The blue and white firesuit wasn’t a particularly good fit, but everything else was in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data car for E.J. Viso during Opening Day of practice for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Viso, who competed for Andretti Autosport last season, was quickly up to speed on the 2.5-mile oval as he fills in for James Hinchcliffe, who was diagnosed with a concussion following a Lap 57 incident in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10.
Hinchcliffe was evaluated at the IU Health Infield Medical Center and transported by ground to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he had a CT scan of his head and neck and discharged.
INDYCAR handles concussions on a case-by-case basis. A driver must first show no concussion symptoms and then pass an ImPACT test before being cleared by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger to return to competition. Hinchcliffe, a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner, visited the team briefly May 11 at the Speedway.
“It’s great to have E.J. step in because he’s plug and play for us,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “We thank him for the help.”
Viso shook down the Honda-powered car for eight laps midway through the six-hour session and returned to record an additional 20 laps with a best of 222.105 mph. Twenty-four car/driver combinations totaled 731 laps without incident.
Click it: Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Practice 1 results
“First of all, I fully support my good friend and teammate last year,” Viso said. “In the meantime, I’m going to be shaking down his car, putting some miles on his car and going through the test plan for the ‘500.’
“On the other side, I’m happy to be back to put some miles on this track. It’s always a very special place, even more with this team which I really, really enjoyed working with last year. I’m definitely pretty comfortable, especially running with their program. They definitely run something very conservative at the beginning, and we are already starting with an extremely good set-up that is our set-up from last year; some evolutions they’ve done over the winter.”
Viso, 29, of Venezuela, finished 13th in the 2013 standings despite not competing in the finale at Auto Club Speedway because of illness. He recorded two top-five finishes, with a best of fifth at Toronto 2, and had seven top-10 finishes overall. He was running at the finish in 16 of the 18 races he competed in.
Team Penske swept the top three spots on the speed chart, topped by Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader Will Power with a lap of 223.057 mph (40.3485 seconds) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. He totaled 82 laps.
Juan Pablo Montoya, returning to compete in the 500 Mile Race for the first time since winning in 2000, was second (222.502 mph) in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske car, and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was third (222.373 mph) in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske car.
“I did a lot of running by myself and then I ran behind someone just to start getting used to the feel of that; the understeer and how the car feels in traffic," Montoya said. "Right now, we just want to get comfortable in the car. The first time I was here it took me about three laps to get comfortable. This time it was a few more. One of the great things about being with Team Penske is our cars are so good.”
JR Hildebrand, runner-up in the 2011 race as a rookie, was fourth (222.200) in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer/Ed Carpenter Racing car. Ryan Hunter-Reay, runner-up in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, was fifth quick (222.134) in the No. 28 DHL car for Andretti Autosport.
Practice continues May 12 (noon-6 p.m. ET). Qualifications at May 17-18.
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