Chevy Sweeps First Indy 500 Practice With Pagenaud, Castroneves, Carpenter up Front
Danica Patrick made the most of her first high-speed run on the 2.5-mile oval, finishing 20th fastest.
All 35 drivers on this year's qualifying grid took to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, as the first oval practice of the month officially initiated the journey to the 102nd edition of the Indy 500. After a full day of testing, it was Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud who recorded the fastest speed around the iconic oval and his teammate Helio Castroneves following closely in second with team owner and driver Ed Carpenter in third.
Team Penske, whose Will Power won the IndyCar Grand Prix last weekend, put in a hefty 297 laps courtesy of its four drivers, which combined exceeds the 200 laps that the Indy 500 lasts. Pagenaud recorded a total of 87 laps, with Will Power delivering 86, Castroneves 67, and Newgarden 60. Pagenaud managed to squeeze a field-topping speed of 225.787 miles per hour out of his Chevrolet-powered IndyCar, with Castroneves following closely with a personal best of 224.664. The slight difference in speed meant the Frenchman lapped the 2.5-mile oval in 39.6805 seconds, while the Brazilian did it in 40.0597. The fourth place of Schmidt Peterson's Jay Howard was the fastest Honda with a speed of 224.518 miles per hour.
“We obviously are still learning a lot about the aerodynamics of the car," said Pagenaud. "It's quite different to what we had the past few years. There's still a lot to learn for everybody, I believe, but we're on the right track.”
Other drivers who drew lots of attention from the crowd and fellow competitors alike were Danica Patrick, and former pole-sitter Ed Carpenter, with the latter always being a major force during practice and qualifying. Patrick's return to Indianapolis has been a welcomed by a governing body that's always happy to bring diversity to the series, as well as generate headlines that further expand the popularity of the sport. After several years of absence from open-wheel racing, Patrick is taking her time getting up to speed with the new-for-all aero kit.
“I felt like it was a really solid day,” said Patrick. “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."
The field of drivers will resume open practice on Wednesday and continue until Fast Friday when drivers must get ready for qualifications on Saturday and Sunday.
Stay tuned for more boots-on-the-ground coverage from The Drive from now until the 102nd running of the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend.