Penske Opens Strong At Brickyard

Marlboro Team Penske wasted no time making a good first impression Monday in opening practice for the 90th Indianapolis 500.

Helio Castroneves’ first lap at speed was 223.004 mph, and was passed at the top of the charts moments later by teammate Sam Hornish Jr., who ran 223.414 mph. With both drivers running their backup cars, the two traded the point for about 30 minutes, with Hornish on top (224.811 mph) followed by Castroneves (224.106 mph).

When practice ended early because of rain at 4:43 p.m., the Penske teammate remained 1-2, despite running only a total of 20 laps in the backup cars. Later in the afternoon, the team switched their Honda engines to their main cars, and the pair ran a total of 35 additional laps. Hornish ran 223.717 mph, fifth fastest overall, followed by Castroneves, 223.388 mph, sixth fastest.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing also came out with both barrels loaded. Defending Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was third at 223.916 mph, followed by teammate Scott Dixon, 223.797 mph. The pair ran a total of 49 laps.

Track time will be at a premium this year. Each entrant is allotted one engine for practice and both qualifying weekends, with a maximum of 1,200 miles, for both the primary and spare car. Honda provides each qualified driver a new engine for Carburetion Day. That engine must be used in both the Indianapolis 500 and the following weekend’s Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix.

Tomas Scheckter was seventh on the charts Tuesday, and fifth-fastest driver, with a lap of 223.183 mph in the Vision Racing entry. Rounding out the top 10 drivers were Buddy Rice (222.762), Scott Sharp (222.752), rookie Townsend Bell (222.545), Bryan Herta (222.414) and Ed Carpenter (222.365).

All but five of the 24 drivers practicing ran faster than 220 mph. In addition to Castroneves, Rice and Wheldon, other former winners practicing included Eddie Cheever (221.470), Buddy Lazier (218.161) and Al Unser Jr. (218.133). Others included Tony Kanaan (221.986), Marco Andretti (221.939), Dario Franchitti (221.831), Michael Andretti (220.710) and Danica Patrick (220.302).

On opening day, competitors ran a total of 989 laps, with the only incident coming when Franchitti lightly tapped the wall between turns one and two early in the session. Cheever ran the most laps, 86.

While teams also have noon-6 p.m. sessions scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, opening day took on additional importance with the forecast of rain during the remaining practice days. Qualifying for the top 11 positions will be held Saturday from noon – 6 p.m., with positions 12-22 set on Sunday. The remainder of the 33-car field will be set Saturday, May 20, followed by Bump Day, Sunday, May 21. The 90th Indianapolis 500 takes the green flag at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 28.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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