2020 Indianapolis 500: Practice Day 1 Quick Hits

By: Spencer Neff
August 12, 2020

Practice 1 Results

While it’s been a lengthy wait and certainly not how we wanted it to arrive, practice for the Indianapolis 500 has begun.

The first of three practice day before qualifying this weekend saw veterans practice for two hours, with rookie and refresher courses for two hours afterwards. To end the day, all 33 entrants were permitted on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here are some quick points of observation in Opening Day.

  • During the first session of practice, Scott Dixon led the way as the Chip Ganassi Racing driver posted a best lap speed of 224.047 mph. After dominating three wins to start the season, the 2008 winner looks for his second “500” crown. This weekend, he will attempt to earn his fourth pole in his 18th start (2008, 2015 and 2017).
  • At day’s end, Andretti Autosport were the big winners. In his last of three scheduled races for 2020, James Hinchcliffe led the way with a top speed of 224.526 mph. The 2016 Pole Winner led a 1-2 with teammate Marco Andretti to finish the day.
  • On the no-tow side, Alexander Rossi continued the Andretti dominance with a best lap of 221.952 mph as the team swept the Top 4 spots. In fifth, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey gave their Andretti technical alliance another car up front. In the first two years of the Universal Aero Kit (UAK-18), Chevrolet has swept the Top Four in qualifying, contrasting with Honda’s dominance today.
  • In the first practice, two-time and defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was the first driver on track. Since the stat was first recorded in 1984, no driver who has been first on track in practice went on to win the race. However, in 2012 Ryan Briscoe won pole for the 96th running after being first on track.
  • Among the many topics of conversation from Day 1, top speeds were down noticeably. Last year, Will Power led the way with a best lap of 229.745 mph. Potential contributors to this discrepancy can mainly be attributed to the addition of the aero screen for 2020 and its added weight, not to mention the warmer temperatures in August than in May.
  • Aside from warmer temps and the aero screen, there is one possible factor that may be slightly overlooked regarding that difference. Last year, 36 entries competed for the traditional 11 rows of 3. This year, only 33 cars are entered. Given the lack of pressure on “Bump Day”, there may be incentive for teams to dial setups back for the time being. For the next two days, this will be worth keeping an eye on.
  • Speaking of qualifying, don’t be surprised if the range of speeds between 1st and 33rd is significantly higher than in previous years. Last year, the delta between the fastest and slowest cars in qualifying was 2.748 mph. In 2018, that number was 5.189, both of which were when there were more than 33 entries. With 33 entries in 2017, the delta was 11.083 mph. Expect it to be closer to the latter for 2020.
  • As of this writing, DragonSpeed and Ben Hanley are still completing their Refresher Program, the only driver left needing to do so.

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