Hinchcliffe Fastest On Day 4
Sunshine, a modest breeze and the warmest practice day by almost 20 degrees – conditions conducive to race-trim running – produced a busy and productive six-hour session May 14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In fact, 34 driver/car combinations recorded a month-high 2,226 laps without incident on the 2.5-mile oval in preparation for the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Groups, including the Andretti Autosport quintet, entertained late-afternoon spectators with conga lines down the backstretch and overtaking at the Yard of Bricks.
“It’s starting to get interesting out there,” noted Oriol Servia, driver of the No. 22 Mecum Auctions Panther DRR car who was ninth on the lap speed chart at 222.093 mph (40.5236 seconds) covering 59 laps. “The track was very hot -- up to 130 degrees at some points. It makes things a lot more difficult, but that’s how race conditions are going to be. Third day of running for us and we have excellent notes. I’m very happy with where we are.”
James Hinchcliffe posted the top lap speed of day 4 at 224.210 mph (40.1410 seconds), but accomplished it in Marco Andretti’s No. 25 RC Cola car as the Andretti Autosport teammates compared notes. Hinchcliffe, a two-time race winner this season, logged 26 laps in No. 25 entry, while Andretti recorded 22 laps in Hinchcliffe’s No. 27 GoDaddy.com car.
"Marco's pretty upset with the fact I got the fastest lap in his car," Hinchcliffe joked.
Still, Andretti, back in his own Chevrolet-powered car, was third-quick overall (223.570 mph). A day earlier, he posted the top speed of on-track activity (225.100 mph).
JR Hildebrand was second in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car (223.652) – the second consecutive day he’s been in the top five under divergent weather/track conditions. Also I the top five again was three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves, who had a best lap of 223.556 mph in the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske car. Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was fifth (223.332) in the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport.
“Finishing near the top yesterday and today shows we hopefully have the consistency that it takes to win the race in the end,” Castroneves said.
Most full-season entrants have met or soon will surpass the 2,000-mile threshold and switch to new Chevrolet or Honda 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6 engines. With a similar weather forecast for May 15, additional race simulations will be mixed with pit stop sims and shaking down new engines to prepare for Pole Day qualifications May 18.
“I completed 134 laps -- enough to get the engine swapped,” said E.J. Viso, driving the No. 5 Team Venezuela/PDVSA/CITGO car. “We did a couple of long runs with the rest of the Andretti Autosport guys and we are still finding new answers every time we go on a run together. Today was a little bit hotter than the other days, and the weather predictions say that Race Day is going to be even a bit hotter than today. So I think the running that we did today was pretty productive to gather some data.”
Engine mileage has accrued since the Open Test in mid-March at Barber Motorsports Park and has included four road/street course races (practice, qualifying, race) and for some teams private/manufacturer testing.
“Everything went to plan,” said Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “Our focus today was just to mileage this (Honda) engine out and move on. We’re focused on (May 15) now to see what we get. We’re going to shake down the new car with a new engine in it. It might be a whole different beast. The car will be all new and I’m excited about it.”