INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, May 14, 2014) – A few days after winning the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Simon Pagenaud caught everyone’s attention on the 2.5-mile oval Wednesday with the fastest lap of the month during practice for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Pagenaud, driving the No. 77 Lucas Oil-sponsored car for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, recorded a lap of 226.122 mph in the session limited to 56 late-afternoon minutes because of rain and clean-up of the first on-track incident of the month – a crash by rookie Jack Hawksworth.
Pagenaud was clearly pleased with the team’s progress saying: “It feels really good. The car is really nice. I’m very, very happy so far. Obviously the conditions are very good for a fast lap. The density of the air is a lot stronger so you can run in a little less wind for the same amount of downforce as yesterday and that creates lap time and obviously the engines work better with a stronger density in the air. That’s why you see big laps today. It’s always enjoyable to get close to 230. Hopefully we can break that in qualifying. That would be great, but the car is fantastic. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is really, really doing a great job this month. Our Honda engine seems to be very competitive. So, so far so good. I think the balance of the car is really good in traffic. Third year in Indianapolis is a big change compared to the first two years. I feel a lot more comfortable. I have a better vision of what I need for the race. So yea, I really enjoy it and am having a great time.”
The incident involving Hawksworth occurred when his car did a half spin and made hard contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3. The car came to rest in the grass between Turns 3 & 4 and had moderate damage to the left-side. He climbed from the car without assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team and was subsequently checked, released and cleared to drive by the infield medical center. Hawksworth, who was behind the wheel of the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink Honda later commented: “I have no idea what happened to be honest. We just went into [Turn] 3 and it just snapped, so we’ll have to look into it. I don’t know if it’s – honestly, I wouldn’t want to comment just yet because I have no idea. Suddenly it just snapped.”
JR Hildebrand, runner-up as a rookie in the 2011 Indianapolis 500, posted the second-fastest lap (225.854 mph) in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Preferred Freezer car, while reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and ’08 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was third (225.494) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.
Practice, scheduled May 15 from noon-6 p.m. (ET), will be preceded by James Davison starting the three-phase Rookie Orientation Program in the No. 33 KV Racing Technology/Always Evolving Racing entry.
Anticipating a rainy day in Indianapolis, Kurt Busch departed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and went to Charlotte today for preparations with Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch, who will attempt to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on May 25, will return to Indianapolis for practice Thursday and Friday before qualifying his No. 26 Suretone Verizon IndyCar Series car on Saturday morning. Saturday evening, Busch will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR All-Star Race before returning to Indy on Sunday for more qualifying and practice.
Verizon IndyCar Series teams focused on long fuel runs for the 200-lap race May 25 with twenty-nine driver/car combinations totaling 1,044 laps, with nine topping 225 mph.
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Data & Photos Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar