The weather finally broke and we had a gorgeous day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a mix of sun and clouds and temperatures in the high 60s. Best of all, no rain in sight!
Lots of action on the track for the first day of practice, with the field combining for over 2,500 laps. Here are five things.
Speed. We certainly had lots of it today, as speeds were higher than on Day 1 last year, and by 6 p.m. three cars had posted faster times than Ed Carpenter’s pole speed of last year at 229.618 mph. Carpenter was one of them, clocking the third-best time at 228.653, while Team Penske teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud topped the charts with laps of 229.745 and 229.703, respectively. A total of nine cars topped 228 mph on the day.
The tow. As in years past, there was a significant difference between speeds in a tow and speeds when the cars were running alone. For example, Power’s no-tow speed (220.811) was the 30th best overall time of the day. Now, I’m not dropping any conspiracy theories or anything — ahem, ahem — but I observed many of the “larger” teams not always going full song into Turn 1, especially when running alone. Anyway, Penske doesn’t have a non-two speed in the Top 20, and Alexander Rossi is the only Andretti Autosport driver in the Top 10. Overall, Ed Jones has the top no-tow speed at 224.542 and J.R. Hildebrand is second at 223.694.
Traffic. With a universal kit making its debut in 2018, the 102nd running of the Indy 500 wasn’t quite up to par with the racing we had seen in the previous several years. With Firestone bringing a new tire and tweaks made to the aero of the cars, the cars seemed to work better in practice as they could run closer together and there was quite a bit of passing. It’s hard to say exactly where the cars are given everyone is working on different things, but from a hot take standpoint the cars look a bit racier this year.
Rookies. Save for Pato O’Ward, who experienced mechanical issues and still needs to complete his ROP, the full-and-partial season rookies had solid days on their first true test on the oval, with all finishing in the Top 25. Colton Herta, who had a small incident late in the day when he spun on cold tires coming off the Turn 2 warmup lane, had the fifth-fastest time of the day at 228.284, and Santino Ferrucci was 16th. Ben Hanley and Jordan King finished their ROP work and King was able to put in a total 42 laps in practice.
Who impressed. Ed Carpenter Racing put all three of its cars in the Top 11 in both tow and no-tow speeds. They decided to come out of the box fast and got the job done. But hats off to Juncos Racing as well. After losing two sponsors Monday, the team rolled out an all-white car for practice, and driver Kyle Kaiser was 21st quick at 226.002 (tow) and 20th in no tow at 222.002. Kaiser told the media after practice that Juncos is moving forward with their program this month whether or not anything materializes.
Fred Watch Update: Fernando Alonso and McLaren were on-track Tuesday. Alonso was 32nd quick on the day with a lap of 224.162 while turning 50 laps.
Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media