Rahal Takes His Turn At Topping Indy Charts

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 18 2018

Graham Rahal found big speed during Thursday’s rounds of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

Another name synonymous with Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway set the pace during Day 3 of practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500.

Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indy 500 champion and team-owner Bobby Rahal, was fastest of 35 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers on track Thursday with an early lap of 226.047 mph that held throughout the seven-hour session. On Wednesday, third-generation Indy car driver Marco Andretti took Andretti Autosport to the top of the speed chart with a lap of 227.053 mph around the 2.5-mile oval.

Rahal stood 34th on the combined practice sheet at the close of Wednesday’s session with a best speed of 222.102 mph after 153 laps in the No. 15 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Today was definitely a better day for sure,” said Rahal, a 29-year-old native of New Albany, Ohio. “From the get-go, I knew that (Wednesday) we didn’t put in any effort to actually put in a decent lap. I found myself all day in the middle of the pack. It’s impossible to put up a number from that position. So there was a lot of reason and motivation to go and try to put together a decent one today.

It was obviously our second lap. I went out and was trying to do a qualifying simulation. Stefan Wilson came out in front of me. He was at the end of the backstraight as I was going out of Turn 2. I thought, ‘For once I’m just going to do this, just stay in it.’ Not normally my MO, but I thought I might as well put a good one up there _ at least lower my dad’s blood pressure for the night _ (Mike) Lanigan and everybody. It was a solid run.”

Series veteran Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner, was second-fastest at 225.896 mph in the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. The 2004 series champion was followed by Andretti, grandson of 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti, at 225.584 mph in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda. Andretti’s fast lap of 227.053 mph on Wednesday remains the best of the week.

“It’s been a good week for us,” said Kanaan, the 2005 Indy 500 pole-winner who is in his first season with the team owned by four-time Indy 500 champion A.J. Foyt Jr. “Now it’s more about trying to figure out what you’re going to need in 10 days, and it’s quite hard to know what the weather is going to do, so we’re trying to run in any type of weather. We’re recording everything on the books and have all that information for next week, so by Carb Day (on Friday, May25), you can try to predict what can happen on Sunday and what setup you need. 

“Tomorrow, it’s ‘Fast Friday’ and you worry about four laps the first day (of qualifications) and four laps the next day. From tomorrow on, you’ll be making the car as fast as you can for qualifying.”

That said, drivers again spent much of Thursday running in groups to also simulate race-day traffic conditions. Some made qualifying simulation runs when the track was less busy in preparation for this weekend, when the traditional 33-car field will be set for the 200-lap race on May 27.

Despite improving his overall speed number, Rahal finished Thursday’s practice with an incomplete check list on sanctioning body INDYCAR’s new-for-2018 Dallara universal chassis.

“I didn’t get a qual sim today. Not a single one,” said Rahal, who is teamed with reigning Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato and Indy 500 specialist Oriol Servia. “Hopefully, Mother Nature will be nice to us (Friday). For sure today was, in the end, a very good day. We had the car. We showed that it had the pace. At the end of the day we found and made some big strides with our race car. That’s more what I was focused on. It’s still hard to pass when you’re 20th and 15th in line. This car, it’s very disruptive back there. The last car was, too. I think it’s going to go out there and race just fine.

For tomorrow, we’ve been scratching our heads like crazy. Everybody has been nervous. Everybody has been trying a hundred different things. I have to say Takuma and Oriol have been extremely influential and beneficial to our program. It’s great to have three guys that have so much experience around this place. I can guarantee you that come Monday, we’ll be much better off from a racing perspective than where we are even today.”

Team Penske’s Will Power _ the 2014 series champ and winner of last Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road-course _ topped the list of drivers hot-lapping without benefit of an aero tow. Power’s lap of 223.971-mph in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet paced the no-tow chart.

Four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 18 Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing, was second on the no-tow list at 223.348 mph.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud set the pace for the Chevrolet camp in Tuesday’s opening practices with a best lap of 225.787 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Speeds are expected to increase dramatically on “Fast Friday,” the final day of practice before qualifications. INDYCAR permits an increase in engine turbocharger boost of 100 millibars, equating to about 50 added horsepower. With the same boost level a year ago, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and four-time series champion, claimed the Verizon P1 Award for pole with a four-lap/10-mile average speed of 232.793 mph.

Meanwhile, the first on-track incident of the week occurred less than a half-hour before the end of Thursday’s session. JR Hildebrand drifted high exiting Turn 3 in the No. 66 Chevrolet and skimmed the SAFER Barrier, then slid along the wall before the car came to rest on the track in Turn 4. Hildebrand was uninjured and the car sustained minor right-side damage.

“We were looking forward to making a long run at the end of the day in traffic,” Hildebrand said. “We weren’t that deep into the run and we had something happen in Turn 3 with the car. The car felt out of the ordinary. I didn’t feel like I was losing the car at all. I thought for sure I could save the car, which is why I’m a little confused on what happened.”

Friday’s practice is scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (EDT) and will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.comyoutube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Saturday’s first day of qualifying, when the 33-car field is set, will stream live on WatchESPN from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. before ABC broadcasts the final two hours live from 4-6 p.m. The starting order will be determined during Sunday’s qualifying session, which will stream on WatchESPN from 2:30-4 p.m. before ABC picks up the conclusion from 4-6 p.m.

