INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, May 15, 2014) – Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves topped the fifth day of preparations for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race with a lap 227.166 mph (39.6186 seconds), the fastest of the month.
“The weather dropped a lot today, but right now the car is handling really well,” Castroneves expressed following his run. “Certainly the draft counts a lot here and I feel very confident in the Pennzoil No. 3 machine, so right now we will keep going and keep working. Right now the conditions are really, really good. It has cooled down, which means that it is good for the tires, it’s good for the engine, and downforce as well, so we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. They are calling for rain, but right now we are looking quite happy.”
Thirty-three drivers, including the debut this month of first-year participant James Davison and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier, logged 2,516 laps. James Hinchcliffe, who was diagnosed with a concussion resulting from an incident during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10, was cleared by INDYCAR to resume driving. The No. 27 United Fiber & Data car underwent a mid-afternoon engine change, which limited Hinchcliffe to one installation lap late in the session.
Four different teams were represented in the top five as drivers and teams began ramping up for “Fast Friday,” when lap speeds are expected to climb as engine boost levels are increased for all competitors.
Ed Carpenter, the 2013 Indy 500 polesitter, was second (226.257 mph) in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car, while Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader Will Power was third (225.899 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. Davison’s KV Racing Technology teammate, Townsend Bell, was fourth (225.484) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (225.340) was fifth in the No. 28 DHL car for Andretti Autosport.
“It’s really been fun working with JR (Hildebrand) and we make a little progress every day and it’s a lot of fun,” said Carpenter after Thursday’s practice. “Helio (Castroneves) nipped us in the end, but it was a good day at the Speedway. It was nice to get a little running in finally and have some more track time available especially since tomorrow kind of doesn’t look so great again. I’m definitely happy that James (Hinchcliffe) is going to back out there with us as well. It’s awesome.”
Castroneves’ bright yellow No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske car is one of many that has or will receive fresh Chevrolet or Honda engines for May 17-18 qualifications, which will be televised by ABC. The race is May 25. Full-season Verizon IndyCar Series entries are allotted four 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engines to cover the 18-race season, with a threshold of 2,500 miles between changes.
Davison, who competed in two Verizon IndyCar Series races last year, completed two of the three phases of the formal Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program in the No. 33 KV Racing Technology entry. Lazier, driving the No. 91 Lazier Partners Racing car, registered 11 laps (best of 218.277 mph.)
“I can go to bed resting easier knowing we got through our first day at IMS smoothly and completed ROP,” Davison said. “We now know what to expect, any anxiety has dried up and I am excited to continue working on our program. I am pleased with my first laps in an Indy car at IMS. We got up to speed conservatively. In the end, we trimmed the car one stage and I was happy with the balance.
“In terms of speed, we know where we’re at since we didn’t run in traffic or with a tow. The No. 33 KV Racing Technology/Always Evolving Racing team had a good day and we will build on it tomorrow.”