday, with a live stream available each day on RaceControl.IndyCar.comyoutube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Qualifying to determine the traditional 33-car field takes place Saturday and Sunday. ABC will broadcast two hours of qualifications each day, from 4-6 p.m.The 102nd Indianapolis 500 will air live beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27, on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.  

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Combined practice results Tuesday for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, session, time/speed and total laps completed:

  1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, Practice 1, 00:39.8605-seconds/225.787 mph, 87
  2. (3) Helio Castroneves-(C), Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.0597/224.665, 67
  3. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.0850/224.523, 65
  4. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.0858/224.518, 69
  5. (9) Scott Dixon-(C), Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.1153/224.353, 51
  6. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.1397/224.217, 57
  7. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.1790/223.998, 106
  8. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.1928/223.921, 46
  9. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.2433/223.640, 42
  10. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.2592/223.551, 68
  11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(C), Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.2707/223.488, 97
  12. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.2868/223.398, 75
  13. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.2963/223.346, 21
  14. (30) Takuma Sato-(C), Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.3037/223.305, 67
  15. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, Practice 1, 00:40.3173/223.229, 60
  16. (6) Robert Wickens-(R), Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.3347/223.133, 52
  17. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.3659/222.960, 51
  18. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.3863/222.848, 66
  19. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, Practice 1, 00:40.3879/222.839, 83
  20. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.4080/222.728, 91
  21. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.4130/222.701, 74
  22. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.4137/222.697, 17
  23. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.4451/222.524, 36
  24. (27) Alexander Rossi-(C), Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.4548/222.471, 93
  25. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.4938/222.256, 56
  26. (5) James Hinchliffe, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.5589/221.900, 64
  27. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.6007/221.671, 75
  28. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.6321/221.500, 107
  29. (14) Tony Kanaan-(C), Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.6482/221.412, 12
  30. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.6668/221.311, 61
  31. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo-(R), Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.7076/221.089, 16
  32. (32) Kyle Kaiser-(R), Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.7781/220.707, 45
  33. (5) Jay Howard, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.9747/219.648, 61
  34. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, Practice 2, 00:41.6809/215.926, 9
  35. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, Practice 2, 00:41.9130/214.731, 19

Total Laps for Combined Sessions _ 2,066

(C) _ Past indy 500 champion; (R) _ Rookie of the Year candidate

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 16 2018
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