Marco Andretti paces opening day of Indy 500 festivities

Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Preparing for his 12th attempt at Indy glory, Marco Andretti led the way in the opening day of practice for the upcoming 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.

On a hot, slick May afternoon, Andretti laid down a 226.338-mph. circuit around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in tow to set quick time for the day in his No. 27 Honda. The Pennsylvanian was pleased with the performance after the session came to a close.

“We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup item boxes today, the changes that take longer,” Andretti said. “That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers. You know, that’s all you can ask for. We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week with the UFD car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car.

“Obviously, the team ran good here last year. And the car felt good when I tested for Fernando and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”

Scott Dixon ended the day second on the charts, with Ed Carpenter following in third to lead the way for Chevrolet. Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top five, with Graham Rahal, Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Mikhail Aleshin and Takuma Sato rounding out the top 10.

Kanaan held the honor of fastest lap without tow, setting a speed of 223.554 mph. in his No. 10 Honda.

In all, 32 of the 33 teams entered made laps in opening day. Honda owned the day, claiming eight of the top 10 positions on speed.

The day saw practice split into two separate segments – a two-hour Rookie Orientation Program/ veteran refresher from 12-2 p.m. ET, followed by a four-hour session for the full field from 2-6 p.m. ET.

Fernando Alonso paced the opening segment in his second Verizon IndyCar Series drive, just one day removed from a 12th-place finish in Sunday’s Formula One Spanish Grand Prix. The Spaniard went on to complete an additional 20 laps in the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti machine before the end of the final session.

Meanwhile, fellow rookie Jack Harvey ran into early issues, crashing off of Turn 2 in the No. 50 Honda fielded by Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport.

“It’s been a pretty challenging day for what was meant to be an easy process,” Harvey said. “We had some issues this morning, but we had managed to work through them. To have that happen, and I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight. I was coming out of the pits. I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre. We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that happened. It was so random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”

While Alonso was quickest, only Ed Jones completed all phases of rookie orientation. Jay Howard, Sebastian Saavedra and Oriol Servia successfully completed the veteran refresher.

The final hour of the session also saw issues for Rahal, who blew a motor during what was slated to be one of his final runs of the day.

“We had a good and bad day,” Rahal said. “I think the Steak ‘n Shake car has a lot of pace and is fast. Obviously, to lose an engine is frustrating but I know the Honda guys are pushing these things as hard as they can. I would have liked to be a little better but we are struggling a little bit in traffic but its early, and we can’t panic. She’s in one piece. We are going to change the engine and fire it up tomorrow.”

The IndyCar paddock will return on Tuesday for another six-hour practice session from 12-6 p.m. ET.

Practice Results, via INDYCAR

Rookie Orientation/Veteran Refresher Results, via INDYCAR


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