SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It was a beautiful day to open Indy 500 practice Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The drivers took part in two practice sessions in order to set a baseline for their preparations for race day. 2008 Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon put things in perspective for the first day.
“It’s day one, we haven’t seen anything from anyone yet,” he said.
Nevertheless, speed was had by all.
The day was split up into three sessions, with all drivers who have completed rookie orientation or veteran refreshers able to turn laps at speed on the 2.5-mile oval. Scott Dixon showed moxey in the early session as he topped the chart with a lap at 227.119 mph.
32 of the 33 slated drivers for this year’s race turned laps in the morning practice. The lone driver who did not take laps was Stefan Wilson, who had to be held out for what amounted to a private test session for him in the early afternoon.
Wilson spent two hours with the track to himself to complete his veteran refresher with his 25-car that was put together at the last minute with Cusick Motorsports and DragonSpeed.
Once the formalities were out of the way for Wilson, he was able to join his fellow drivers for the late afternoon session where both Ganassi and Dale Coyne cars ramped up the pace.
Coyne driver Takuma Sato, the two-time winner, was quickest at the end of the day with a lap of 228.939 mph.
“We just had a big tow on that last lap,” Sato dismissively said. “In the morning it wasn’t as smooth as we wished, we had to take it back to the garage and change some things. But, I’m very happy after today.”
Dixon was atop the scoring pylon the longest Tuesday, but each of his Ganassi teammates, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou, and Jimmie Johnson were consistently in the top ten.
“With five strong cars, we’ve been able to move through (our check list) pretty quickly,” Dixon said. “As the week progresses, we’ll get into the meat of it.”
Dixon was especially impressed with Johnson’s performance, considering his limited experience in an Indy car on ovals. Johnson finished the day third on the chart at 227.722 mph.
“Kind of what I expected to be honest,” Dixon “It’s more of him getting used to the traffic and the timing, learning how to time a pass.”
Johnson is a four-time winner of the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Practice for the next couple of days might be problematic with a less than favorable forecast. Rain is expected to impact both Wednesday and Thursday practice sessions, as well as Fast Friday when drivers will get some extra horsepower and will trim out their cars for qualifying.
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