Ryan Hunter-Reay isn’t getting ahead of himself. The Andretti Autosport driver knows it’s only two days into practice for the epic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Some competitors may not have shown all their cards yet, but sitting atop the speed chart today with a lap of 228.202 mph, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion feeling optimistic. Especially after last year, when Hunter-Reay started 16th, ran mid-pack most of the day and finished the race in 15th position.
“Coming off the year we had here last year where I couldn’t get the car to do anything I needed it to, it’s nice to have the 28 DHL Honda up towards the front, especially here at Indy,” Hunter-Reay said. “This is what we wait for all year, to get back on track here, start working with the car, feel the energy of the biggest race in the world.”
All 33 cars made it onto the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval today, making up for a complete rainout Tuesday by completing a total of 2,779 laps – an average of 84 per car. Hunter-Reay clocked his fast circuit early, on the 11th of 94 laps he turned. Much of the late afternoon saw cars running in large packs to get the feel of driving in traffic.
“We’re working through things, working through setup, some qualifying stuff, some race stuff, just getting in the mix, getting in traffic and it’s been a fun day, a challenging one at times,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “When that wind switches around, it certainly throws you for a loop. Compared to (Monday), it’s been a big change. But I was pretty happy with the car there at the end.”
Carlos Munoz, Hunter-Reay’s teammate in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, was second quick on the day at 228.066 mph. Andretti drivers also set the pace on Monday’s opening day of practice, led by Marco Andretti at 228.978.
Will Power was third fastest today in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (227.733), but didn’t give the lap much credence since – like most of the fast ones turned – it came with an aerodynamic tow from cars in front.
“The tow is worth about 6 miles an hour, so it’s not really representative,” Power said. “It’s just a matter of finding good traffic and understanding your car and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. I think the cars are a little slower this year, for sure, and the Hondas look strong, very strong.”
Josef Newgarden was fourth in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing (226.998) and Gabby Chaves fifth in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda (226.889).
“We had about 30 minutes of running on Monday, so today was our first full day and we got through a lot of changes, got through all our program, did some traffic running and, like I say, I’m pretty pleased,” said Chaves, the 2015 Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year who joined the Coyne team just prior to the May 14 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course. “I haven’t had any uncomfortable situations out there today, so I’m honestly just very, very pleased with the way the day has been going.”
The lone incident of the day occurred when rookie Spencer Pigot lost control of his No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowac Honda and spun into the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver was uninjured but his car sustained significant left-side damage.
“The car was feeling pretty good, I think we’d been making improvements,” Pigot said. “We’d just done our quickest lap I think the run before, so everything was feeling good. … After we looked at the data, we found that the right front tire went down followed immediately by the right rear, so I must have run over something that cut the tires and caused the spin.
“It’s obviously a big setback for me, for the team, obviously not what you want to happen on just the second day. We’ll just try to put everything back together and then pick up where we left off.”
Practice continues from noon-6 p.m. ET Thursday and Friday, ahead of qualifying this weekend to set the 33-car field for the historic 100th running. Both practice sessions will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.