Andretti Cars Top Day 2 Of Indy Practice
INDIANAPOLIS – And here comes the “Andretti Armada.”
Ever since the Indianapolis Motor Speedway went to one week of practice and one weekend of qualifications after the 2009 Indianapolis 500, teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series have flip-flopped what they do in practice.
The early days of the week are when teams worked on Race Day setup by running lots of laps on full fuel tanks in an effort to formulate and fine-tune the car for the day it matters the most in the Indianapolis 500. It’s not until later in the week that teams start to trim out the car and put on the speed setup for this weekend’s qualifications.
That is why there were 2,286 laps run on Monday with 30 cars on track. During the final hour of practice, known as “Happy Hour,” all five Andretti Autosport cars were on the track running lap after lap to gain information that will be valuable for Race Day.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest of the Andretti cars with a lap at 225.025 miles per hour in a Dallara/Honda. Teammate Marco Andretti was second with a fast lap at 224.037 mph. Another Andretti driver, Carlos Munoz, was sixth at 223.172 mph with 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch the fourth-fastest AA driver with a ninth-quick speed of 223.119 mph. E.J. Viso was the fifth Andretti driver in the top 10 with a lap of 222.695 mph.
Hunter-Reay pounded around the track for 113 laps but that wasn’t even close to Tony Kanaan’s 131 laps on Monday.
“We got a lot of work done today, a lot for what we need for the race weekend,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s nice leading practice. It’s a nice little consolation prize. I wish it paid. I was out there pushing like it was paying. It was fun with my teammates.
“That’s the great thing about Andretti Autosport, we have five quick cars and we can all run together.
“We were just getting a feel for downforce levels and race (simulation), really, race simulation running. It was fun, we got through a lot of work today and it’s only Monday.”
Kanaan’s session-leading lap total was more than 300 miles.
“We definitely put a full day in today with the Target car – well over 100 laps around Indy,” said the defending Indianapolis 500 winner. “The No. 10 team is working really hard. Lots and lots of running out there. Today is only the first day of testing the primary car for the race, so we went through a laundry list of items we’ve been wanting to run. Overall it was a good day of learning for us.”
Teammate Scott Dixon ran 125 laps and Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya was the fifth fastest of the day at 223.395 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet when he ran 117 laps.
“Today was the first true day of practice for us,” Dixon said. “It was great to get out there and run for a while today. We tried a number of things we’ve been working on, both in the offseason and in preparation for this first oval of the year. It’s pretty cool having the silver Target cars here in May to celebrate 25 years of partnership with such a fantastic company.”
Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was third fastest at 223.635 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet and Justin Wilson was fourth at 223.611 mph in a Dallara/Honda.
It is pretty much pointless to run speed laps in the early days of action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, because IndyCar officials allow additional boost to jack up the speeds beginning with Fast Friday and lasting through this weekend’s new qualification format. So these are the days when teams “chase the track conditions” to get an understanding of how their cars work with the varying weather in Central Indiana.
“I feel that the weather is the biggest contribution here,” said Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “It sounds like tomorrow and Wednesday and even Thursday are possible rains. That’s why you want to take a chance with the hot weather conditions for the race plus when you put the turbo number, we’re going to put more pressure on turbo so the speeds going to go up and we’re still going to go with that kind of scenario so right now I’m very happy with our car.
“It’s not only pretty, it’s looking good. Pretty good. Like I said, we’re not looking for the times because if you like that way, it’s always a reference. It’s a little bit different. I think everybody is getting draft so that they understand what their car is doing in traffic. But at this point, the name of the game is the same for everyone. We’re just trying to put some mileage, especially on the engine and go for it.”
Marco Andretti has also been sticking to the team’s game-plan this week and that has him confident about being a contender in the 98th Indianapolis 500.
“We got to get going a little bit today,” Andretti said. “We only did like a shakedown run and a pretty conservative (engine) map yesterday. Things are feeling pretty good, but as Ryan (Hunter-Reay) said it’s still very early days. We could have a fantastic car tomorrow, roll that same car and it’s totally different, so we’re prepared for that. Hopefully we can just keep up with the track and make the right moves at the right time.”
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard returned to the Speedway Monday after he was injured by debris from an accident that occurred at the start of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday.
“I’m here today and anytime they want me to come out and wave the green flag I’ll be happy do it, and I’ll be out here again tomorrow, so I’ll be out here a large part of the week,” Ballard said. “You always feel like you kind of win the lottery when you come through the gates here.”