Practice resumed Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as teams continued preparations for the final two days of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. After a pre-dawn storm that packed wind gusts of 70mph – which did minor damage to some team equipment – the weather cleared to partly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the mid-70s and light winds. There were no accidents during the six full hours of running.
Mario Moraes took advantage of the good conditions to bolster KV Racing’s hopes with a lap of 222.739mph early in the session that held up as the day's fastest, eclipsing the Penske and Ganassi cars that dominated Pole Day qualifying last weekend. Moraes put in 103 laps on the day, second only to Justin Wilson's 120."I think we made some improvements in our HER Energy car and definitely got it better toward the end of the day," Moraes said. "We got to run in a little bit of traffic, but we'd probably like to run in a bit more tomorrow. When we were running toward the end, when the car was good, there was nobody else on the track. In terms of the actual balance of the car, we're kind of getting there in that window. So that's good news. We just need to get a little bit more traffic under our belt in the next day or two and see where we stand."
Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe was second-fastest overall at 222.406mph, ahead of his teammate, pole winner Helio Castroneves, Target Ganassi’s Scott Dixon, and Andretti Green’s Tony Kanaan, who also put in some laps in teammate Danica Patrick’s racecar before lapping faster in his own T-car.
Rahal Letterman Racing’s Oriol Servia, appearing on track for the first time this month in the team’s No. 17 Dallara, was fastest of the yet-to-qualify cars at 221.353, good for seventh overall. Townsend Bell, also making his Indy debut today in KV Racing’s No. 8, was next up in this group at 220.938mph. At the opposite end, rookie Nelson Philippe managed only a 205mph lap in HVM’s rebuilt No. 00.
“I’m just really uncomfortable with the car. I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Philippe admitted. “I think when the guys put the car back together – I think something is wrong. They already checked it out, but it feels like something is wrong. And if there is nothing wrong, then I guess I need to get my (act) together.
“It’s just really frustrating. It’s very hard. It’s the first time in my life and in my racing career that I asked can I please get out of the car. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day. The steering wheel is very light. It feels like I have power steering, which is really bad, because I don’t know what the car is doing. And when I actually do feel the car, it’s pointing too much, so the rear is getting loose. My fastest lap was 205, and I’m just scared to go faster than that.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Vision teammate Ed Carpenter shared RHR’s 21T backup car, as the team sought the already-qualified Carpenter’s opinion of its struggling 21 car. Vision reported that Carpenter affirmed Hunter-Reay’s concerns about the car after posting a best lap of 217.785 in No. 21T, 1.5mph off his best lap of the day with his own No. 20. (Hunter-Reay set a best of 218.894.)
Practice continues tomorrow. The final 11 places on the 33-car grid will be available in Saturday’s qualifying session, with Sunday’s Bump Day then providing opportunity for faster cars to bump out slower qualifiers. Currently, Davey Hamilton – the only one of Dreyer & Reinbold’s four entries to have completed a qualifying run – is the slowest qualifier at 221.956mph.
Thursday's practice speeds:
1. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 222.739
2. (6T) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 222.406
3. (3T) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 222.395
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 222.374
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 221.890
6. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 221.516
7. (17) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 221.353
8. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 221.311
9. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 221.202
10. (8) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 220.938
11. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 220.450
12. (18T) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 220.389
13. (2T) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 220.389
14. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 220.245
15. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 220.242
16. (13) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 220.085
17. (12T) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 219.742
18. (99) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 219.651
19. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 219.417
20. (21T) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 219.287
21. (34T) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 218.986
22. (24) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 218.977
23. (67) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 218.967
24. (21T) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 218.894
25. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 218.721
26. (06T) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 218.428
27. (98) Stanton Barrett, Dallara-Honda, 218.098
28. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 217.936
29. (91) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Honda, 217.007
30. (00) Nelson Philippe, Dallara-Honda, 205.718