Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato was the first driver to enter the Speedway as the opening two-hour practice session for the 105th event got under way Tuesday morning. Amid breaks for light rain, the session reserved for veterans ended with Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate, Graham Rahal, atop the chart with a 223.449mph lap in the No. 15 Honda.
“It’s good,” Rahal said. “We ran on our own and did one lap in traffic and we’re P1. I think that’s a good sign.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon went P2 in the No. 9 Honda (223.420mph), and he was followed by Team Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin in P3 in the No. 3 Chevy (222.836mph), Juan Pablo Montoya in P4 with the No. 86 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy (222781mph), and Ed Jones in P5 with the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda (222.700mph).
It took a while for meaningful action to get rolling. At the 32-minute mark, a yellow flag was shown at start/finish for light rain drops on the course with Marco Andretti on top of the five drivers who posted laps at speed with a 216.580mph. Cars were moving about 15 minutes later as a total of 12 drivers had ventured out to either resume lapping at speed or perform installation laps and pit to have their cars looked over before joining the fray.
Max Chilton was called to the pits at 51 minutes as his helmet’s air hose flew off, wrapped around his rear wing, and unraveled, leaving the No. 59 dragging a long black stream trailing behind the car. Sato moved to P1 at 219.797mph and improved it on the next lap to 220.007mph. Marcus Ericsson was P2 at 219.215mph, and Simona De Silvestro held P3 at 218.484mph as the clock approached the halfway mark in the session.
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Sprinkles returned at the 57-minute mark, bringing another full-field caution. At the time of the yellow, 14 veterans had produced laps over 200mph, with Sage Karam jumping to P2 to split Sato and Ericsson with the help of a tow at 219.489mph.
Crossing the one-hour point, the green was waved with 47 minutes left to go and Helio Castroneves moved straight to P1 at 221.091mph. Pato O’Ward topped it the following lap at 222.181mph and Rahal moved behind Castroneves in P3 with a 220.676mph. Dixon joined the party in P3 with a 221.862mph, and then we had a new top two with Jones at 222.700mph and Santino Ferrucci at 222.204mph.
McLaughlin went to P1 with a 222.836mph with 35 minutes remaining and promptly pitted. Five minutes later, it became a New Zealand 1-2 as Dixon took P1 at 223.420mph. Montoya improved to P3 with a 222.781mph with Jones pushed down to P4, Will Power in P5 at 222.436mph, and Ferrucci in P6.
Rain interceded once more with 15 minutes to go with a new fastest driver in Graham Rahal at 223.449mph, which held until the session’s end. The only veterans who did not turn laps were A.J. Foyt Racing’s Charlie Kimball and Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey, whose team was forced to make an engine change before the session.
Once the weather cleared, a two-hour session for rookie orientation and veteran refreshers was on the docket.