By Amy Konrath
INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, May 14, 2012) – Speeds continue to climb as IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and teams took advantage of a third consecutive day of sunny and warm conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rookie Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts for the second time in three days in his No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda. The 21-year-old from Hendersonville, Tenn., recorded a lap of 40.4519 seconds, 222.486 mph, fastest of the month so far as teams used the final hour of practice to work on race setups.
Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay (221.639) and Marco Andretti (221.519) were second and third, respectively, in their Chevrolets with the Honda of 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon (221.499) and Chevrolet of Sebastian Saavedra (220.785) rounding out the top-five.
In all, 29 drivers recorded 1,199 incident-free laps on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Indianapolis 500 practice continues on May 15 from noon – 6 p.m.
DAY 3 NOTEBOOK:
Pleepleus The Monkey, from the HDNet television show “Drinking Made Easy,” was the honorary starter today. A segment for an episode of the show that will air in October is being filmed today at IMS.
Show co-hosts Zane Lamprey and Steve McKenna also are at the Speedway for the segment.
USAC champion Bryan Clauson has been one of the pleasant surprises of the first few days of practice, but the secret to his success may be an early-morning meeting the Indianapolis 500 rookie with three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser on Saturday, May 12 before the track opened to all drivers.
BRYAN CLAUSON: “Uncle Bobby took me out for a couple of Pace Car rides on Saturday. We had to meet at 8 a.m. and he wasn’t too happy about it, but it was the only time we could fit it in. He took me around and showed me some lines and things around this place that he said he had never showed anyone before. I felt pretty honored and he’s a guy that anything you can learn from him, you have to soak it in. I was going to call him after (Saturday), but I wanted to make sure we had the speed again before we called him. I hope he’s proud that we’re having a good month.” (About advice Unser gave Clauson): “One was what he showed me and the second was not to tell anybody. But that’s Uncle Bobby.”
In 2001, Davey Hamilton was the first driver hired by Sam Schmidt for his IndyCar Series team. Now Hamilton is in his first year as co-owner with Schmidt of Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports, which fields the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda driven by Simon Pagenaud in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
SAM SCHMIDT: “It’s been good. We’re both providing good input for the team. Of course, I’ve known him (Davey) for 15 years, so it’s all good. We raced against each other, and we’re not missing a beat now.”
DAVEY HAMILTON: “It’s come a long way. Unfortunately, Sam got hurt and hired me to drive his car. Then I get hurt (at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001). We’ve both been through the hard times in this game, and now we’re trying to enjoy some good times.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Davey and Sam have been really helpful for this place. They’ve been drivers. They know what it takes. They know when I need to do a better job or when we need to get the car a little bit better for me. It’s a good combination.”
Indianapolis micro-brewery, Flat 12 Bierwerks, has teamed up with Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com car, to brew a special beer for the Month of May in honor of the Canadian. Hinchcliffe was a special guest at a Flat 12 pre-race party Saturday, May 12.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Any time you can find a way to be associated with a brewery, that’s a pretty fun way to do things. Being Canadian, beer’s pretty much in my blood, so it was a natural fit. Those guys over at Flat 12 have a huge love of racing and a huge love of the Indy 500, so it made a lot of sense to get together and do something. They kindly offered to actually brew me my own beer for the Month of May. We did a Twitter contest and a Facebook contest to name it, so the ‘Hinchtown Hammer Down Lager’ is for sale at Flat 12 now. They’re going to have it up at their suite here, and there’s a promotion going on Brewstone (Beer Company) up on the north side. It’s a cool thing. There’s definitely some perks to this job.”
Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian has formed a partnership with Gumball 3000 for the 96th Indianapolis 500.
Gumball 3000 is a combination of art, automobiles, music and film to create a unique aspirational lifestyle brand. Headed by Maximillion Cooper, the Gumball 3000 group operates eight companies with offices in Europe and the United States. With a pioneering spirit and an attraction that transcends social barriers, the Gumball 3000 mission is to build a global lifestyle brand of the future.
The Gumball 3000 logo will be prominently displayed on the No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA Honda driven by Alex Tagliani. The Gumballers also will accompany the car out to the grid before the start of the race.
