The No. 5 Honda of Verizon IndyCar Series veteran James Hinchcliffe stole the spotlight in Tuesday’s Rookie Orientation Program and veteran refresher testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Robert Wickens set the day’s fastest lap in the car.
Gearbox issues for the No. 6 car restricted Wickens from turning any more than 15 laps in his own car during the first session, which was set aside for rookies and ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT.
Instead, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports prepared Hinchcliffe’s machine for Wickens, who earned his eligibility to participate in this month’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 in the closing minutes of the three-hour Rookie Orientation Program session.
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Young drivers Matheus Leist and Kyle Kaiser had no trouble meeting the Rookie Orientation Program requirements and completed 71 and 74 laps, respectively. At 219.470 mph, Kaiser’s best lap in Juncos Racing’s No. 32 Chevrolet was 0.1122 seconds slower than the best speed from Leist, who enters his first Indianapolis 500 as the reigning Freedom 100 victor in Indy Lights.
As the lone Honda driver among the three rookies, Wickens topped the trio, gapping Leist by a mere 0.0072 seconds with his chart-topping 220.111 mph lap. Due to the gearbox interruption, Wickens completed only 52 laps, the fewest of the group.
Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Honda returned for Tuesday’s second and final session, which took place from 2–5 p.m. and was dedicated to experienced drivers making a return to the Indy 500.
Jay Howard, driving the No. 5, turned in a 219.648 mph lap on his 34th of 61 total trips around the famed superspeedway to place himself above Sage Karam and Danica Patrick on the timesheet.
Karam, beginning preparations for his fifth straight “500,” was 0.1693 seconds slower than Howard on his best lap. Patrick was 0.2153 seconds off Howard’s pace as she struggled to find comfort at the wheel of the No. 13 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet during her first laps at Indianapolis in seven years.
Despite their rookie status, both Wickens and Leist went faster than Howard, a two-time Indy 500 starter, on Tuesday. Wickens’ speed, however, was 6.07 mph slower than the lap Tony Kanaan set to make himself the fastest driver during Monday’s open test.
Pietro Fittipaldi, a fourth rookie, did not participate in Tuesday’s testing and must complete his Rookie Orientation Program with Dale Coyne Racing at a later date.
Twelve drivers will participate in manufacturer testing for Chevrolet and Honda on Wednesday at IMS before the series turns its attention to the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Speedway’s road course, set for May 11–12.