Without the added boost that will come on Fast Friday in anticipation of a weekend of qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first day of practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 saw top speeds in the mid-220s with Marco Andretti going fastest overall.
Assisted by a tow, Andretti laid down his 226.338 mph lap on the 36th of 47 turned by the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda.
“We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup-item boxes today, the changes that take longer,” Andretti said. “That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers.
“We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week with the UFD car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car.
“Obviously, the team ran good here last year. And the car felt good when I tested for Fernando (Alonso) and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”
Scott Dixon ended the four-hour session, which officially began at 2 p.m. EDT following two hours dedicated to rookie orientation and refresher tests, with the second-fastest tow-assisted lap at 225.296 mph.
Ed Carpenter completed Practice 1 with a lap good enough for third on the speed chart. The speed, 224.969 mph, also made the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing machine the fastest Chevrolet-powered car.
Sebastien Bourdais, in his Dale Coyne Racing debut on the 2.5-mile oval, set the fourth-fastest speed of the day in the No. 18 Honda. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fifth fastest in the No. 28, the second Andretti car in the top five and the fourth Honda.
Cars powered by Honda dominated the top 10 in the opening practice for the Indianapolis 500, outnumbering Chevrolet-powered entries 8-2.
Three drivers — Jay Howard, Oriol Servia and Sebastian Saavedra — completed their refresher tests. Ed Jones, a full-season driver for Dale Coyne Racing, completed all three phases of the Rookie Orientation Program.
At the conclusion of practice, 32 drivers had turned laps with only Buddy Lazier and the No. 49 Chevrolet missing. A total of 1,306 laps were turned with Jones the busiest of all with 94 laps. There were 12 cautions for just over 59 minutes of yellow-flag time, mostly for debris and track inspections.
Kanaan Fastest on No-Tow Speed Chart
While tow-assisted laps are common in practice and in the race, qualifying depends on no-tow speed.
Tony Kanaan, seventh fastest overall, turned the fastest no-tow speed of the day in his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. At 223.554 mph, the lap was a full mile per hour faster than teammate Dixon who placed second on the no-tow leaderboard.
Alexander Rossi, Charlie Kimball and Servia completed the top five no-tow speeds.
Notably, the 10 fastest no-tow speeds all belonged to Honda-powered cars, demonstrating the Japanese manufacturer’s early advantage with preparations for the 500-mile race just getting started.
Harvey Endures Rough First Day
Rookie Verizon IndyCar Series driver Jack Harvey’s day seemed flawed from the start.
“It’s been a pretty challenging day for what was meant to be an easy process,” said Harvey.
Harvey managed to complete Phase 1 of the series-mandated Rookie Orientation Program in the No. 50 Honda — entered by Andretti Autosport in conjunction with Michael Shank Racing — during the two-hour window at the beginning of the day.
Two hours into practice for the full field, Harvey brought out the session’s first and only yellow flag for contact when he made light contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2, sending him into a half-spin exiting the corner.
He was able to climb out of the car without assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team.
“I was coming out of the pits,” Harvey explained. “I wasn’t even going fast — I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre.
“We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that happened. It was so random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”
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Besides Harvey’s crash, the only other caution brought out by a car was for Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda, which caused a yellow flag at 5:22 p.m. when it slowed on track with smoke emanating from the rear, indicating an engine failure.
“We had a good and bad day,” said Rahal.
“I think the Steak ‘n Shake car has a lot of pace and is fast. Obviously, to lose an engine is frustrating but I know the Honda guys are pushing these things as hard as they can.”
Alonso Completes First ‘500’ Practice
Fernando Alonso, fresh off a Formula One Grand Prix in Spain, joined his Andretti Autosport teammates for his first official day of Indy 500 practice.
Alonso turned 20 laps behind the wheel of the No. 29 Honda, attaining a fastest speed of 223.025 mph.
The lap, his 15th, placed him 19th on the Practice 1 speed chart.
“It was a good day,” said Alonso at a post-practice press conference.
“I was a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, as it was much hotter today than at the test we did here on May 3.
“The car felt as good as it did at the test, and I was able to make some setup changes without losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth.”
The Spanish driver noted that suspension issues later in the day kept him from completing his program as planned, including dealing with traffic on the superspeedway.
“We did not do much running in traffic, so that’s still the thing that I need to go through in the next couple of days,” he continued. “But I did two or three laps behind some cars that were going out of pit lane, and it was good fun.”
Alonso and the rest of the hopeful starters will be back on track for Practice 2 beginning at noon on Tuesday with live streaming and timing and scoring available at INDYCAR Race Control.