INDYCAR/Joe Skibinski

Will Power leads opening practice for Indy 500

Leave a comment

Will Power began his bid to become the 6th driver to earn consecutive Indianapolis 500 victories by topping today’s opening practice for the 103rd Running.

The 38-year-old from Australia led a 1-2 run for Team Penske, posting a lap of 229.745 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Following him was INDYCAR Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud, whose best lap was just .0072 of a second off Power’s pace (229.703 mph).

Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter, always a threat at his hometown Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was third-fastest (228.653 mph), followed by 3-time ‘500’ winner Helio Castroneves (228.441 mph) and 19-year-old rookie Colton Herta (228.284 mph) to complete Tuesday’s Top-5 speeds. Herta brought out the lone caution period of the day that came from an on-track incident, when he suffered a tire failure and spun at pit exit during the final hour.

In regards to no-tow speeds, however, it was Carpenter’s teammate Ed Jones that was quickest in the session. His best lap of 224.542 mph in the No. 63 Ed Carpenter Racing/Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet was good for 10th overall. The third Ed Carpenter Racing driver, Spencer Pigot, logged the most laps of any driver with 128.

As for the race’s biggest global draw, Fernando Alonso and his McLaren Racing team suffered through a tough opening day. The 2-time Formula One World Champion completed his refresher test, but later suffered mechanical problems. He only posted the 32nd-fastest lap (224.162 mph), turning 50 laps in total.

Practice resumes tomorrow from 11am-6pm ET at the Speedway, with coverage on NBC Sports Gold INDYCAR Pass.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

Leave a comment

Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter