By: Spencer Neff
May 18, 2021
During the nearly six hours of combined on-track time at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, all 35 entrants were able to run.
With the first practices in the lead up to the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in the books, here’s a look at some of the day’s major dealings.
Rahal tops opening practice
After a stout two days last month at IMS, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal led the first practice of the day. During the first two-hour session, Rahal posted a best lap of 223.449 miles per hour (40.2776).
The 2020 third-place finisher (matching his career-best 2011 result) and 2008 race winner Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing were the only drivers to eclipse 223 mph, as the points leader finished .0053 of a second off the best time.
Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin was the fastest among the Chevrolet entires, as the rookie slotted in third behind the Honda pair.
Of the 32 eligible rivers to partake in the session, only Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey did not turn a lap. Harvey’s No. 60 replaced an engine during the session and returned later in the day.
Hildebrand leads ROP/Refresher
Following the opening practice, sprinkles of rain throughout the track delayed the second session of the day. After a delay of nearly two hours, the three drivers needing to complete their Rookie Orientation or Veteran Refresher programs were able to do so.
Top Gun Racing made their first on-track appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as RC Enerson looks to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500.
Enerson finished Phase 1 (10 laps at 205-210 mph) and completed 9 of 15 laps in Phase 2 (15 laps at 210-215 mph) before a half shaft issue began to cause a grease leak, sidelining him for the day. Prior to the issue, he posted a best lap of 212.982 mph (42.257 seconds).
Tomorrow, IndyCar will open the track an hour early (weather permittting) for Enerson to complete his ROP. Enerson needs to run 15 laps at 215 mph or faster to complete Phase 3 and be fully eligible for on-track time.
As for the two drivers making their returns to IMS, JR Hildebrand was fastest in the refresher session. In his first IndyCar appearance since the 2020 “500”, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and runner-up turned a best lap of 218.298 mph (41.228 seconds). Hildebrand completed his refresher program (Phase 2 and 3) and is eligible to run at any speed.
Making his first attempt at running an IndyCar race since 2018’s Indianapolis 500, where he took the lead on Lap 193 before pitting three laps later, Stefan Wilson returned to Andretti Autosport. Following some early issues, Wilson was able to complete his refresher course and clocked a best lap of 215.282 (41.6894).
Power leads full-field session
Following the orientation/refresher practice, a brief pause was taken before all eligible cars were permitted to run on-track until the 6:00 end time.
In a session that ran just under two hours, Team Penske’s Will Power earned the fastest lap of the day, as the 2018 “500” winner logged a best lap of 226.470 mph (39.7403), .0175 of a second clear of Andretti Autosport and 2014 race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, giving Chevrolet and Honda a split between the two opening practices.
Although he was 18th on the overall speed chart, three-time “500” pole winner and Owner/Driver Ed Carpenter was quickest on the non-tow speed chart with a best lap of 219.162 mph (41.0655). The no-tow speeds will be most important on Friday, when teams receive the extra turbocharger boost in preparation for qualifying.
No-tow speeds will be an early gauge potential contenders for the pole and Fast 9, as well as the drivers who will have to earn a spot in Sunday’s Last Row Shootout.
Aside from the conclusion of Enerson’s ROP (either before or after), teams will be allowed to partake in six hours of on-track time beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, as they will do Thursday and Friday.
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Header Image By Doug Mathews/INDYCAR