Pagenaud Fastest in Practice; Vautier to Qualify for Davison …

Posted: May 15, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Leigh Spargur 1

Simon Pagenaud has watched his teammates since he joined Team Penske at the beginning of the season, but the frenchman stole the spotlight in the fifth practice session heading up into the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race.

Driving the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, Pagenaud logged the best of nearly 2,000 laps turned on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval, at 228.793 mph. Carlos Munoz, who eclipsed 230 mph in practice Wednesday, was second fastest today in the No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda, at 228.126.

“Today was a really good day for the Avaya car,” Pagenaud said. “We’ve been focusing on understanding what the car does in qualifying runs. Very happy to see the preparation from Penske and how fast the 22 car is. So far, so good.”

Pagenaud is teamed with a pair of Indianapolis 500 winners – Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya – and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power in the Penske armada. Montoya and Power have each won a race this season, while Castroneves has won two Verizon P1 Awards for taking the pole position.

“We’re happy but we can be happier,” Pagenaud said. “At the end of the day we did some pack running and once again we’re very happy so far. What’s difficult is it’s really cold right now, so you get more downforce because the air is so thick. We know it’s going to be warmer in the race, that’s what makes it tricky. You’re trying to understand what the car’s going to do in the race. It’s definitely going to be warmer.”

Following Pagenaud and Munoz on the speed chart were Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Sage Karam (227.683), Scott Dixon (227.634) and Tony Kanaan (227.527). Friday marks the final day of practice prior to two days of qualifications that will set the lineup for the 500-mile race on May 24.

The lone incident of the day came in the last of the six-hour practice session. Josef Newgarden was uninjured when his No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet spun and hit the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 1 in nearly the same spot where Castroneves’ car hit a day earlier. Newgarden’s car slid on its top before coming to rest in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2.

“I got around pretty quick in Turn 1; it definitely surprised me,” Newgarden said. “I knew it happened when it did, so I’m just lucky that everything’s good. The Dallara tub held up pretty well. I just want to get back to my guys and see what the damage is. I’m sure it’s bad but we’ll see what we can do going forward. It was a hard bit, (but) I feel fine.”

Chris Jones SDSAndretti Autosport driver Simona de Silvestro returned to practice today, two days after her No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda sustained heavy damage from a fire sparked by a fuel leak. De Silvestro was uninjured in the on-track incident and the team rebuilt the car at its Indianapolis shop. “Today we ran mostly in traffic … we learned a lot,” de Silvestro said. “I have a little bit of work to do, and I’m looking forward to going back out there tomorrow and working on it.”

Meanwhile, Pippa Mann spent the day recuperating and watching her No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda being repaired after a crash Wednesday that saw her car hit three different walls. She hopes to be back on track Friday afternoon to log important laps prior to qualifying this weekend.

MWY_3145“I can’t overstate how horrible I feel for these guys,” Mann said of her hard-at-work crew, “but at the same time, unfortunately it is a part of racing. … It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’re going to work hard. That’s the biggest thing, the amount of work it’s created for these guys.”

Tristan Vautier will drive the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in Indianapolis 500 qualifications this weekend in place of James Davison, who will be competing in a sports car race in Canada. Davison, who finished 16th in his first “500” start a year ago, is expected back in the car for the final two practice sessions, on Monday and May 22, before the race on May 24.

Vautier, meanwhile, is scheduled to compete in the Blancpain Endurance GT Series event on the same day as the “500.”

“It is an interesting tradeoff,” said Vautier, the 2011 Pro Mazda and 2012 Indy Lights champion who earned Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “Obviously, we’re not going to get out there trying to break records but work toward the qualifying. It’s an interesting task to be in an Indy car and qualifying it for another driver, but I’m approaching it like I would any other race.”

Vautier completed his refresher program on the 2.5-mile oval today and logged 93 laps with a top speed of 225.406. Davison recorded the fourth-fastest lap (228.043 mph) in practice Wednesday before departing for Canada.

“It all came together last minute, but we have been talking about it for quite a while: that if James’ deal would come through I would qualify the car,” Vautier said. “So, yeah, it was not really a surprise for me but more of a long wait to see that everything was confirmed. But it’s really cool. I was happy to get back in an Indy car – it’s been a year and a half now. The first two or three laps were kind of weird, but it came back pretty quickly, so really cool. It was cool to have Simon (Pagenaud, his former teammate) on the track with me for quite a while. It reminded me of the Schmidt (Peterson Motorsports) days, so it was fun.

IMS to Honor World War II Vets at Race

In observance of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, 11 WWII veterans will be honored before the national anthem at the Indianapolis 500. Among those honored will be U.S. Army Air Corps Capt. Jerry Yellin, 91, of Fairfield, Iowa, who flew the final combat mission of the war on Aug. 14, 1945, the day the war ended.

The veterans recently took a trip to Washington, D.C., on an Indy Honor Flight, a program that offers free-round trip travel to veterans so they may visit the memorials in our nation’s capital that stand in their honor.

MWY_3143The No. 91 Wynn Iowa Vision Research Chevrolet driven by 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier became the 34th entry to take to the track this week. Larry Curry is team manager for the Lazier Racing Partners entry, with David Cripps the engineer. … All entries will receive an additional 10 kPa of engine turbocharger boost beginning in practice Friday, which should equate to approximately 40 additional horsepower. The engine boost bump will continue through qualifying weekend, with the original limit of 130 kPa reinstated for next week’s final two practice sessions and the race. … INDYCAR announced that the chassis centerline wickers, added to all cars prior to the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9, are optional for the Indianapolis 500.

INDY indycar-results-p4 5-14

Photos courtesy of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Images created by Leigh Spargur, Chris Jones and Mike Young

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