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Indy 500: Hinchcliffe Tops Clean Initial Practice

The first practice session for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was held for six and a half hours on Wednesday.


For many, it was their first day back on track at all this season in an Indy car. For some, like reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud, it was just another casual day at work.

Hinchcliffe Speeds to the Top of the Board

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe was the fastest car out of the 32 that took time during Wednesday’s opening day festivities. Hinchcliffe, who has moved to a partial-season role at Andretti Autosport, set a 224.526MPH lap around the 2.5-mile beast at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Hinchcliffe’s lap was set at the tail end of a five-car draft during Wednesday’s session.

Wednesday’s action started with a two-hour practice for veterans only from 11am to 1pm. 2008 Indy 500 Champion Scott Dixon led the session with a 224.047MPH lap. Dixon was never able to top the opening session lap and ended the day in third with that lap.

Following the veteran-only session, the Rookie Orientation Process (ROP) with “refreshers”, any driver who has not competed in an IndyCar race so far this year, took the track from 1pm through 3pm. Ed Carpenter Racing’s rookie driver of Rinus VeeKay was fastest with a 221.318MPH lap. VeeKay was able to beat that lap later in the day.

From 3pm through 5:30pm, any car was able to return to the track.

Andretti’s Quick at Indy, but Finds Issues

Marco Andretti ended the day in second place on the charts with a posted lap of 224.345MPH. Despite having the speed Andretti proved in his U.S. Concrete Honda, the day started off on the wrong foot for the third-generation driver. Andretti’s car lost power as he entered the pit lane during Wednesday’s veteran session at just 55 minutes into the day. The same issue appeared to happen to Graham Rahal as he left his pit box later on. Both cars utilize Honda power.

Nearly the entire paddock was facing cooling hose problems, often distracting a driver as they turned into a corner at over 230MPH. Santino Ferrucci and James Davison both had their cooling hose outside of the cockpit at points Wednesday.

The day’s only caution flags were for Andretti’s stalled car and routine track inspection periods. No cars in the paddock found themselves in the wall on opening day, making a nice and clean start for their bid at the 104th Indy 500. The lone exception was Charlie Kimball who briefly brushed the outside wall in the short chute entering turn two in the final 15 minutes of the day. His A.J. Foyt Enterprises No. 14 appeared to have no major damage as a result.

Kellett Struggles to Get Up to Speed

The main attention in the A.J. Foyt Enterprises camp was towards rookie Dalton Kellett, fresh out of the Indy Lights campaign one season ago. Kellett had failed to pass his rookie orientation during the two-hour ROP session. Tony Kanaan, driver of Foyt’s No. 14 Chevrolet, offered to help Kellett and take the wheel of the No. 41 Chevrolet for a brief stint to shake down the car. Kanaan ran six laps in Kellett’s Chevy and only set a 218.306MPH lap. Kellett took the car back over and passed ROP.

Pagenaud, who dominated the Indy 500 on his way to winning one season ago, appeared to be as comfortable as ever on Wednesday. Throughout Wednesday’s session, NBC Sports cameras kept finding Pagenaud in traffic passing cars and pulling over to do all over it again. Despite the speedy appearance in traffic, the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet only managed a 12th-place result on the charts with a 222.849MPH-averaged lap.

DragonSpeed Stays in the Indy Paddock

DragonSpeed USA’s No. 81 car of Ben Hanley spent the entire day in the paddock, working on the car. Hanley told NBC Sports that the team would rather waste a day making the car perfect than destroying with a parts failure at speeds near 230MPH. The DragonSpeed team failed to get out on track prior to the 5:30pm conclusion of the session, but Race Control opted to allow the team a private ROP session.

In the past, IndyCar has allowed teams who did not complete ROP to come back early the following morning to conclude their test on a closed circuit. Wednesday, IndyCar offered DragonSpeed the opportunity to take track time from 5:30pm through 6:05pm. The Elton Julian-led team took the track time, however, according to the Timing and Scoring feature on IndyCar’s website, the No. 81 Chevrolet only lapped Indy at a speed of 196.264MPH, nearly 30MPH off-pace.

Wednesday also marked the first official time the aeroscreen was used on the full 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Results from Indy

Pos.: Driver (No.) Team – Best MPH Average

1. James Hinchliffe (29) Andretti Autosport – 224.526MPH

2. Marco Andretti (98) Andretti Herta Autosport – 224.345MPH

3. Scott Dixon (9) PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing – 224.047MPH

4. Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) Andretti Autosport – 223.341MPH

5. Fernando Alonso (66) Arrow McLaren SP – 223.238MPH

6: Josef Newgarden (1) Team Penske – 223.188MPH

7: Jack Harvey (60) Meyer Shank Racing – 223.178MPH

8: Alex Palou [R](55) Dale Coyne w/ Team Goh – 223.128MPH

9: Conor Daly (47) Ed Carpenter Racing – 223.020MPH

10: Helio Castroneves (3) Team Penske – 222.929MPH

11: Tony Kanaan (14) A.J. Foyt Enterprises – 222.873MPH

12: Simon Pagenaud (22) Team Penske – 222.849MPH

13: Takuma Sato (30) Rahal Letterman Lanigan – 222.551MPH

14: Felix Rosenqvist (10) NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing – 222.541MPH

15: Charlie Kimball (4) A.J. Foyt Enterprises – 222.438MPH

16: Rinus VeeKay [R](21) Ed Carpenter Racing – 222.061MPH

17: Sage Karam (24) Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – 222.031MPH

18: Alexander Rossi (27) Andretti Autosport – 221.952MPH

19: Santino Ferrucci (18) Dale Coyne w/ Vasser-Sullivan – 221.905MPH

20: Ed Carpenter (20) Ed Carpenter Racing – 221.813MPH

21: James Davison (51) Dale Coyne w/ Ware, Byrd & Belardi – 221.709MPH

22: Colton Herta (88) Andretti Steinbrenner Harding – 221.699MPH

23: Will Power (12) Team Penske – 221.634MPH

24: Marcus Ericsson (8) Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing – 221.588MPH

25: Graham Rahal (15) Rahal Letterman Lanigan – 221.498MPH

26: Spencer Pigot (45) RLL w/ Citrone-Buhl Autosport – 221.492MPH

27: Zach Veach (26) Andretti Autosport – 221.359MPH

28: Pato O’Ward [R](5) Arrow McLaren SP – 221.341MPH

29: Max Chilton (59) Carlin – 221.147MPH

30: Dalton Kellett [R](41) A.J. Foyt Enterprises – 220.825MPH

31: Oliver Askew [R](7) Arrow McLaren SP – 220.130MPH

32: J.R. Hildebrand (67) Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – 219.859MPH

33: Tony Kanaan (41) A.J. Foyt Enterprises – 218.306MPH

34: Ben Hanley (81) DragonSpeed USA – No Official Speed

Below are the official results from Wednesday’s practice session at Indy:

Official INDYCAR Report (PDF)

Since being 15 years old, Adam Coon has been apart of the NASCAR Media scene and has been covering racing content online since 2016. At 18 years old today, he now covers the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and IndyCar Series for The Podium Finish.

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