Only 21 drivers elected to turn laps during Wednesday’s six hours of practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 due to windy conditions, with team owner and driver Ed Carpenter ending the day as the fastest driver.
- RESULTS: 2017 Indianapolis 500 Practice 3
Wind gusts reached 40 mph at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the third full day of preparations for the 101st edition of the race, limiting on-track action.
After 1,306 total laps were turned by 32 drivers during Practice 1 on Monday and Tuesday’s running saw 2,404 laps be completed, the 21 drivers that ventured out onto the 2.5-mile superspeedway on Wednesday turned a combined 408 laps.
Carpenter turned 52 of those 408 laps, with his best speed of 222.894 mph ensuring the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ended the day atop the speed chart.
“The wind was definitely the theme of the day,” Carpenter said.
“We just stuck to our program today, minus the race sim part. We got some good test items in earlier in the day and got used to the wind, got the car balanced in the wind and then we tried a trim step to feel the car in these conditions should qualifying or race day be similar in terms of weather.
“I wish we could have had a race sim with traffic, but hopefully we’ll get it done tomorrow, despite a similar forecast. I can’t imagine most guys will take two days off.”
With a Chevrolet powering the fastest car for the second consecutive day, Scott Dixon ensured Honda was represented at the top by turning the second-fastest lap.
“We tried to get through some big-ticket items and we weren’t real happy with the car (on Tuesday) across the board with all four cars,” said Dixon, whose 222.599 mph lap was 0.0536 seconds off Carpenter’s pace.
“We’ve been struggling. We had some ideas we needed to try and today felt a lot better.”
JR Hildebrand ended the day with the third-fastest time to make it two Ed Carpenter Racing entries in the top three.
“I felt pretty good about the amount of work we were able to get done today,” said Hildebrand, who completed only two more laps than his boss to become the day’s busiest driver.
“When we got going initially, we felt it was a little suspect how good of a read we could get on changes since the wind is blowing hard. I’m encouraged by our ability to go out and feel changes despite gusty winds. It was nice to go out there with not too many other people and just run through our own program.”
The top 19 drivers on the Practice 1 speed chart from Monday were all faster than Carpenter’s time on Wednesday. The top 10 times from Tuesday’s running, meanwhile, came in at higher speeds than Carpenter reached during his session-topping lap, which came as the day’s final hour began and was not aided by a tow.
Alonso Jumps Up Speed Chart on Day 3
Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, vying to make his Indianapolis 500 debut with Andretti Autosport, ended Wednesday in the fourth position.
The impact of the wind on Wednesday’s running allowed Alonso and his No. 29 Honda to improve from 19th on Monday and 24th on Tuesday despite the Spanish driver turning his slowest lap of the week at 219.533 mph.
“It was tricky (so there was) very little running for the big guys,” Alonso said. “But for me any condition is a good lesson.
“Today was about that, a lesson about how to drive with strong winds and how to set up the car corner to corner. Everything was according to plan. The team, I think, used those runs also to test something on the back, the engine, for tuning and something like that, so I think it was a productive day as well.”
Conor Daly completed the top five behind Alonso, with Max Chilton, Carlos Munoz, Zach Veach, Charlie Kimball and Jay Howard comprising the remainder of the top 10.
Marco Andretti retains the week’s fastest lap entering the penultimate day of practice in advance of qualifying this weekend. Andretti’s 226.338 mph lap from Monday is one of only two laps in the 39-second range thus far this week.
Practice will continue on Thursday with a fourth six-hour practice session scheduled to run from noon to 6 p.m. EDT.