The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will air live at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27, on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.


Victor Oladipo, an NBA All-Star in his first season with the hometown Indiana Pacers, will serve as honorary pace car driver for the Indianapolis 500. Oladipo will drive the 2019 Corvette ZR1 and lead the field of 33 drivers to the start of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“This is a tremendous honor for me,” Oladipo said. “I’m so thankful Indiana continues to embrace me, from Indiana University to the Pacers and now the Indianapolis 500, the greatest race in the world. I would like to thank Chevrolet, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Pacers for allowing me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ‘Excited’ is a huge understatement to how I feel about this. I can’t wait.”

Oladipo averaged 23.1 points per game in the 2017-18 NBA season with the Pacers after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder. His arrival in Indiana was a popular homecoming for Oladipo, a fan favorite for three seasons at Indiana University in Bloomington from 2010-13.


Pietro Fittipaldi saw his bid to compete in his first Indianapolis 500 end on May 4, when he was injured in a sports car crash while driving in the World Endurance Championship. The grandson of two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil is targeting the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on the last weekend of July for his return to the No. 19 Paysafe Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

“Now it’s my other race,” Fittipaldi said during a press conference at IMS. “Now I’m focused on getting back as fast as possible, you know, getting back to be able to do a good job.”

Fittipaldi, who suffered a broken left leg and right ankle, has begun physical rehabilitation and therapy in Indianapolis. He has been counseled by his grandfather, cousin Christian Fittipaldi and uncle Max Papis on the path to recovery, as well as teammate Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman sustained fractures in his pelvis and hip when he crashed during an Indy 500 qualifying attempt one year ago.

“I was speaking to him for an hour or so,” Fittipaldi said of Bourdais. “He was telling me all about his recovery, his rehab, how he got back in around eight to 10 weeks, something like that. It’s obviously very inspiring.”


Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has joined forces with the S.A.F.E. Project US in the national fight against the opioid addiction epidemic.

S.A.F.E. stands for “Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic.” The non-profit is headed by retired U.S. Navy Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Winnefeld and his wife, Mary, were compelled to start the organization after their 19-year-old son, Jonathan, died last September from a dose of heroin laced with fentanyl.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Hondas driven by James Hinchcliffe and rookie Robert Wickens will carry the S.A.F.E. Project logo in the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

“We want to solve this epidemic at speed. What better way to do something at speed than the Indianapolis 500?” said Winnefeld, a 37-year-old military veteran and the 21st commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command.

S.A.F.E. focuses on awareness, prevention, encouraging learning, providing resources and support for drug addiction and overdoses centered on the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States. Schmidt’s willingness to become involved will provide a unique platform for the message.

“We’re walking on air literally that we have this opportunity to gain the exposure for this epidemic and the potential for people to contribute to resolving it that this opportunity presents to us,” Winnefeld said.  


Combined practice results Thursday 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. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, Practice 3, 00:39.6383-seconds/227.053 mph, 260
  2. (9) Scott Dixon-(C), Honda, Practice 3, 00:39.7651/226.329, 264
  3. (3) Takuma Sato-(C), Honda, Practice 3, 00:39.8039/226.108, 268
  4. (6) Robert Wickens-(R), Honda,  Practice 3, 00:39.8078/226.086, 228
  5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, Practice 4, 00:39.8148/226.047, 255
  6. (14) Tony Kanaan-(C), Chevrolet, Practice 4, 00:39.8414/225.896, 159
  7. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:39.8430/225.887, 165
  8. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, Practice 1, 00:39.8605/225.787, 272
  9. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:39.9158/225.475, 194
  10. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:39.9709/225.164, 255
  11. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.0118/224.934, 194
  12. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, Practice 4, 00:40.0142/224.920, 215
  13. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:40.0417/224.766, 225
  14. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo-(R), Honda,  Practice 4, 00:40.0596/224.665, 143
  15. (3) Helio Castroneves-(C), Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.0597/224.665, 275
  16. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:40.0766/224.570, 192
  17. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.0780/224.562, 275
  18. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:40.0812/224.544, 247
  19. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.0821/224.539, 255
  20. (4) Matheus Leist-(R), Chevrolet,  Practice 3, 00:40.0879/224.507, 118
  21. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:40.0978/224.451, 186
  22. (27) Alexander Rossi -(C), Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.1404/224.213, 281
  23. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:40.1556/224.128, 182
  24. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, Practice 3, 00:40.1778/224.004, 270
  25. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay -(C), Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.1859/223.959, 301
  26. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.1923/223.923, 318
  27. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, Practice 4, 00:40.2340/223.691, 243
  28. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.2445/223.633, 166
  29. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.2461/223.624, 294
  30. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.2518/223.592, 213
  31. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:40.2963/223.346, 176
  32. (32) Kyle Kaiser-(R), Chevrolet,  Practice 3, 00:40.3128/223.254, 242
  33. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.3262/223.180, 276
  34. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, Practice 3, 00:40.4200/222.662, 185
  35. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, Practice 2, 00:40.4451/222.524, 236

Total Laps for Combined Sessions _ 8,028

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

Note _ All teams competing with Dallara IR-12 universal aero chassis with either Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines on Firestone Firehawk tires.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 18 2018
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