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Pagenaud Leads Busy Opening Day of Practice for 102nd Indianapolis 500

Rush hour started early for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Simon Pagenaud led a busy Opening Day of practice Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, turning a top lap of 225.787 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet on the 2.5-mile oval.

“The 22 Menards car is looking really, really fast,” Pagenaud said. “It was a very productive day. So, yeah, felt pretty happy. We obviously still learning a lot about the aerodynamics of the car. It's quite different to what we had the past few years. There's still a lot to learn for everybody, I believe. But we're on the right track.”

It was the first full day of oval practice for the new-look Verizon IndyCar Series car, which features sleek bodywork that has reduced downforce and puts more emphasis on driving skill.

The day was divided into veteran practice for the first two hours, Rookie Orientation and refresher tests for two hours in the early afternoon, followed by open practice in the late afternoon. Drivers combined to turn 2,261 laps (5,652.5 miles), as packs of cars marched around the track in heavy traffic during the final 70 minutes after a 47-minute delay due to storms in the area.

Pagenaud’s teammate, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, was fastest in the afternoon open session and second overall at 224.665 in the No. 3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The Bowtie Brigade swept the top three spots overall, as two-time “500” pole winner Ed Carpenter was third at 224.523 in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Jay Howard was the fastest Honda-powered driver, fourth overall at 224.518 in the No. 7 One Cure SPM Honda. Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon rounded out the top five at 224.353 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

INDYCAR Grand Prix winner Will Power shifted gears to the oval and was 19th overall at 222.839 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Danica Patrick was 20th overall at 222.728 in the No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet as she began preparations for her final “500” and race of her ground-breaking career.

“I felt pretty good,” Patrick said. “I'm still not completely confident in traffic. They're trying to encourage me to use my tools and the bars, the weight jacker and things. I need to feel the traffic first. Like before we create another variable as to what's going on, I need to familiarize myself and get sharp again with the traffic and just the tendencies of the car.

“I felt like it was a really solid day. I feel like the car has a lot of good natural speed in it. It was very smooth. We tried a handful of things and found some stuff that worked.”

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo completed a big day in his career. He was named this morning to drive the No. 19 Paysafe Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, replacing the injured Pietro Fittipaldi. Claman De Melo then passed his Rookie Orientation Program, topping out at 221.089.

Veterans James Davison, Oriol Servia and Stefan Wilson passed their refresher tests.

Practice resumes for all drivers from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday. Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend is set for Saturday and Sunday, with Bump Day on Saturday and Pole Day on Sunday.

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