The Racing Capital
of the World
May 14, 2012 | By Dave Lewandowski
Yes, Josef Newgarden’s field-best lap of 40.4519 seconds (222.486 mph) on Day 3 of practice at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was compliments of a tow.
Yes, the new Dallara car is stable when running in the draft – more so than the previous iteration.
Yes, passing will be plentiful during the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
Those testimonies are directly from IZOD IndyCar Series drivers.
On a day of race simulations and aerodynamic tows on the low-banked oval, 29 drivers recorded 1,199 incident-free laps, Americans held the top three spots on the time chart, 24 drivers were within 1 second of Newgarden’s time, and the weather forecast for the remainder of the week leading to Pole Day (May 19) is unusually positive for May in Indiana.
Other news out of the six-hour session included the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car of Graham Rahal having an engine issue late in the day and Jean Alesi completing the third and final speed phase of the Rookie Orientation Program in the No. 64 Lotus-FP Journe-Fan Force United car.
Newgarden, driving the Honda-powered No. 67 Dollar General car for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, has led the parade two of the three practice days and holds the top lap speed of the month.
“Everyone seemed to be working race set-ups at the end of the day or drafting runs, and that’s where we got our big speed,” said Newgarden, an IZOD IndyCar Series rookie who won the Firestone Freedom 100 on the racetrack last May. “Aside from that, we have a good handle on the car and I hope that holds up. You don’t really know where everyone’s at this early, but I believe we have a little bit more to show.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay (221.639 mph) and Marco Andretti (221.519) followed, leading the five-car Andretti Autosport contingent that had all of its cars within a half-second (and four in the top 10 of the speed chart). They hooked up for a race sim late in the afternoon.
“When we went out to do our race simulation runs, there’s a lot of tagalongs,” said Andretti, who has three top-five finishes in six Indy 500 starts. “We have enough cars to simulate a race with five of us. People see what we’re doing and they want to work on their race cars and that’s when the big times go up.”
The effect will be prevalent in the 200-lap race.
“This year (passing) might be a bit better because these cars really tow up,” Andretti continued. “This car seems a lot more lenient on the back end. On the other car, sometimes even when you’re turning into Turn 1 something’s telling you to back off. This one you can really drive it in and stay flat close to people, too. I think it’s going to be a good race.”
JR Hildebrand, who was sixth (220.677) in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car, backed up Andretti’s observation.
"To be honest I was skeptical of how the car would feel running in traffic, but we were all pleasantly surprised,” the 2011 race runner-up as a rookie said. “It was nice to hook up with the other Chevrolet boys at Andretti Autosport and get a feel for the National Guard car behind multiple cars. It’s always a big advantage when you can start off the week with the car feeling nice so you can work on tweaking things instead of having to make wholesale changes.”
Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, was fourth quick (221.499) and Sebastian Saavedra, who topped times May 13, was fifth (220.785).