By Dave Lewandowski
Published: May 4, 2015
Verizon IndyCar Series crews returned May 4 to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to begin preparations for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, which included swapping the base Chevrolet and Honda aerodynamic bodywork platforms from the superspeedway specification to the road/street course and short oval package.
A day earlier, 28 driver/car combinations entertained the Opening Day crowd with multiple sessions of speed on the 2.5-mile oval in the public debut of the aero kits.
On May 7, the public is invited for a free practice day as 25 entries test the aerodynamic bodywork options on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
“This is a pretty cool road course and the race last year was pretty amazing,” Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya said. “With the long straights and the draft, it’s pretty exciting and it should bring really good racing.”
Montoya, who 15 years ago won the Indianapolis 500, was fastest of Opening Day on the 2.5-mile oval at 226.772 mph (39.6874 seconds) in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Helio Castroneves was second at 226.468 mph.
Last year, another Team Penske driver, Will Power, posted the fastest lap at 223.057 mph on Opening Day, when 731 total laps were turned. On May 3, 1,845 laps were recorded by 28 driver/car combinations.
“The weather conditions throughout the day were consistent enough that once you start running you could keep running and weren’t chasing too much of the track change,” INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker said. “Teams took advantage of that, and the number of laps is an indicator of two things: Teams have a new complete kit and want to find out what it’s all about so they keep trying things. Usually they spread that out over the first week up to qualifying, but to have done that much the first day shows the aero kits was quite stable and they were learning a lot.
“Also, people don’t usually run together. They may run with a team car, but in the afternoon they were overtaking and winging around in bunches. It was a good start.”
Crews will have less than 48 hours to switch back to the superspeedway configuration following the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. A 3-7 p.m. (ET) session for all cars on the oval is scheduled May 11, with noon-6 p.m. practice scheduled May 12-15.
“The first day with the new Honda oval aero kits – our first time at IMS with the new aero kits – was a learning day,” said Andretti Autosport sophomore driver Carlos Munoz, who wound up 11th on the speed chart with a best lap of 224.867 mph (40.0237 seconds). “I feel really good with the car, and I think we had a fast car all day. Here in Indy, it comes down to whoever has the best tow, the least amount of aero. It’s only the first day; we still have a lot of testing to go, but it feels pretty good.”
Qualifications for the 33 starting positions are May 16-17. Ed Carpenter, co-owner/driver of CFH Racing, earned the Verizon P1 Award the past two years with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph in 2013 and 231.067 mph in 2014 in the Fast Nine Shootout.
Walker sees a potential uptick in the four-lap average speed.
“Given that we gave them areas of the car to try to improve performance, I think under the right conditions it will percolate maybe 3-4 mph faster,” he said. “It will be interesting to see who hits the high numbers first.”