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Power, Castroneves headline Indy 500 practice on day 2

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After Andretti Autosport hogged the headlines of opening practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, it was Team Penske’s turn to steal the show on Day 2. The Penske duo of Will Power and Helio Castroneves turned the two quickest laps of the day, both clearing 224 mph for average speeds around the 2.5-mile oval.

In fact, they were the only drivers to clear the 224 mph barrier, as speeds continue to be down in comparison to last year at this time. As Power indicated, this is both down to the weather (it has been well above 80 degrees ambient on both days of practice this week) and teams focusing on race setups in the early days of running.

“(The heat) has definitely made the track greasy. But it all has to do with whether people want to practice qualifying. That’s when you start to see some bigger speeds, and we don’t get the boost until Friday that we’re running qualifying and probably not practice qualifying until Thursday. So these first three days — which being hot, yeah, it will make it slower,” he asserted in a press conference afterward.

The speed charts also indicated a slight turn in favor of the Chevrolet teams after Honda dominated Day 1. In fact, four of the top five times on Day 2 came from Chevrolet teams, and Marco Andretti, who led opening practice for Honda and Andretti Autosport, ranked 25th at the end of Day 2.

However, as Castroneves indicated, this could be down to gamesmanship between the manufacturers, and even hinted that the Honda teams aren’t showing their speed in reaction to mechanical failures suffered on Day 1. The most notable of these was Graham Rahal, who saw a plume of smoke billow from his No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during opening practice.

“I can only speculate that they don’t want to keep blowing up the engines now,” Castroneves explained. “They’ve got to wait until Saturday so that they can finish the qualifying and then put the race engine in, otherwise they’re going to have to do something like that. Right now it’s the name of the game. We’ve just got to focus on our work.”

Castroneves later quipped, “You saw what they did yesterday: (226 mph) and today Marco was (221 mph). So for sure, five miles an hour: it’s not the setup.”

All told, Power and Castroneves remain focused on their own programs, and their focus is made all the more imperative given the presence of Roger Penske. “Roger definitely just puts everything into this race,” Power said of his influence. “Yep, as a team, I think we did a lot of homework in the off-season for this race, and we tested here twice, so you know, we’re getting the most out of our package.”

Helio Castroneves prepares for practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo: IndyCar

Castroneves added, “I’ll tell you what: obviously Roger is my strategy. For him to leave his day job, which is a pretty busy schedule, I took him over here on Tuesday, actually he’s staying here all week: (it) shows the commitment that he has and it shows what he wants.”

Practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil continues tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. ET.

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Daniel Ricciardo to decide soon about moving from Red Bull to another F1 team

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LE CASTELLET, France (AP) Daniel Ricciardo says over the next six weeks he wants to decide between staying at Red Bull or joining another Formula One team for next year.

Ricciardo said on Thursday at the French Grand Prix, “It would be nice to go on the summer break knowing what I am doing.”

F1 is working its way toward its three-week break in August with speculation mounting that Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren are interested in luring Ricciardo away from Red Bull for 2019.

“I will be honest, everyone is talking about Mercedes and Ferrari as potential places for me to go, and I am aware that there will be interest from other teams,” he said.

The Australian driver has won seven races in his four-plus seasons with Red Bull. He is fourth in the standings behind leader Sebastian Vettel heading into the race at the Paul Ricard Circuit near Marseille.

Ricciardo’s stock has risen in recent months after his victories in Shanghai and Monaco. His Monaco win was particularly impressive because Ricciardo had to deploy some masterful defensive driving to protect his lead after losing an estimated 25 percent of his engine power.

Ricciardo said he had not directly spoken to rivals Ferrari and Mercedes, but he hedged when asked if his manager had.

“People talk, have coffees, I will leave that one open-ended,” he said with a laugh.

Ricciardo called the decision on whether to go or stay with Red Bull the biggest choice of his career following his decision to leave his native Australia and continue his racing career in Europe over a decade ago.

“For sure the priority is to get a car to win the world title because I really believe I can,” he said. “I am slightly careful because it is easy to think the grass is greener and maybe it is, but I also have it pretty good where I am.

“People do like a change but just to make change for the sake of making a change is not enough for me. I need to find some substance behind it to jump ship.”

Red Bull announced recently it would be ending its 12-year partnership with engine-maker Renault and switching to Honda motors for next year.

Ricciardo was hesitant to endorse or criticize the change, saying he was going to “try to keep putting the pieces together if it is a good move.”

But with the question of the engine manufacturer out of the way, Ricciardo said Red Bull would likely be looking to resolve its drivers’ lineup for next year.

“I haven’t been pushed yet, but I would say that there will be some movement in the next week,” he said. “Whether that is something that gets put down on paper (or not), for sure the discussions will start to ramp up in the next few days.”