Dale Coyne’s team an underdog to watch Sunday at Indy

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If Honda can find the race pace and fuel mileage gains similar to what propelled it to victory in last year’s Indianapolis 500, there’s a number of its teams that could pull off a surprise.

When you think Honda, you immediately think of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The other teams in Honda’s stable include two other Ganassi cars, Bryan Herta’s Barracuda Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and Sam Schmidt’s three-car team (Schmidt Peterson, Schmidt Hamilton, and Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey).

Dale Coyne’s team probably doesn’t jump out at you on that list as a possible win contender. But it should.

Justin Wilson has found his footing on ovals in the last couple years, with a solid seventh place finish in two of the last three Indianapolis 500s, and of course, his win at Texas Motor Speedway last June. He can corral a car limited on downforce with the best of them.

Come this year, Wilson put in the second fastest qualifying effort for a Honda (14th on the grid), and seems to have the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America/Sonny’s BBQ entry close on race trim downforce levels.

“We were not quite where we want to be just yet with the car in race trim, but we’ll have another chance on Friday to keep working on it,” Wilson said in a release. “We had a strong car late in the race last year and that’s the objective this week, to have a good balance so we can be competitive when it counts on Sunday.”

Teammates Ana Beatriz (No. 18 Ipiranga) and Pippa Mann (No. 63 Cyclops Gear) – and you’ll hear more from them later this week on MotorSportsTalk – are each in the tenth row of the grid after qualifying on Bump Day. This year marks Beatriz’s fourth 500 start and Mann’s second.

Mann described the nature of life in the hot seat during qualifying weekend in her latest diary for RACER Magazine. A sample of how focused a driver has to be during this period comes during the traditional post-qualifying picture after a driver’s first run.

“When you know the first run was not what you were looking for, cracking a smile for the cameras that actually looks genuine is much more of a tall order than you would think!” she wrote. “Your brain is already back with your engineer, wanting to analyze the data the moment the car is out of post qualifying tech, and find out what was going on.”

Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan fastest in Monday’s practice for Indy 500

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In the second-to-last practice session of the week, Sage Karam paced the 33 drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 on Monday.

Karam had a field-best speed of 226.461 mph, followed by Tony Kanan (225.123 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.820), Charlie Kimball (224.582) and Alexander Rossi (224.507).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Will Power (224.445), Helio Castroneves (224.368), Marco Andretti (224.148) and rookie Zachary Claman Demelo (224.91) and Scott Dixon (223.966).

Power and Castroneves ran the most laps of all drivers at 120 and 118, respectively.

Two other Team Penske drivers struggled to get speed out of their cars. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was 28th-fastest (221.982 mph) and Simon Pagenaud, who was the slowest (220.902 mph) of the 33 cars on-track.

Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th-fastest with a best speed of 223.573 mph in a 100-lap effort.

Most drivers were in race trim or were testing things for Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing such as fuel mileage, chassis setup and more.

Rookie Matheus Leist missed most of the session with an apparent electrical problem that kept him to just 19 laps.

There was one incident of note during the 3 ½ hour session: IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens crashed coming out of Turn 2 during the first hour of practice.

Wickens appeared to skim the outside SAFER Barrier, went left and then violently turned hard back into the outside retaining wall.

MORE: Wickens wrecks during Indy 500 practice

The Honda-powered machine for the Canadian driver suffered heavy damage to the right side, particularly the right front tire and the right side of the front end.

There will be no further on-track activity for the Indy cars until Friday’s final practice to fine tune things for Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

We’ll have the full practice speed chart, as well as What Drivers Said, shortly. Please check back soon.

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