It was a gorgeous day for going fast Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it was also an expensive one.
For the second straight session, Team Penske topped the speed chart as Josef Newgarden led the way with a lap of 228.856 mph in the Shell Chevrolet, and Alexander Rossi was fastest with no tow at 224.648 mph in the Andretti Autosport Honda.
But the stories of the day were the big accidents by Fernando Alonso and Felix Rosenqvist.
Alonso became the first driver to hit the wall when he got high Turn 3, pancaked the SAFER barrier, then slid backwards into the infield wall and slithered back across the track where he slapped the outside fence in Turn 4. The two-time world champion escaped injury, but his McLaren Chevy was extensively damaged.
“It was understeer on the car, and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough, and I lost completely the front aero,” said Alonso, who will go to his backup car tomorrow, and is also expected to change engines. “The wall came too close and too quickly. Unfortunately it happened today. We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and hopefully we will come back stronger tomorrow.
“I’m disappointed and sad for the team and for the guys. We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake. We will learn from this and hopefully tomorrow we’re back on track and back stronger.”
Alonso’s accident came just past 12:30 p.m., and just after Happy Hour began, Rosenqvist ran into trouble negotiating Turn 2. He slammed into the outside SAFER barrier, then shot across the track and plowed into the recently-installed SAFER cushion. Will Power and Jack Harvey were following closely behind and both missed the spinning rookie – Power by just inches.
“I was behind Colton (Herta) and just trying to run the car in traffic, and I just felt a very sudden change of having a bit of push, and it went very loose very fast,” said Rosenqvist. “I couldn’t react to it. Luckily my team has built a really, really good car, a really safe car. I’m completely fine. I just have to really analyze what happened there.
“I’m not sure if I was down on the curb. It kind of looks like I could have been up a little bit, and that probably explains it. I cannot really remember. A shame, but that’s how it is.”
His Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was badly damaged, so he’ll also be a backup car Thursday when practice re-opens.
Power turned a lap of 229 mph on Tuesday and dismissed it as no big deal. Ditto for his teammate.
“It means absolutely nothing,” said Newgarden, the 2017 IndyCar champion who leads the standings after five races. “Just a number that doesn’t mean anything — I do think we have a pretty good race car, but it still needs some work.”
Scott Dixon has the second-best lap in traffic of 228.855 mph in the PNC Bank Honda and Spencer Pigot, was also over 228 mph in ECR’s Chevy.
Rossi only ran 46 laps before putting his NAPA Honda in the barn, and he seemed pretty happy.
“There seems to be an inherent pace in the car, so that’s good,” said the 2016 Indy winner, “We accomplished everything we wanted to today, but I’m not really sure what all of this means.”
For the second straight day, Tony Kanaan was quick all by himself, running 224.630 mph in the ABC Supply Chevy, and Ed Jones backed up his non-tow speed on Wednesday with a lap of 224.227 mph in the ECR/Scuderia Corsa Chevy.