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Carpenter Building Big Speed At Practice In Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 17 2019
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Ed Jones logged the fastest time during practice at Indy on Thursday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Home-grown Ed Carpenter Racing replaced Team Penske’s juggernaut atop the speed chart at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday, the third of four days of practice leading into this weekend’s qualifications for the 103rd edition of the Indianapolis 500.

Ed Jones posted the fastest overall lap of 227.843 mph around the 2.5-mile oval during a session cut short 90 minutes by thunderstorms and lightning. Jones also posted the best lap while running on his own at 225.274 mph as ECR’s drivers swept the top three spots in the “no-tow” lap category.

“It was a great day!” said Jones, driver of the No. 63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet. “To be quickest in overall and no-tow is a goal. More importantly, I think we made more gains with the handling of the car. As the conditions have changed, we’ve been able to keep up. We just have to keep adapting to the track changes for (Friday) and for qualifying.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso’s day was a total washout. The 2017 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Alonso remained sidelined as his McLaren Racing team prepared a backup No. 66 Chevrolet after the two-time Formula One World Driving Champion crashed his primary car in practice on Wednesday.

Ed Jones of ECR was man of the day at IMS.

Gil de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner with Team Penske now serving as Sporting Director at McLaren, said Alonso’s crew was not rushing to get the backup car ready. Preparations included an engine change after the twin-turbocharged V-6 powerplant in the primary car was found to have been damaged in the single-car incident.

Alonso’s Wednesday ended on his 46th lap when the car 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. Alonso exited the wreckage without assistance. The popular Spaniard _ seeking to complete the final leg of auto racing’s Triple Crown with an Indy 500 victory _ placed 29th on Wednesday’s chart at 225.433 mph after running 224.162 mph on Tuesday.

“While we have a number of experienced individuals in the team, we are still relatively new as a crew,” de Ferran said. “Because of this and the fact that we have deep respect for Indianapolis, we are being careful and measured in our approach and want to ensure we’re sending the best possible car out on track. 

“Not running today was a serious setback to our Indy 500 program, but all is not lost. We should have a full day of practice and preparations for qualifying (Friday) and our goal will be to have a nice, clean day.”

Alonso made his oval-track debut at IMS in May 2017 in a Honda-powered car prepared by Andretti Autosport. Alonso did not compete in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2018 while wrapping up his F1 career with Team McLaren.

Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter had a big day in both roles Thursday.

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who also crashed during a single-car incident on Wednesday, returned to log 41 laps in his backup No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. His top speed of 221.697 mph placed the Swede 34th on the day’s chart of 35 drivers. Rosenqvist made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 2 on his 95th lap with less than an hour remaining in Wednesday’s seven-hour session.

Jones, a native of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, finished third in the Indy 500 two years ago as a rookie with Dale Coyne Racing. He is paired with IndyCar Series team-owner/driver Ed Carpenter and full-season driver Spencer Pigot in a three-car lineup for the Indianapolis-based organization. Carpenter was second (224.959 mph) on the no-tow list _ designated as such because it comes without the aerodynamic tow from a car ahead on track by 10 seconds or less _ while Pigot was third (224.857 mph).

The no-tow list is a reliable representation of how cars may perform in Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying this weekend, when they’ll be on track alone for the traditional four-lap/10-mile qualification runs to determine the 33-car field.

“It was a pretty good day, but it wasn’t the day I expected,” said Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet. “I expected there to be more race-running groups. I was a little surprised by how many qualifying sims there were, given that today was the last full day of practice. At the end of the day, the car feels like it has pretty good speed in it and I’m fairly happy in traffic. All things considered, I think all three drivers on the team feel pretty encouraged and we’re looking forward to the power turning up tomorrow in the Chevy engine and seeing what we can get out of the cars.”

A three-time Indy 500 pole-sitter, Carpenter finished second in last year’s race to Will Power of Team Penske.

Takuma Sato was second on the overall lap speed chart at 226.699 mph in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver was eighth on the no-tow chart at 224.428 mph.

“I’d say it was a very productive day despite a little issue in the car and the weather,” said Sato, winner of the 2017 Indy 500. “We’ve done a qualifying simulation and worked on the race setup. We found several positives and I’m pretty happy with that. We are quite satisfied with how today went.”

The day’s lone crash involved rookie Patricio O’Ward, who lost control of the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet and spun into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier. The 2018 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion was uninjured, but the car sustained heavy damage and he did not return on-track.

“Oh, I hit hard. I felt it all through my body,” said O’Ward, a native of Mexico. “I’m a bit sore, but the good thing is that we’re OK. It looks like I just lost it, I guess. There’s not much more I can say about that. I’m just happy I’m OK, and I know the team is going to get stuff ready for the next session or at least tomorrow.”

Speeds are expected to increase during practice on “Fast Friday,” when sanctioning body INDYCAR allows an extra 1,000 millibars of engine turbocharger boost that equates to about 50 additional horsepower. The practice will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET).

Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday to set the 33-car field from a list of 36 entries. The first 30 spots will be locked-in Saturday between 11 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. INDYCAR Pass will stream the action from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with NBC Sports Network taking over coverage of the final hour.

Sunday qualifying features the Last Row Shootout to determine the final three qualifiers, followed by the Fast Nine Shootout to decide the prestigious Indy 500 pole-sitter and starting order of the first three rows for the race. Second-day qualifying will air live on NBC from noon-3 p.m., with NBCSN picking up coverage from 3-6 p.m. that includes a practice for the 33 qualifiers in race-like conditions.

Coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26, on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 17 2019
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