Rookie Rosenqvist Meets His First Wall At Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 16 2019
Felix Rosenqvist ran into trouble during practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist joined Fernando Alonso in the wall and on the DNF list after Wednesday’s second of four days of practice for the 103rd edition of the Indianapolis 500.

With just less than an hour remaining in the seven-hour session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Rosenqvist made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 2 in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Rosenqvist was uninjured in the single-car crash on his 95th lap and team officials said he would move to a backup car for Thursday’s practice.

“I was behind (fellow-rookie) Colton Herta and just trying to run the car in traffic, and I just felt a very sudden change of having a bit of push and it went very loose, very fast,” Rosenqvist said. “I couldn’t react to it. A shame, but that’s how it is.”

A native of Sweden, Rosenqvist’s best lap was timed at 226.787 mph, good for 16th on a speed chart topped by Josef Newgarden of Team Penske at 228.856 mph.

Earlier, Alonso’s day ended with a single-crash crash on his 46th lap.  Alonso’s No. 66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet made contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier 95 minutes into the practice. His car slid into the inside barrier on the short chute and then up the track to the outside barrier in Turn 4 before stopping.

The McLaren boys had to reassemble Fernando Alonso’s car after Wednesday’s wreck at Indy.

The 2017 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Alonso exited the car without assistance. His McLaren crew spent the afternoon preparing the Spaniard’s backup car for practice on Thursday. Alonso placed 29th on the day’s chart at 225.433 mph after running 224.162 mph on Tuesday.

“It was understeer on the car, and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough, and I lost completely the front aero,” said Alonso, the two-time Formula One World Driving Champion from Spain. “The wall came too close and too quickly. 

“I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and hopefully we will come back stronger tomorrow. I’m disappointed and sad for the team and for the guys. We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake.”

Gil de Ferran, sporting director for McLaren, said the team was mulling its options for Thursday.

“After (Tuesday’s) electrical issues, which put a dent in our running time, the team worked hard overnight to address the problems and the car was handling better this morning, so it’s a shame that practice was cut short,” said de Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 champion with Team Penske. “There’s no denying the past few days have impacted our preparations, but we do feel we have a direction for where we need to take the setup of the car. We’re pulling together as a team, Fernando is in great spirits, and we just have to keep working in a calm and determined manner.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Newgarden and 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi logged workmanlike performances around the 2.5-mile layout.

Former Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi looked good during practice on Wednesday.

Newgarden, the NTT IndyCar Series point-leader after five of 17 races, ran the fastest of more than 3,200 laps turned by 36 drivers in his No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet. “I think we need to be a bit better in traffic,” said Newgarden, the 2017 series champion. “Still trying to figure out exactly what we need on the race car _ that was kind of our focus today. We didn’t really do much qualifying sims or anything like that.

“I think the Shell car feels OK. It’s not a bad start. I’m trying to stay careful with it. I always try and respect this place at the beginning. I never try and push until it’s time.”

Five-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon, who trails Newgarden by six points heading into the Indy 500 on May 26, was second on the speed chart at 228.835 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Rossi logged the best lap without the tow of a leading car at 224.648 mph in the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda for Andretti Autosport. Rossi said the speed was “irrelevant” this early in the week, but was pleased his team worked through its checklist efficiently enough that he was able to sit out the closing hours of the afternoon.

“It was a good day,” Rossi said. “Any day out here is a good day, for sure. Just running through a checklist of things to try and understand everything that we learned over the offseason and applying it to all five (Andretti Autosport) cars in different ways and compiling as much information as we can.  That’s the advantage about being on a big team for this event. When you have this much practice, you can really kind of divide and conquer, and I think we’re doing that well so far.”

Led by Newgarden and Dixon, seven drivers recorded speeds over 228 mph in the session. Third on the chart was Spencer Pigot at 228.658 mph in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Rookie Santino Ferrucci was fourth at 228.561 mph in the No. 19 Cly/Del Manufacturing Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing.

Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves ran a top lap of 228.441 mph in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. Sebastien Bourdais was clocked at 228.271 mph in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. And Zach Veach ran 228.057 mph in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda entered by Andretti Autosport.

Practice resumes Thursday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET), ahead of the “Fast Friday” session at the same time.

Qualifying on Saturday is scheduled from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. and will lock in the first 30 positions in the field.

The second qualifying day on Sunday will determine the final three starters in the 33-car field in the Last Row Shootout, followed by the Fast Nine Shootout to decide the pole-sitter and starting order of the first three rows. NBC has scheduled live coverage from noon-3 p.m.

The Indianapolis 500 airs for the first time on NBC on Sunday, May 26. Live coverage will begin at 11 a.m.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 16 2019
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