Indy 500 test update: Thursday delayed for track drying after work on pit warmup lane


INDIANAPOLIS – Track maintenance crews at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway worked overnight to treat the hazardous area of the pit warmup lane where three incidents occurred during Wednesday’s Indy 500 test.

According to IndyCar officials, extensive tire dragging, and brushing was performed using two 800-pound tractor tires to put rubber down and remove any extra Rapid Penetrating Emulsion (RPE) treatment.

The RPE sealant was used on the track in 2018 to seal the surface. The pit warmup lane had that treatment applied over this offseason, and track president Doug Boles told the Indy Star later Wednesday night that the application might have factored into the lack of grip that caused three spins Wednesday.

Boles said during Thursday’s Peacock broadcast that the track had worked on dragging tires across the pit warmup lane until just before 1 a.m. ET Thursday.

RPE was developed by a company named Asphalt Materials, Inc. (AMI), and its most high-profile use of RPE has been at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A key part of what makes RPE effective is its penetrating, air-void-filling capability. Unlike a crack seal that simply covers the surface of a crack, RPE soaks into the pavement itself and decreases the permeability of the surface to which it’s applied.

Boles said the sealer helps seal cracks and prevent weepers (water seeping onto the track), but IMS staff also discovered that it helps improve track drying, too, since applications began after a 2004 resurfacing of the 2.5-mile oval.

Heavy rain swept through the Indianapolis area overnight and ended around 9 a.m. ET Thursday, delaying the scheduled 10 a.m. start for Thursday’s session (which will be televised on Peacock).

The plan for this morning is to dry the track, and Firestone officials then will re-scan the warmup lane and evaluate the affected areas.

“We’ll wait for it to dry off and have Firestone tell us where we are,” Boles said during the interview on Peacock, adding that the problem definitely would be fixed by the May 17 opening practice for the 106th Indy 500.

IndyCar is anticipating an improvement from last night’s treacherous conditions that saw former Indy 500 winners Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves and Will Power lose control of their cars on the pit warmup lane in three separate spins during Wednesday’s test session.

Boles said he had called Castroneves and other drivers involved in the incidents to apologize and ensure they understood the accidents weren’t their fault.

“I wanted to make sure Helio, Will and Alex knew it wasn’t their fault,” Boles said. “So I walked them through exactly what had happened with the racetrack and what we had done. Hopefully, today we’re in better shape.

“I want the drivers to know we get to do this because of them. It’s the fans and the drivers who make this so special. I don’t want them thinking in the back of their mind it was them. It absolutely wasn’t. I had a conversation last night with Josef (Newgarden), too, just to figure out what he thought about it. Just making sure they know it’s not them. It’s something we did. We’re going to fix it.”

If Firestone’s evaluation shows positive results, testing will resume Thursday. Day 2 originally was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, and IndyCar has the option to extend the test session to ensure six hours of running time.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500