Indy 500: Opening Day, Sunday May 11 Notebook
MP's End-of-Day Notes:
• Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TUDOR United Sportscar Championship program team manager Mike O'Gara is keeping a watchful eye on his young charge Sage Karam, who is driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing as part of an alliance with Ganassi's Verizon IndyCar Series team. Under O'Gara's watch, the team won two of the first three TUDOR Championship events with Karam playing a feature role in the team's Riley-Ford EcoBoost turbo DP performance. Now he'll get to see how the 18-year-old handles his IndyCar debut in the country's biggest motor race. "Obviously Sage is contracted with Chip, and he's in good hands here. He's the real deal. So far, the one unknown is the feedback on a big oval like this, but his car control and composure is impressive. He was as fast or faster than [Scott] Dixon at Sebring in the DP, and he wasn't fazed by what was going on around him." O'Gara, who left the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team earlier this year, had a chuckle over how things have come full circle this month. "I worked with Dreyer before, then Ganassi, then Sarah and now back to Dreyer. I think I've completed the cycle!"
• Andretti Autosport saw two of its cars damaged in Saturday's Grand Prix of Indy, with Carlos Munoz's No. 34 Honda hammering the back of Sebastian Saavedra's stalled car and Franck Montagny being used as launching pad for Martin Plowman's car. It left the team with plenty of work to do in order to have both cars primed and ready to serve as backups for Munoz and Kurt Busch. "The problem is you have to use the same motor, so you have to transfer that over, and there's no [remaining] spares, so that takes time," said team manager Kyle Moyer. "Getting a Speedway car ready involves a lot of detail items and takes a lot of time. We were here until 1:30 this morning and back at 8. Frank's motor got damaged, Marco's motor had a problem, but we got everything handled and into the Speedway cars and we got them started last night. We'll take it easy tonight and then get into more of the detail work on those cars when it rains tomorrow."
• Former Indy car engineer Kyle Brannan, who went on to win a pair of Grand-Am Daytona Prototype championships with the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team, is back in open-wheel this month and will serve as rookie James Davison's engineer at KV Racing.
• So much for celebrating with the winning car. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports didn't waste any time after Simon Pagenaud's No. 77 Honda won the GP of Indy. The Dallara DW12 chassis was stripped immediately after is cleared post-race tech and was at the painter's shop Monday morning where its wrap was removed and a new livery could be applied and clear coated.
• Three days of running clockwise around the IMS road course, topped off by an 82-lap race, made running in the opposite direction on Sunday something that took some drivers a few laps to absorb and process. "It was definitely weird going down pit lane the wrong way the past couple of days and turning into your pit box the other way than you're used to, and now, it felt weird coming into the box with the car tiled a little to the left and going the other way—the normal, way I guess," said Ryan Hunter-Reay. If changing directions was odd, having to re-tune his level of sensitivity—going from a more physical, rolling and heaving road course setup to a stiffer, more subtle oval setup—was an even bigger task. "Yeah, it does take time," he said. "This is the first big oval event of the year. You first adjust to the speed the first few laps, then start to slow things down as they're happening; it's a different mentality and driving style. That's the greatest thing about the Verizon IndyCar Series. You have to constantly adapt to new things and new challenges every weekend, no matter where we go."
• A note from below: Katherine Legge's possible return to the Indy 500 appears to be gaining momentum. Although nothing official is in place, I've learned the series and Honda are keen to see the popular Brit in a 34th entry. It's believed A.J. Foyt Racing could be the team to field an extra car—their third for the event—and Honda could be willing to allocate a 19th engine for the race, provided additional technical staff can be sourced. If it happens, look for the first appearance by the DeltaWing TUDOR Championship driver to happen next Sunday, the final day of qualifying.
11:55 p.m. ET: Indy 500 pace car driver Dario Franchitti took a ceremonial lap of the circuit in a brand-new Chevy Camaro with IMS president Doug Boles.
12:00 p.m. ET: IndyCar team owner Sarah Fisher and soon-to-be mother of two, waved the ceremonial green flag to open practice on Mother's Day.
12:00 p.m. ET: The first driver out to turn an official lap during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 was Team Penske's Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian, sporting new colors from Pennzoil, completed a single lap to shake down the No. 3 Chevy before parking the car. Castroneves conferred with Team Penske driver coach Rick Mears, who last sported the Pennzoil colors for Penske, afterward.
- Click on the gallery below for larger images
12:10 p.m. ET: Having spoken with many teams during the Grand Prix of Indy event, Opening Day for the 500 could be a rather low-key affair as they either shake down their cars or do limited running after racing until almost 6 p.m. last night.
12:15 p.m. ET: Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing has 2013 Firestone Indy Lights champion Sage Karam ready to complete his Rookie Orientation Program. Karam's No. 22 Chevy suffered a fire during the official ROP event and is back, fully repaired.
1:04 p.m. ET: Karam completed his third and final ROP phase and is cleared to partake in practice. The teenager from Pennsylvania set a best of 217.310 during his 20-lap outing.
3:00 p.m. ET: Activity has picked up as Ed Carpenter Racing has appeared with both of its entries, Nos. 20 and 21, with team owner Carpenter shaking the cars down. He shot to the top of the charts with a 219.899 in JR Hildebrand's No. 21 within five laps.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' Jacques Villeneuve is out and running. Chief mechanic Damon Sturrock says the 1995 Indy 500 winner will run a fair amount today, and so far, has run a best of 217.251 in 26 laps. He headed back to the garage after his last stint and should be back later.
Helio Castroneves has come back out for more running, posting a 219.179 in 33 total laps. His teammate Will Power ventured out, quickly setting a 218.507. KV Racing's Townsend Bell also shook down the No. 6 car, clocking a 217.635 in seven laps.
Alex Tagliani also shook down his No. 68 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car, turning a 216.367 before parking the car.
Temperatures are fairly warm – just over 80 degrees and track temperatures are high.
3:10 p.m. ET: Carpenter backed up his fast time in the No. 21 by moving to second with his No. 20, recording a 219.243.
3:15 a.m. PT: Katherine Legge's possible return to the Indy 500 appears to be gaining momentum. Although nothing official is in place, I've learned the series and Honda are keen to see the popular Brit in a 34th entry. It's believed A.J. Foyt Racing could be the team to field an extra car – their third for the event – and Honda could be willing to allocate a 19th engine for the race, provided additional technical staff can be sourced. If it happens, look for the first appearance by the DeltaWing TUDOR Championship driver to happen next Sunday, the final day of qualifying.
3:20 p.m. ET: Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon only needed six laps to set the fastest speed of the day so far: 220.226..
4:50 p.m. ET: Will Power moved his No. 12 Chevy to the top of the speed chart with a 223.052 before the session was halted due to possible thunder strikes in the area. Dark clouds formed nearby the circuit and looked like they might move over Turn 1 and 2, but cleared, allowing practice to resume. His teammates Castroneves (P2, 221.850) and Juan Montoya (P3, 221.067) have also improved their speeds thanks to the trio towing each other around the Speedway.
Andretti Autosport's five-car squad has been running, with Ryan Hunter-Reay the fastest (P8, 219.838). E.J. Viso, subbing for the injured James Hinchcliffe, is second among the Andretti gang (P10, 219.140), Kurt Busch is next (P11, 218.927), then Marco Andretti (P12, 218.447) and Carlos Munoz (P16, 217.368).
Graham Rahal and Martin Plowman have also turned laps, and JR Hildebrand has climbed into his No. 21 ECR car after Ed Carpenter shook it down.
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