After rain washed out the second day of practice on Tuesday, the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series ventured back onto the hallowed 2.5-mile oval in preparation for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil with Ryan Hunter-Reay keeping Andretti Autosport atop the timesheet for the second consecutive practice session.
- RESULTS: 2016 Indianapolis 500 Practice 3
With some of the more experienced Indianapolis 500 drivers ending the session further down on the leaderboard than expected, including 13th-fastest Juan Pablo Montoya and 17th-fastest Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay felt optimistic about his chances for a better outcome in 2016 over last year’s 15th-place finish.
“Coming off the year we had here last year where I couldn’t get the car to do anything I needed it to, it’s nice to have the 28 DHL Honda up towards the front, especially here at Indy,” Hunter-Reay said. “This is what we wait for all year, to get back on track here, start working with the car, feel the energy of the biggest race in the world.”
The first full day of practice following Monday’s split schedule between the Rookie Orientation Program and Practice 1 saw all 33 cars make it on track during the six-hour session that ran from noon-6 p.m. EDT.
Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, ran his fastest lap early with the speed of 228.202 mph untouched for the remainder of the day as teams focused on running in larger packs to simulate the effects of driving in traffic during the race.
“We’re working through things, working through setup, some qualifying stuff, some race stuff, just getting in the mix, getting in traffic and it’s been a fun day, a challenging one at times,” said Hunter-Reay. “When that wind switches around, it certainly throws you for a loop. Compared to (Monday), it’s been a big change. But I was pretty happy with the car there at the end.”
Andretti Autosport fell short of locking out the top four speeds as it did on Monday, but teammate Carlos Munoz was able to turn the second-fastest lap with a speed of 228.066 mph.
Team Penske’s Will Power had the third-fastest lap but cautioned that his speed of 227.733 mph wasn’t indicative of what might be seen in qualifying due to the boost gained from trailing other cars on track.
“The tow is worth about six miles an hour, so it’s not really representative,” Power said. “It’s just a matter of finding good traffic and understanding your car and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. I think the cars are a little slower this year, for sure, and the Hondas look strong, very strong.”
Rounding out the top five were Josef Newgarden in the No. 21 Chevrolet-powered entry of Ed Carpenter Racing and 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves in the No. 19 Honda of Dale Coyne Racing.
“We had about 30 minutes of running on Monday, so today was our first full day and we got through a lot of changes, got through all our program, did some traffic running and, like I say, I’m pretty pleased,” said Chaves. “I haven’t had any uncomfortable situations out there today, so I’m honestly just very, very pleased with the way the day has been going.”
Charlie Kimball finished just outside the top five, turning the sixth-fastest lap of the session in the No. 42 Tresiba Chevrolet and was the best-performing Chip Ganassi Racing driver.
After running the fourth-fastest lap in Monday’s practice, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi was again the quickest rookie, ending the day 15th on the timesheet.
Practice 3 was halted for several yellow-flag periods with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Spencer Pigot the first driver experience an accident in the run-up to the 2016 Indianapolis 500.
Pigot, driving the No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowac Honda, lost control and spun in Turn 1, making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier. He was checked, cleared and released from the care center but his Dallara IR-12 chassis was not as fortunate after the heavy left-side impact.
“The car was feeling pretty good, I think we’d been making improvements,” Pigot said. “We’d just done our quickest lap I think the run before, so everything was feeling good.
“After we looked at the data, we found that the right front tire went down followed immediately by the right rear, so I must have run over something that cut the tires and caused the spin.”
The team immediately began preparing a new car for Pigot and hopes to run an installation lap as early as Thursday afternoon. Prior to the incident, Pigot ran 34 laps with his best the 25th-fastest of the session.
The 33-car field will practice Thursday and Friday from noon-6 p.m. in preparation for qualifying on May 21 and 22 that will set the grid for the Indianapolis 500, airing on ABC at 11 a.m. on May 29.