Power, Castroneves headline Indy 500 practice on day 2

Photo: IndyCar
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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.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

 

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2