Teams Shift into High-Speed Mindset as Indianapolis 500 Practice Ready To Start
Simon Pagenaud’s mind actually shifted gears just before he finished fourth in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 13.
“I saw the checkered flag, and my first thought was ‘Indy 500,’” Team Penske driver Pagenaud said. “I’ve been thinking about that race for a year now. That’s my No. 1 goal this year, so I’m going to go all in.”
While cars won’t be on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track today, it’s anything but an off day. Race teams started working on their “500” cars in Gasoline Alley immediately after Team Penske’s Will Power won Saturday. Meanwhile, IMS workers began converting the track layout from the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course back to the four-turn, 2.5-mile oval.
Their tasks will be completed by Monday, when practice begins for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The schedule calls for five consecutive days of practice, then two weekend days of qualifying in preparation for the May 28 main event.
Intriguing storylines, once again, will be in abundance for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
The motorsports world has been captivated by two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso skipping the Monaco Grand Prix to attempt his first “500.” McLaren, in its first IMS ride in 38 years, is teaming up with Andretti Autosport to back the Spaniard’s No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti car with the classic papaya orange livery.
“With Alonso coming, the whole entire world is going to be watching, even more than usual,” Pagenaud said. “We’re going to have a repeat of the 100th this year, and it’s going to be amazing.”
A sellout crowd watched last year’s race, and attendance is expected to surpass 300,000 again. A Facebook live stream of Alonso’s IMS test May 3 drew more than 2 million views. Alonso, who ranks sixth on F1’s all-time win list with 32 victories, is a social media sensation with 2.46 million Twitter followers @alo_oficial.
Pagenaud, the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion, is leading the series points again, 10 ahead of four-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon finished second in the INDYCAR Grand Prix and is one of seven former Indy 500 winners on the entry list.
Although he's been capably quick at times, Pagenaud's best finish in five Indy 500 starts was eighth in 2013.
Ever since Power won his series title in 2014, he’s spoken of the urgency to cement his racing resume with what has proven to be an elusive Indy 500 triumph. Power, a 30-time Indy car race winner, came closest when finishing second to teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015.
Montoya, a two-time Indy 500 winner, returns in a part-time ride with Team Penske’s powerhouse five-car team. That includes three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who is looking to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser as the only four-time winners.
Hall of Fame owner Roger Penske celebrated his 19th trip to Victory Lane on Saturday. That includes a record 16 Indy 500 triumphs. Pagenaud’s assertion that this race is his No. 1 goal is a given for Penske each year.
“You wouldn’t believe the efforts the team has put into the research-and-development side to be strong in the Indy 500,” Pagenaud said. “We’re very excited. It’s going to be a great month.”
Castroneves and Brazilian buddy Tony Kanaan, who won the 2013 Indy 500, are celebrating their 20th season in Indy car racing. Kanaan is driving again for Chip Ganassi, who has celebrated five Indy 500 wins as an owner and is fielding four cars.
Alonso is part of a massive, six-car Andretti Autosport effort, which includes defending Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi and 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Another driver who hasn’t been shy about his Indianapolis 500 focus is Graham Rahal, the son of 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. Bitterly disappointed after finishing 14th in his ninth Indy 500 start a year ago, Graham Rahal spoke of an Indy emphasis during offseason media day and sounded energized after finishing sixth Saturday in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
“Hopefully it’s a good one,” Rahal Letterman Lanigan racer Rahal said. “We’ve worked hard for it. This team has worked hard for it. Our guys are prepared. We’re ready to go.”
If anyone needed a result in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, it was Rahal. He entered Saturday after humbling finishes of 17th, 10th, 13th and 21st in this season’s first four starts.
“It felt real good to get it and be able to go into a day off tomorrow with a smile on my face,” he said.
Longtime Hoosier fan favorite Tony Stewart is also returning to IMS this May, not as a driver but as a sponsor on Jay Howard’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car. Stewart, a two-time Brickyard 400 winner, started five Indy 500s before venturing off to NASCAR, where he won three series titles. He retired from NASCAR after last season.
Stewart, who grew up idolizing Foyt, also will enjoy the Race Day thrill of turning a parade lap in Foyt’s Bowes Seal Fast roadster that won the 1961 Indianapolis 500.
Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 28, and for more information on the complete Month or May schedule at IMS.
Aiiiii... quem está ansioso aí também!!!!
Alonso é um louco... e nós somos junto com ele!!! Ele nem vai dormir direito e vai direto para pista!!!! hehehe
Bom... deixo AQUI para vocês a programação para as próximas semanas!
Mas no Octeto vou tentar postar tudo que der!!! Aguardem!!!!
E bora nos aventurar no solo americano!!!!!