BRYAN HERTA: “Having the Gumballers in the Team Barracuda-BHA garages on Indy 500 race weekend will be phenomenal. The lifestyle brand of Gumball 3000 with the fast cars and star power of the Indianapolis 500 is a winning combination. It should be an exciting weekend for everyone involved.”
A crew member usually sits in a race car and steers when it is towed back and forth from Gasoline Alley to the pits during Indianapolis 500 practice. But rookie Jean Alesi is staying in the No. 64 Lotus-FP Journe-Fan Force United Lotus at all times this month – both on the track and when it is towed back and forth from the garage to the pits.
TED BITTING (Team Manager, Lotus Fan Force United): “We have to have somebody steering the car when it is being towed. Drivers don’t normally do that. In my experience, drivers don’t want to do that. Unfortunately, none of our crew is able to fit in Jean’s seat, so he ends up having to do it. Besides, he needs to break in his seat, so the more time he spends in it, the better. Jean is great to work with and does everything we ask him to do. He has a great attitude.”
JEAN ALESI: “This is what the team has asked me to do, so this is what I am doing. At the same time, I am happy to spend as much time in my seat as possible, so that I can break it in. I am enjoying my time here very much. I am enjoying being able to talk to the fans, to sign autographs and pictures of my race cars from quite a few years ago. Everything here is very much different from what I have experienced, and I am liking it quite a lot. Of course, I have heard about the Indy 500 from many of my friends who have raced here over the years, so being here and finally doing it myself is very exciting. I am finally beginning to understand why they were always so excited. Of course, I want to put on a good show for the Indy fans, so I am attempting to stay 100 percent focused on my task, which is, of course, to make the car go as fast as possible.”
* — Rookie
INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRACTICE QUOTES:
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA Honda): “So far, I’m pretty pleased with the progress we were doing up to the end of the day. Unfortunately, we had a mechanical problem, so we didn’t have the chance to try what we wanted to, but I think we have a pretty good car. So far, so good. This problem is a little setback, and unfortunately we’re not able to run and finish our day with a strong lap.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): “Overall, I felt like it was a good day for us. I think we learned a lot, and we were fighting. We had some things that caused a lot of questions for us, but we found the answers to them. We made a lot of gains, and I think we’re going to be strong the rest of the month. Unfortunately, we lost an engine, but we’ll keep working hard.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet): “Today was the same as yesterday for the Shell Pennzoil car, having a good day. It was the first time we could run it with a race setup, so that was good to see. Another step in the right direction for Team Penske and Chevy.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was good to run in some traffic with the Verizon car today. We had a productive day with being able to see some things we are going to need to do in the race. We will take what we learned today and improve on them for tomorrow.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a busy day for the IZOD Team Penske car. We got some race work with the long runs, which is always helpful. Since it was the first time in some traffic, it will give us lots of information to look at tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “It’s another strong day. We’re stepping through it each time, and we have a lot more to go still. Our good start is continuing to roll forward. So we’re feeling positive.” (About faster speeds today): “I think a lot of people did in the end. It looks like everyone was trying to race runs, and we kind of jumped in, as well. It was a lot of fun. It was good to run out there with the guys, and I think we need to do more of that probably and figure out how the car operates in the draft a little bit. Certainly learned a lot of the way it reacts today, and we just got to keep progressing with and trying to make it even more comfortable during the race. Obviously, that’s the important time. So, yeah, we’re feeling good about it, and everyone’s just creeping up on it right now and the feel.” (About Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team): “The team is good. No issues on the team. It’s Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing; they’ve got a great group. We’ve obviously got a good car; we’ve come out really strong, as well. Really we just need to maintain that. I think it’s a good. It’s definitely a good sign that we started off strong. Hopefully that can continue, and normally when you do start off strong, you can normally hold your form, so we’ve just got to try to make that our case. It’s been great having Dollar General back on with us, have a good-looking race car, and it’s performing well, as well. Really pleased with where we’re at at the moment.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): “I’m somewhat pleased by our pace. We’ve just been working on the race car. Right now, it’s just the overboost penalty that’s our biggest problem. As far as the balance, I think we’re ready to race now. All this extra time will just allow other people to catch up.” (About his fast lap): “My fuel alarm came on, and my crew said, ‘Pit this lap.’ I was like: ‘What? I can’t hear you.’ I knew I was on a good one.” (Were you assisted?): “I would say there’s one person who didn’t have help all day. It’s mostly tows. When we went out to do our race simulation runs, there’s a lot of tag-a-longs. 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.” (About splitting with his father in the pits): “It’s better for the team. Dad and I are very passionate. Our work environment might be a little more hectic for others because we always shouting at each other. We still get the job done, but we’re always shouting at each other. We just wanted to make it nicer. I’m a very animated person on the radio and so is he, and that’s why it didn’t work. I need someone to counter me, and Kyle Moyer is really good. I’ll be flipping out about something, and he’ll say, ’10-4.’ It’s jelling a lot better. Dad was great, and Kyle is great. I’m sure Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and I won’t complain. It’s what’s better for the team.