Following an early morning photo session May 19 required of the Verizon P1 Award winner for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Ed Carpenter’s single-minded focus shifted to preparations for the 98th Running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 25.
Full-tank runs and car balance while running in traffic were the directives in what set up to be an extended Coors Light Carb Day practice on the 2.5-mile oval.
"I feel good about where our cars are in race trim, (but) you can always use one more solid day of practice just to tune on things, get a little better, make sure both myself and (teammate) JR (Hildebrand) are happy,” said Carpenter, who logged 49 laps with a fastest of 224.492 in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car.
All 33 starters turned laps for a total of 2,329 in the five-hour practice. Josef Newgarden, who qualified eighth May 18 in the No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car, was fastest with a lap of 227.105 mph (39.6292 seconds). Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified 10th, was second (226.532 mph) in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske car. Drivers will have a 60-minute race tune-up May 23.
Click it: May 19 practice results || Combined practice results
An incident involving Kurt Busch brought out a yellow flag 95 minutes into the session when the No. 26 Suretone car for Andretti Autosport made right-side contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier. Busch was checked at the IU Health Infield Medical Center at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and cleared to drive. VIDEO
“I was starting to feel comfortable,” said Busch, who had just completed a lap of 223.433 mph (his 56th). “That’s when I made the mistake of just letting my guard down or settling into that long run-type mentality whereas with an Indy car you have to be on edge. I was trying to find that rhythm and pace myself as I would on (Race Day, May 25) and I just got behind on the adjustments on the car.”
Busch, who qualified 12th on May 18, will attempt to be the fourth driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR race in Concord, N.C., on the same day (and the first since Tony Stewart in 2001 to complete all 1,100 miles).
Carpenter is seeking to complete all 500 miles ahead of the field in his 10th Indianapolis 500 and second in a row starting from the pole. His four-lap average of 231.067 mph was the fastest since Helio Castroneves in 2003 (231.725 mph).
Carpenter’s best finish is fifth (2008), and he’s posted three top-10 finishes along with placing 11th in three of the races. He led 37 laps last May and finished 10th.
"It's exciting, but after going through this last year and not winning the race I've been so much more determined," said Carpenter, the lone Verizon IndyCar Series team owner/driver. "I think the whole team has to really figure out what we need to do (on Race Day) and that remains true.”
Carpenter's last Verizon IndyCar Series race also was a 500-mile event on Oct. 18, 2013, when he was runner-up to Team Penske’s Will Power at Auto Club Speedway. He won the 500-mile finale of the 2012 season on the 2-mile oval in Fontana, Calif.
"It's all worthwhile being able to be in positions like this at the Speedway in the Indianapolis 500," said Carpenter. "It's what we have this team for. It's what I get paid to do. This is what we're supposed to do for our sponsors and the team. It's a lot of fun. My family is here to enjoy it with me. All of them are here this year. Hopefully, we'll close out the month better than what we did last year."