INDIANAPOLIS — 32 car and driver combinations will take to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for a two-day test session. This is all in preparation for next month’s 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). Unfortunately, while we were hoping to witness tons of laps turned by these 32 Dallara’s, we witnessed a race between the track dryers which saw more than 4 hours worth of track drying activity on a rather wet day in the Circle City.
That may not have come to a shock to some that were following the weather forecast this week for today. While Thursday’s forecast for the opening day of action looked bleak throughout much of the week, somehow the track and surrounding areas evaded much of the morning showers. It rained briefly, but not enough to dampen the start of the session.
The green flag dropped on time at 11 a.m. ET sharp for the 21 of the 32 drivers that were eligible for the opening two hours of on track activity. The other 11 drivers had to complete the rookie orientation or veteran refresher programs from 1-3 p.m. ET. before joining them later on in the day. Unfortunately, the first session ended prematurely due to rain falling on the track at 12:30 p.m. ET and consequentially brought an early end to the first session. That was the only track time for these drivers on Thursday with them being able to hit the track again on Friday.
In the 90 minutes of track allotted activity, we saw a crash at 11:11 a.m. ET for second year driver Rinus VeeKay. He lost control of his No. 21 Chevrolet in Turn 1 and made heavy contact with the outside SAFER barrier.
VeeKay, was checked and cleared to return to his car from the infield care center, but he did suffer a broken bone in his finger as a result of the crash.
That, plus a track inspection after the first hour completed allowed 1-hour, 5-minutes and 15-seconds of green flag activity overall.
VeeKay’s Ed Carpenter Racing teammates paced the way among that group with Conor Daly (222.814 mph) being P1 and Ed Carpenter (221.296 mph) in second.
Defending series champion Scott Dixon (220.575 mph) was third in his No. 9 Honda while the Arrow McLaren SP duo of Felix Rosenqvist (220.360 mph) and Pato O’Ward (220.233 mph) rounded out the top five.
Most runs in that session were single car runs, but we did get some action in terms of traffic a bit later which helped aid in some of the top speeds.
Colton Herta (219.846 mph) was quickest on the no tow report with his Andretti Autosport teammate of Alexander Rossi (219.640 mph) coming in second. Will Power (219.635 mph) was third on the no tow but ninth on the overall speed chart.
The track officials were able to get most of the 2.5-miles of racing surface as well as pit lane dried before it rained again just past 3 p.m. locally. That forced the series to cancel the all skate session for later in the day but then turn the focus on the rookies and the veteran refresher program.
Both rookies (Pietro Fittipaldi/Cody Ware) completed their first two phases. They’ll need to complete the final phase on Friday morning.
The veterans of the group had five Indy 500 wins, five series championships as well as five Indy 500 poles.
Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest time of the day at 224.427 mph as he also completed both of the veteran phases. So did Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones and Dalton Kellett.
Sage Karam, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simona de Silvestro and Max Chilton join the two rookies who need to complete the final phase.
Friday’s forecast is for much better conditions with temperatures in the low to mid 70’s and no rain. They’ll get in as much as they can on Friday since Saturday looks to be rain for much of the day. With the season opener at Barber next weekend, they’re not going to want to push this test much further, which means Friday will be it.
The session will start an hour earlier (9 am) and last two hours longer (6 pm) than initially scheduled.