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We just ran through some mechanical options and some damper items today. We had some issues after our first run and then came back to the garage to sort that out. We came out for our last run just after 5p.m. and went through another sequence of mechanical and damper items, and that was it.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther DRR Chevrolet): “Today was a day of trying bigger things. We made different changes in the setup. It’s great because we loved some and we hated some, and that’s what you want to learn in a new car on an oval. At the end, we had a few tows, and that’s why we had a pretty fast lap out there like everybody else, and that’s the game of the Speedway and Happy Hour. I’m genuinely happy with how we finished the day with the car. It was another solid day, and we need to keep doing this every day. If we can just improve a little each day and if we are able to do that with the next couple of days that we have, then we will be in good shape.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We had a late start today. We did about 24 to 25 laps today just getting the Target car not even race ready, but rather finding out what it does and doesn’t like. We worked on setup and what makes it handle well. We went through a list of items and expect things to get quite a bit busier tomorrow.”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 25 Team Ipiranga Chevrolet): “Today was definitely the best day that we have had here so far. We were able to run a lot and make progress with the car. The crew guys and myself are one step closer to understanding the car and working even better together. I am happy with the direction that things are going. I have a great team that I’m able to work with, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Team AFS Chevrolet): “Today was another good day, and we were very productive. Each day, we are getting one step closer to discovering more on the new DW12. At the end of the practice session, we found valuable information that will make the month of May better. I want to thank my AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport team for their hard work and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.”
BRYAN CLAUSON (No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Honda): “It’s a bummer not to do as many laps because we had so much momentum from the past two days. I feel really confident about the car we have, though. We tried some new things today and seemed to pick up a little speed from where we started. Every day is a different goal, and I think today we worked through what we needed to. We ended up learning quite a bit, and I think we’ll be set up well for the rest of the month. It’s tough trying to make sure your mileage all lines up with how much we’re allowed to run. We ran a lot the first two days to get acclimated to the track. Today was an easy day, and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.” (About pit stops): “We’ve been working on getting in and out of the pits because I’ve never done a pit stop in an Indy car. We’ll continue working on it as we get closer to the race. It’s hard to simulate a pit stop until Race Day, but we’ll keep working on it. I’ve done pit stops in stock cars, but this is a little different.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We made some big gains with the car Sunday, and we were pleased with our progress. Today we tried many different things with the car, and it just didn’t work as well as Sunday. With the extra days of practice here at Indy, we do have the opportunity to attempt many different settings. Our engineering staff has mapped out a variety of scenarios with this new car at the Speedway. I felt we went in the wrong direction today. So, luckily, the weather looks good for the remainder of the week, and we can go back with the car similar to Sunday’s setup. We’ll work hard again tonight to get the car in the proper direction for Tuesday’s runs.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): “It was another productive day here for the GoDaddy crew. We made a couple more changes to the car and are just moving along with our list. I’m pretty impressed with all five (Andretti Autosport) teams because we made plans for how we wanted to run our week in practice, and you make a plan every week and nine times out of 10 within 15 minutes you have to deviate, for one reason or another. We’ve been really good about sticking to our plan across all the different programs, and I think it’s reaping good benefits. We had a lot of good clean running today. We didn’t do a lot of traffic running, and the car feels pretty good on our own, so tomorrow we’ll probably run a little more in the pack. Altogether, though, I think we have a pretty strong package.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL SunDrop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): “It was pretty good. We ran on our own most of the day just trying to sort out some pretty big setup changes, and then at the end we ran in a group with our teammates here, and a few others joined in. Everybody is trying to run in groups and get that feel for the car in traffic, and I think we accomplished that today with the DHL Sun Drop car.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 99 BraunAbility-Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Honda): “Last year, I knew the car, so it was only a matter of finding speed. This year, it’s a combination of learning the car and finding speed. We did a short run there at the end with the three Penskes, and I felt very good with what we learned there. We’ll just continue to chip away at it, but overall we’re doing fine. We have lots of little things to work on, but the team has done a great job being prepared for my arrival. It’s kind of like slipping on an old glove from a personality standpoint, which just makes the learning curve all that much easier.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): “This process is interesting, but I’m learning every session. The car is plenty fast, and we actually improved a lot today. I’m really happy with the race car. We’re getting closer to what we need. Right now, it’s just me learning how to shift, when to shift, when to tow, when to draft, when to pass and when to be aggressive and when to be a little more gentle with my hands. Man, there are so many things. Remember, I’ve never been on an oval before. Every single lap is a discovery. I really had fun tonight, running in traffic, running with Justin, running with the Penskes. The car was really dialed in, so it was really enjoyable.”
