Marco Andretti Fastest On Day 3
Conor Daly passed the three-phase Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program. Pippa Mann passed a refresher program. Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves surpassed 225 mph.
On the busiest day of practice yet for the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500, 32 driver/car combinations co-mingled on the 2.5-mile oval during the six-hour session under sun and temperatures hovering in the low 60s.
It was a grand day to get down to business for some teams and drivers, and for others to get started on their race preparations. The latter included the Dale Coyne Racing entries for Mann, Justin Wilson and Ana Beatriz, Townsend Bell in the second Panther Racing car and Daly in the second A.J. Foyt Racing entry.
Andretti, driving the No. 25 RC Cola car for Andretti Autosport, posted the quickest lap of the month at 225.100 mph (39.9823 seconds). Castroneves was .0043 of a second behind in the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske car.
Eight cars had lap speeds in excess of 223 mph (quick lap of May 12), and the top 26 were separated by a second. In total, 1,733 laps were turned without incident.
“It helps when you can simulate a mini-race, so we had that luxury and we’ve been taking full advantage of it,” Andretti said. “(Last year) was the first year for me that pole was in reach, so I got too fascinated with just how fast would the car go instead of getting the proper car underneath you for the race.
“Everybody’s like, ‘Last year you were really strong in the race,’ and this and that, but the car was a handful in the race and obviously it bit me there in the end. So we knew we needed to make some gains and we have so far, but obviously we know how Indy goes. It’s early.”
Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.386 mph) was third, 2012 championship runner-up Will Power (223.784) was fourth and JR Hildebrand (223.624) was fifth. Series points leader Takuma Sato was sixth (223.363).
“We’ve been trying some changes – some work, some don’t – and that’s all part of testing," said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL car. "Had another opportunity to run with the teammates and it’s really good to see all of Andretti Autosport working together that way."
The warmest day of the month is forecast or May 14, which will entice another busy day of on-track activity (noon-6 p.m. ET).
Daly, the fourth first-year Indianapolis 500 driver to complete the formal ROP, was duly impressed with the Honda-powered No. 41 ABC Supply Co. car, racetrack and speed.
"That's what living the dream feels like. It was really cool," said Daly, 21, of Noblesville, Ind. "First of all, I haven't been on an oval in three years. The first run was kind of difficult to get familiar with it because the car turns in really, really well. Once I got rid of that first run, we were able to get on it.”
The Rookie Orientation Program is designed to provide first-year Indianapolis 500 drivers an opportunity to get acquainted with the racetrack. The three speed phases, set by INDYCAR based on the weather and track conditions, include 10 laps at 200-205 mph, 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210 mph-plus.
INDYCAR driver stewards Arie Luyendyk and Johnny Unser also monitor car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern. AJ Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier and Carlos Munoz completed the program May 11 and were cleared to join in practice and qualifications.
Daly's GP3 race commitments in Barcelona, Spain, where he finished third and fifth, prevented his attendance on Opening Day. Still, he'll get ample track time before Pole Day qualifying May 18. Race Day is May 26.