Montoya fastest on opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice

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On May 3, the Verizon IndyCar Series kicked off the month of May action with opening day for the Indianapolis 500. Practice and phases of rookie orientation occurred, along with the premiere of a handful of new liveries.

Releases from both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR are linked below:

IMS RELEASE

On a sunny and warm Opening Day, 27 drivers hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for the first time this year to prepare for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Sunday at IMS also marked the first day for superspeedway aero kits, the bodywork enhancements that allow for easier distinction between manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet and encourage faster speeds. Every race so far in the Verizon IndyCar Series has been on road/street courses, which feature different aero kits.

Faster speeds were the order of the day as 21 drivers, led by 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya, surpassed the fastest Opening Day 2014 lap of 223.057 mph by Team Penske’s Will Power. Montoya, also of Team Penske, hit 226.772 mph (39.6874 seconds) late in the afternoon.

“We struggled a little bit this morning with the balance. We made a few changes, a couple of good things,” said Montoya, driver of the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet. “We’re all trying different things. Each car has its own program so we will be trying to make the car better.”

Montoya ran 95 laps on the day, tied with 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tony Kanaan for the most on Day 1. A total of 1,845 laps were turned on the 2.5-mile oval.

“It’s a new kit. We’re still trying to figure out what to do, every day at the racetrack is a good day,” said Kanaan, who pilots the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet. “We had a smooth day, that’s what counts.”

Rookie Gabby Chaves placed 13th on the Opening Day speed chart with a lap at 224.718 mph in the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda.

“This was a very special day for me to be out there in an Indy car and to work with the new aero kits. The car felt great, very comfortable,” Chaves said. “This is the first time I have gone over 200 miles per hour. It’s very different. When you’re running 30 miles per hour faster than you have ever gone before, everything comes at you a lot quicker.”

Second fastest behind Montoya was three-time “500” champion Helio Castroneves, at 226.468 mph, in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

“We feel great. It’s always awesome to be here,” Castroneves said. “The fans are incredible, just to see everyone (is) already excited. It’s a great opportunity to have an extra day to run with the new aero kit.”

When the drivers return to IMS on Thursday, their cars will be in road course configurations as practice begins for the second annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Admission is free and gates open at 8 a.m.


INDYCAR RELEASE

Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was highlighted by a significant jump in speed in the on-track debut of superspeedway aero kits from Chevrolet and Honda. Twenty-one drivers surpassed last year’s fastest lap of Opening Day as drivers turned more than 1,800 laps in preparation for this month’s 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Click HERE to view and download the practice results of Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

“It’s faster, for sure, no doubt about it. Speeds are going to be up,” 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay said. “The difficult part for teams and drivers is balancing the clouded read you get from a big tow and new tires versus getting a read on the new car.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, who 15 years ago won the Indy 500, recorded the fastest lap at 226.772 mph (39.6874 seconds) on the 2.5-mile oval as 28 driver/car combinations became acclimated to the aero kits and developed a baseline for practice that begins May 11. The fast lap on Opening Day last year was set by Will Power at 223.057 mph.

“(Having the fastest lap) is good for Verizon and for Chevy and for everybody that is paying attention. But I think the time sheet, as always, is irrelevant until you get to the race or until you get to qualifying,” Montoya said.

Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was 0.0533 of a second faster than teammate and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Marco Andretti was third on the speed chart at 226.268 mph and the fastest of the Honda contingent. Scott Dixon, driving a Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, was fourth at 225.881 mph and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske was fifth at 225.641 mph.

Takuma Sato (225.571) was sixth in an AJ Foyt Racing Honda, followed by Simona de Silvestro (225.317) in an Andretti Autosport Honda and two-time defending Indianapolis 500 Verizon P1 Award winner Ed Carpenter (225.257) in a CFH Racing Chevrolet. Hunter-Reay was ninth in an Andretti Autosport Honda (225.208) and Sage Karam, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the 2014 Indy 500, was 10th (224.931) in a Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet.

A rookie orientation test and refresher test for drivers who had not competed in a Verizon IndyCar Series oval race since last May also was part of the on-track activity.

Gabby Chaves of Bryan Herta Autosport completed the three phases of the rookie program that examines car control, placements and a consistent driving pattern at various speed parameters. Stefano Coletti was out of the country and will run through the rookie phases May 11 in a KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.

Overall, 1,845 laps were turned without incident.

A balance between aerodynamic drag reduction and maintaining sufficient downforce is the hallmark of both manufacturer superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork kits. Different approaches were taken by manufacturers to achieve optimal performance in conjunction with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines, and it is reflected in their base platforms.

Both manufacturer packages include a variety of individual aerodynamic components fitted to the Dallara rolling chassis that make them markedly different from the road/street and short oval kit that has been utilized in the first four races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Additionally, multiple options are available to teams to explore during practice for qualifications May 16-17 and the May 24 race.

“We have a laundry list of changes to try and luckily we have time to work with it,” Andretti said of the aero options.

Verizon IndyCar Series teams return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 7 for a Promoter Test on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in preparation for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9. Pagenaud was the winner of the inaugural road race in 2014 while with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Alex Zanardi showing signs of interaction three months after crash

Alex Zanardi recovery
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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MILAN — Italian racing driver turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi has started responding to treatment with signs of interaction, more than three months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.

Zanardi has spent most of that time in intensive care after crashing into an oncoming truck during a relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19.

“For several days now. Alex Zanardi has undergone cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions, with the administration of visual and acoustic stimuli, to which the patient responds with momentary and initial signs of interaction,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement Thursday.

The hospital said that is “significant progress” but added that his condition remains serious, and that it would be “absolutely premature” to make a long-term prognosis.

Zanardi, 53, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

He was operated on several times to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face and the Milan hospital added that he recently had undergone another surgery to reconstruct his skull and would have another one in the coming weeks.

Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.