Team Penske had both ends of practice covered Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Simon Pagenaud paced the early session and Helio Castroneves had quick time in the afternoon.
In the first day of hot laps for the 102nd Indianapolis 500, 34 of the 35 entries posted speeds as the new aero kits made their official super speedway debut and a flock of drivers took turns drafting each other in the final 60 minutes.
But even with all the traffic in Happy Hour, Pagenaud still managed the fastest lap of 225.787mph in his Menard’s Chevy during the first run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Castroneves came back to post 224.665mph in his Verizon Chevy during the second session.
“It was a productive day and I’m pretty confident already,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar champion whose 2018 season has started off rough as he stands 12th in the point standings. “We have a really good baseline and its a lot more simple this year without all the winglets and stuff.
“Today we worked on aerodynamics and tomorrow will be more mechanical.”
Asked about his 42-year-old teammate getting off to such a quick start, Pagenaud replied: “He’s (Castroneves) the Speed King, that’s his nickname on the team. So it’s no surprise.”
Two-time Indy polesitter Ed Carpenter also had a good opening day as he clocked the third best lap of 224.523mph in his Fuzzy’s Chevy and also posted the best non-tow lap of 221.500mph.
Jay Howard, making his lone start of 2018, opened some eyes with a lap of 224.518mph in One Cure Honda for SPM Racing.
Four-time IndyCar champ and 2008 Indy victor Scott Dixon was fifth fastest at 224.353mph in the PNC Honda and Marco Andretti, in the US Concrete Honda, was also over 224 mph.
Zachary Claman De Melo, who was announced Tuesday morning to replace Pietro Fittipaldi on Dale Coyne’s team, passed his rookie test and then ran 221.089mph.
Oriol Servia, James Davison and Stefan Wilson also passed their refresher test.