INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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Takuma Sato paces Indianapolis 500 Open Test at IMS

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INDIANAPOLIS – There were 30 cars that hit the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway hoping for a full day of testing for the 103rdIndianapolis 500. And then, the typical, fickle Indiana Springtime weather interfered.

Instead of hours of practice, the NTT IndyCar Series veterans got 105 minutes of track time and the rookies and other drivers that need to take refresher test just 86 minutes of track time.

The winner of the 101stIndianapolis 500 in 2017, Takuma Sato, turned the best lap of the day at 226.993 mph in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with Ed Carpenter just behind at 226.414 in the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet. Those speeds were logged during a session open to 20 veteran drivers who have raced this season.

“The program was interrupted and stopped a few times,” Sato said of the rain that halted action twice and eventually put an end to the day with a third shower. “Having said that, today is meant to shake down the car, just check all the functions OK, feel it out. From that point of view, I think it was a very smooth day.”

Carpenter is a three-time Indy 500 pole winner, most recently last year when he finished second to Will Power of Team Penske in the 102ndIndianapolis 500.

“It was a little odd, but all in all, it was good,” Carpenter said. “We got a decent amount of stuff done, not everything we wanted to do – just with the pauses and intermissions. At the end of the day, I think we ran more than what I thought we were going to the first time it started raining. It kind of sets us up for a decent starting place for when we come back for the full week of practice.

“It’s still good to get that physical gratification and confidence back that things are looking all right.”

IndyCar rookies and other drivers that do not compete full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series hit the track for the later session that began at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Colton Herta was among the four first-timers who completed all three phases of the rookie orientation, turning the best lap of the session and fourth-best of the day at 226.108 mph in the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.

“It was pretty cool,” said Herta, who became the youngest winner in Indy car history a month ago at Circuit of The Americas and won the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race last year on the IMS oval. “The first few laps were the same speed as an Indy Lights car, so it wasn’t too impressive. But once they kind of let me run at 215-plus on the third stage, it was pretty awesome.

“Definitely a dream of mine for a long time to be able to run an Indy car here. Even though it’s just testing, it’s still really sentimental.”

Rain interrupted the open test just 11 minutes into the day. Following a four-hour delay, veterans received about 95 minutes of track time until a light rain returned. Following an hour delay, the rookies and veteran refresher drivers had about 90 minutes until the moisture made an appearance once more and ended the day about 7:30 p.m. ET.

Among those drivers who had limited track time because of the weather was two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso of Spain. This will be Alonso’s second Indy 500 attempt for McLaren. He was Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 2017.

Alonso completed his first phase of the refresher and his top speed out of 29 laps was 218.690 miles per hour in the No. 66 McLaren Chevrolet.

“This requires a complete reset on your driving style and your mindset,” Alonso said. Being ready to turn left for two weeks and to be brave on some occasions because it’s all about that.

“I had the test in Texas two weeks ago, so that more or less prepare yourself to oval racing again. Couple of good sessions on the simulator, as well, in Charlotte. It was not too difficult today because of all that preparation. So, yeah, I should be okay.”

The next race on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule is the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 11 on the IMS Road Course. Opening Day of practice for the 103rdIndianapolis 500 is May 14 with qualifications set for May 18-19. Carb Day is May 24 and the 103rdIndy 500 is May 26.

Report: Spencer Pigot out at Ed Carpenter Racing

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Spencer Pigot will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, according to a story Thursday by RACER.com.

The 26-year-old Floridian, who won the 2015 Indy Lights championship, is expected to be replaced in the No. 21 Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay.

“I’m appreciative of the opportunity ECR gave me,” Pigot told RACER.com. “I understand the reasons they had to go in a different direction, and wish them all the best.”

In 56 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Pigot has 15 top 10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Iowa in 2018. He finished 14th in the 2019 point standings.

VeeKay, who tested in an Indy car twice for ECR in 2019, has six wins in 18 Indy Lights starts, including a weekend sweep of the final two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca in September.

A representative from ECR told NBC Sports Thursday that the team currently could not comment on any driver rumors as the team currently does not have any drivers under contract for the 2020 season, although it is presumed that owner/driver Carpenter will return to the No. 20 entry for the oval rounds.

NBC Sports will provide updates on the story once more information becomes available.