INDY 500 Carb Day Practice Report
INDIANAPOLIS -RIS- (May 26, 2018) Under partly sunny skies, a comfortable 72 degrees, the thirty-three starters for Sunday’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race presented by PennGrade stretched the legs of their Dallara race cars with Honda or Chevy engines and aero kits in front of a nice crowd that traditionally calls in sick here in Indy.
Most teams took the opportunity to check for leaks, work on pitstop setups, and run in traffic to check aerodynamic buffeting.
The session, led by Helio Castroneves (227.377), Takuma Sato (226.802), and Tony Kanaan (226.757).
“Qualifying didn’t work out the way we wanted,” four-time Indy champ Castroneves said after the session. “Today was a great way to finish the practice.”
Castroneves is starting 19th, his worst since his 16th-position 2011 start. He acknowledges that to do well, he’ll need to work his way through traffic in the first 50 laps..
“We have to be patient - put yourself in a good position.”
Sato was pleased with his car today.
“Very smooth,” the former F1 star said with a smile. He explained that the team got the car race ready during last Monday’s practice. Then the car was disassembled, checked, and reassembled before today’s session.
“The car felt really good. It was a good sign.”
Another good sign was the performance by visiting F1 star Fernando Alonso - fifth-quick today at 226.608 mph.
“It was great - very smooth,” he said in his usually succinct fashion. “The car felt the best it has over the last two weeks.”
He said the team made productive use of the session.
“We had some laps to test different things on the car (in traffic),” admitting that one of the challenges he faced was “where to find things on the steering wheel.”
Polesitter Scott Dixon was fourth in the session with a lap of 226.685.
Dixon’s #9 - run all month in the blue NTT Data livery - now sports blue and white sponsorship of Camping World, which has been seen here before with Richard Petty’s John Andretti program.
Activities were punctuated by four yellow flags.
The first two cautions were called by IndyCar Series officials for debris on the track.
The second caution flag flew as the right rear tire of Conor Daly’s #4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevy brushed the outside wall in an example of youthful exuberance.
The one-hour session was extended by five minutes due to the fourth and final caution caused as the Honda engine in the #5 of James Hinchcliffe apparently grenaded, fogging up the back stretch. Hinchcliffe brought the car to a stop in the pitlane runoff, and climbed quickly from the car.
The Honda’s failure - one of many this month - leads railbirds to speculate that while the Honda Performance Development-prepared engines, while fast, might not be able to sustain that speed while coupled with the Honda’s proven fuel mileage advantage.
“As long as it’s in practice, it’s okay,” said Honda-powered Alonso when he was asked of the Hinchcliffe’s Honda engine failure. “It’s a good thing if it happens in practice.”
Frankly, it’s nice to have engines working hard enough again to potentially fail a long-standing Indy tradition.
Chip Ganassi, GMC Films, and Universal Pictures announced that they will create a documentary on the life of the winningest Indy car driver of this generation, Scott Dixon.
The film will serve as a follow-up to the eagerly anticipated GMC/Universal film “McLaren”, telling the life of F1 and Can-Am star Bruce McLaren (premiering tonight here in Indianapolis at the IMAX theatre at the Indiana State Museum).
“Poles and Taco Bells aside,” Ganassi said with a smile, “there are generational drivers who don’t come along every day.”
Ganassi and Dixon joined forces in 2002, and remain as much a team as the Roger Penske/Rick Mears partnership. Dixon has 40 IndyCar wins, one Indianapolis 500 win, 25 pole positions, and four Verizon IndyCar Series championships (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015).
“Someone needs to know that story,” Ganassi said.
Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992. He was invited to join the staff as a full-time reporter/editor in 1995, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.