Taking advantage of ideally cool conditions, Will Power turned the fastest lap Tuesday on the opening day of Indy 500 practice.
The Team Penske driver toured the 2.5-mile oval at 226.470 mph in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet ahead of the Dallara-Hondas of Ryan Hunter-Reay (226.371) and two-time and defending race winner Takuma Sato (226.132).
“Definitely happy with the car in traffic,” Power told NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch during coverage on Peacock. “As far as running behind cars, this is the most comfortable I’ve felt here for a while. I feel good. Cool weather does help a lot. Everyone can run close.”
INDY 500 PRACTICE SPEEDS: Second session l Day 1 combined
With temperatures expected to spike over the weekend, Hunter-Reay said it was important to make laps before the track grew slicker.
“The car was pretty good, but these conditions are really nice,” he said. “When this track temperature goes up, it gets really tricky.”
The checkered flag is out for the last practice session of the day. Here are the top 6 drivers:
6. @simonpagenaud#INDYCAR // #INDY500 pic.twitter.com/jDlAXo0V5N
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) May 18, 2021
Sage Karam, who is attempting to make his first IndyCar start of the season, was a surprising fourth.
“When I came across the line, I just screamed when I saw that lap,” Karam, who has a best Indy 500 finish of ninth (as a 2014 rookie) in seven starts, told Welch. “I’m just stoked and so pumped. The last few years I haven’t been happy a lot here. I’ve been struggling. This is the most preparing of a car that I’ve ever had. I couldn’t be happier.
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“This is probably the best Day One I’ve ever had at the Speedway, and I’ve had some really good cars here.”
Though rain put the speedway under caution for more than two of a scheduled eight hours of track time, there were no crashes Tuesday. There was one incident: a minor fire on Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 14 that brought out a yellow flag for 10 minutes.
In the morning session, Graham Rahal, who is seeking his first Indianapolis 500 victory in his 14th start, turned the fastest lap at 223.449 mph lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during an abbreviated opening practice as Indy 500 warmup sessions began.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver turned a 223.449 mph lap on the 18th of 19 laps in his No. 15 Dallara-Honda on the 2.5-mile oval.
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was second (223.420), followed by Team Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin (223.836), two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (222.781) and Ed Jones (222.700).
TUESDAY MORNING: Chart from the first practice session at IMS
Driving the No. 86 Dallara-Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren SP, Montoya is making his first Indy 500 start since 2017. Jones, who is in the No. 18 Dallara-Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, is back at IMS after missing the 2020 Indy 500.
The rest of the top 10: 2018 Indy winner Will Power (222.436), Santino Ferrucci (222.204), Pato O’Ward (222.181), James Hinchcliffe (221.990) and Helio Castroneves (221.861).
Click here to see how the veterans fared on the speed charts in the opening practice.
Rolled off the trucks looking good! Finished where we wanted on the charts for the first practice, but we still have some work to do and boxes to check before we’re completely satisfied. Looking forward to seeing what all we can squeeze out over the next few days! pic.twitter.com/eG4UQK9Ug8
— Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) May 18, 2021
The track opened at 10 a.m. for a five-minute period of installation laps, and veterans were allowed to make laps starting at 10:07 a.m.
Two-time and defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, Rahal’s teammate, was the first driver on track, per IMS.
The yellow flag flew multiple times for light rain throughout the morning, and the final 15 minutes of the veteran session was cut short by a shower.
ROOKIE ORIENTATION AND REFRESHER: Click here for speeds
Drivers in the Rookie Orientation and Refresher Tests program were scheduled to hit the track at noon, but rain delayed the start until shortly after 2 p.m. IndyCar announced the ROP/Refresher would run for two hours, followed by the track being open to all cars until 6 p.m. ET.
Tuesday was the first of four consecutive days of Indy 500 practice before qualifying Saturday and Sunday.