Power Drafts Way To Top As Indy Practice Begins

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2021

Team Penske’s Will Power turned the quickest lap as practice for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 cranked up on Tuesday.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

A compressed opening day of practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500 saw 2018 champion Will Power “catch that train” and ride it to the top of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway speed chart at 226.470 mph.

Power’s hot lap in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet was recorded during the final session, an open practice lasting 1 hour, 50 minutes between 4:10-6 p.m. (EDT) around the 2.5-mile oval. A late-morning rain Tuesday compressed the final session originally scheduled for three hours, with drivers wasting no time clustering in packs and swapping positions in the aerodynamic draft.

Enter Power with a ticket to ride. “Just a big tow,” Power said of his best lap, aided by the draft. “It’s as simple as that _ trying to catch that train. But as far as in traffic, I felt pretty good. Running with two or three cars in front, I felt as comfortable as I have in a while.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 champion, was second-fast at 226.371 mph in the No. 28 Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport, with two-time/reigning winner Takuma Sato third at 226.132 mph in the No. 30 Honda entered by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Power, Hunter-Reay and Sato are among nine former winners _ one shy of the event record _ assigned to 35 cars entered for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 30.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), two-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya (2000, 2015) plus single winners Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Alexander Rossi (2016) and Simon Pagenaud (2019) will be aiming to pad their IMS resumes in the Memorial Day Weekend classic. The record for winners in one field is 10, set in 1992.

Sage Karam emerged as fastest non-500 winner on Tuesday’s speed chart, fourth at 225.942 mph in the No. 24 Chevrolet fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Conor Daly rounded out the top five at 225.640 mph in the No. 47 Chevrolet entered by Ed Carpenter Racing.

Sanctioning body INDYCAR has introduced a regulation for 2021 requiring teams to fill-in the front half of the “hole” in the underwing of the Dallara chassis with a carbon fiber clam-shell piece. The intent is to increase downforce and reduce reliance on the front wing, which theoretically will create more passing. After one day in traffic, Power said the change likely will generate more action over 200 laps on Race Day.

“It’s promising,” said Power, the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion from Australia. “I think adding that downforce is certainly going to help the racing. I think you’re going to have one of the old-style races where the front three are just swapping positions constantly because you can follow so close now. I think it will be good. It’s good for the fans.”

Power was the busiest and fastest of the 35 drivers, turning 87 laps. The field combined to complete 2,369 laps overall.

Graham Rahal led the morning session for veteran drivers, which was interrupted three times by light rain. The son of 1986 Indy 500 champion and team co-owner Bobby Rahal, Graham’s top lap was 223.449 mph in the No. 15 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. That figure stood as his top speed of the day.

After a rain delay of 2 hours, 20 minutes, the track opened for two hours for the Rookie Orientation Program and veteran refresher tests. JR Hildebrand and Stefan Wilson completed their refresher tests in the No. 1 Foyt Stewart Racing Chevrolet and No. 25 Cusick Motorsports Honda, respectively.

RC Enerson, the only one of three rookies who did not complete his rookie test in April, was nearly finished with the second of the three phases when mechanical trouble struck his No. 75 Top Gun Racing Chevrolet. Floridian Enerson will return to the track at 11 a.m. Wednesday in a bid to finish the second and third phases of his rookie test. The track is scheduled to be open from noon-6 p.m. for practice.

Among the previous winners, Castroneves will attempt to become the fourth member of the elite four-time winner’s club featuring A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser and Rick Mears. Sato, 44, will try to become the first repeat winner since Castroneves in 2001-02 and first driver to win the world’s most prestigious auto race three times after age 40.

The field includes eight past INDYCAR champions _ Sebastien Bourdais, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Montoya, Josef Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power. Dixon is the six-time/reigning series champion and current point-leader.

Three drivers will compete for Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors _ Enerson, Pietro Fittipaldi of Brazil and Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand. Fittipaldi is the grandson of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi.

Meanwhile, 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Simona De Silvestro of Switzerland has returned to the race for the first time since 2015, attempting to make her sixth start with first-year Paretta Autosport.

Andretti Autosport has entered six cars, again the most of any team. Included is the one-off return by Marco Andretti, who qualified on-pole for last year’s COVID-19-delayed 104th running on Aug. 23. Marco opted to relinquish his fulltime seat with the team owned by his father and former INDYCAR champion Michael Andretti at season’s end.

Andretti recorded a four-lap/10-mile run of 2 minutes, 35.7985-seconds/231.068 mph to earn his first Indy 500 pole in his 15th IMS start. But Marco failed to lead a lap during the race en route to a disappointing 13th-place finish.

“Obviously, that’s the one race that Marco’s really counting on,” said Mario Andretti, Marco’s 81-year-old grandfather and the 1969 Indy 500 champion. “Yeah, he’s as motivated as could be, no question. I mean, he’s got one shot at it again, so that’s it. You know, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for him, obviously.”

Practice is scheduled to run through Friday, May 21. Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday, May 22 and Sunday, May 23. The traditional final practice _ two hours on Miller Lite Carb Day _ will be held Friday, May 28.

Live Race Day coverage will be carried on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT), with the green flag set for 12:30 p.m.



Winners (9) _ Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato.

Rookies (3) _ RC Enerson, Pietro Fittipaldi, Scott McLaughlin.

U.S. drivers (13) _ Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, RC Enerson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi.

International drivers (22) _ Sebastien Bourdais, Helio Castroneves, Max Chilton, Simona De Silvestro, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Pietro Fittipaldi, Jack Harvey, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan, Dalton Kellett, Scott McLaughlin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato, Rinus VeeKay, Stefan Wilson.

Engines (35) _ Chevrolet 18, Honda 17 (all cars use Dallara chassis and Firestone Firehawk tires).


Official NTT IndyCar Series entry list for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, with car number in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car name with engine supplier and team entrant:

  1. (1) JR Hildebrand, Sausalito, Calif., ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Stewart Racing Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  2. (2) Josef Newgarden, Nashville, Tenn., Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  3. (3) Scott McLaughlin-(R), Christchurch, New Zealand, Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Team Penske
  4. (4) Dalton Kellett, Stouffville, Canada, K-Line Insulators/A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Monterrey, Mexico, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren SP
  6. (06) Helio Castroneves-(W), Sao Paulo, Brazil, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
  7. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Varnamo, Sweden, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren SP
  8. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Kumla, Sweden, Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  9. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Auckland, New Zealand, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  10. (10) Alex Palou, Barcelona, Spain, NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  11. (11) Charlie Kimball, Camarillo, Calif., Tresiba/A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  12. (12) Will Power-(W), Toowoomba, Australia, Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  13. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Le Mans, France, ROKiT/A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  14. (15) Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, United Rentals Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  15. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Thun, Switzerland, Rocket Pro TPO/Paretta Autosport Chevrolet/Paretta Autosport
  16. (18) Ed Jones, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, SealMaster Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
  17. (20) Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Ind., SONAX Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  18. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, Bitcoin Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  19. (22) Simon Pagenaud-(W), Montmorillon, France, Menards Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  20. (24) Sage Karam, Nazareth, Pa., DRR – AES INDIANA Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  21. (25) Stefan Wilson, Sheffield, England, LOHLA SPORT/Cusick Motorsports Honda, Andretti Autosport
  22. (26) Colton Herta, Valencia, Calif., Gainbridge Honda/Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
  23. (27) Alexander Rossi-(W), Nevada City, Calif., NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda/Andretti Autosport
  24. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., DHL Honda/Andretti Autosport
  25. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Toronto, Canada, Genesys Honda/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
  26. (30) Takuma Sato-(W), Tokyo, Japan, Panasonic/PeopleReady Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  27. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Woodbury, Conn., Hy-Vee Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  28. (47) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., United States Air Force Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  29. (48) Tony Kanaan-(W), Salvador, Brazil, The American Legion Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  30. (51) Pietro Fittipaldi-(R), Sao Paulo, Brazil, Military Salutes NURTEC ODT Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing
  31. (59) Max Chilton, Reigate, England, Carlin Chevrolet/Carlin
  32. (60) Jack Harvey, Bassingham, England, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
  33. (75) RC Enerson-(R), New Port Richey, Fla., Top Gun Racing Chevrolet, Top Gun Racing
  34. (86) Juan Pablo Montoya-(W), Bogota, Colombia, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, Arrow McLaren Racing
  35. (98) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda/Andretti Herta-Haupert with Marco & Curb-Agajanian

Note _ All cars use the fourth generation IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR-12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.

(W) _Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner

(R) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year candidate


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2021
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