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply Honda): “Yesterday we did some basic stuff and we stayed at a single downforce level, and it’s clear that everyone else is trimming out and trying to find the limits of their car. We rolled out today with the same downforce, and I thought we ran competitive times for how much downforce we had. We made a few changes, but we were a little late in Happy Hour, so we missed getting a draft near the end. But we got a read on the car with the lighter downforce, which was a positive for the day. We made some changes that we think will be better for the race, but we’re nowhere near the low-downforce, low-drag setup for qualifying. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “We definitely improved the car balance during the day, and we found a little bit of speed overnight, which is encouraging, but we’re still looking for more. It’s still early, and we have some days to find more speed, which is good.”
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (No. 30 Office Depot/RLL Racing Honda): “We didn’t run too much today. We had a little problem with a fuel pump, but we are still going according to schedule; building up speed little by little and working on getting my confidence back. Today was my first day to work with my engineer, Bruno. He was in Laguna Seca for the team’s ALMS race, so we are going through data and we made some little changes today. We have more changes planned for tomorrow, but for now I am quite happy with the way things are going.” (About favorite Indy 500 memories:) “I wasn’t here in 1989 when my uncle Bernard won Rookie of the Year, but I came in 1991, and that was my present for my 15th birthday. I enjoyed it so, so much. For me, the tradition of this race is fantastic. Every time I go through Gasoline Alley people say hello, that they are happy to see me return and everything. I didn’t expect so many people to remember me and be so nice.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “It was another productive day. The conditions were very stable, so we were able to try quite a few aero configurations to scan the data and complete an aero map. We are happy with the result today. I haven’t been using the tow in the last two and a half days, so at the end of our test program we got a little tow to see how the gearing was and how the car felt in that situation. The speed on the timesheet was obviously a little artificial, but I was happy with how the car felt. Tomorrow we will start working on the race setup.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): “To be honest, I was skeptical of how the car would feel running in traffic today, but we were all pleasantly surprised. 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.”
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I was able to run the backup car today, the same one Tony ran on Opening Day, so we could evaluate a few things. We were able to pick up a little bit more speed but not as much as we would have liked. We still need to search for other things, aerodynamically or engine-wise. I have been able to run some laps and learn the track, not worry so much about the speed but being able to get good lines.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO/Mouser Electronics KVRT Chevrolet): “It has been an OK day. We made a few changes and worked through our list we had to do. We were able to run a lot more today with no problems, which I am happy about. It was just another day at the Speedway.”
E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “One more day of testing at Indianapolis, and we accomplished every part of the plan we had for today. More importantly, we are happy with the results. Now we will review all the data we have collected and start putting together the plan for the upcoming days before qualifying. There was a lot of towing and drafting going on today, but that was not something we were looking at doing. We tried to go out on a clear track, which we did, and just followed our program. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s test plan, and step by step we are accomplishing what we need to do to develop the car.”
A total of 35 cars are at the Speedway, with 31 passing technical inspection and six in the process. Thirty-two drivers have been on the track to date and turned 1,199 laps today and 3,030 laps this month. James Jakes turned 76 laps today, most of any driver. There were three cautions for a total of 31 minutes today.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indianapolis 500 Mile on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by ABC at 11a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network at Noon (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network.