May 14 practice results || Combined practice results
Simon Pagenaud has watched his teammates grab the headlines since he joined Team Penske at the beginning of this season, but the Frenchman stole the spotlight in the fifth practice session leading up to the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Driving the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, Pagenaud logged the best of nearly 2,000 laps turned on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval, at 228.793 mph. Carlos Munoz, who eclipsed 230 mph in practice Wednesday, was second fastest today in the No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda, at 228.126.
“Today was a really good day for the Avaya car,” Pagenaud said. “We’ve been focusing on understanding what the car does in qualifying runs. Very happy to see the preparation from Penske and how fast the 22 car is. So far, so good.”
Pagenaud is teamed with a pair of Indianapolis 500 winners – Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya – and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power in the Penske armada. Montoya and Power have each won a race this season, while Castroneves has won two Verizon P1 Awards for taking the pole position.
It hasn’t deterred Pagenaud, a four-time career race winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series who also topped the chart of laps run today without benefit of a tow from cars leading it, at 227.628.
“We’re happy but we can be happier,” he said. “At the end of the day we did some pack running and once again we’re very happy so far. What’s difficult is it’s really cold right now, so you get more downforce because the air is so thick. We know it’s going to be warmer in the race, that’s what makes it tricky. You’re trying to understand what the car’s going to do in the race. It’s definitely going to be warmer.”
Following Pagenaud and Munoz on the speed chart were Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Sage Karam (227.683), Scott Dixon (227.634) and Tony Kanaan (227.527). Friday marks the final day of practice prior to two days of qualifications that will set the lineup for the 500-mile race on May 24.
The lone incident of the day came in the last of the six-hour practice session. Josef Newgarden was uninjured when his No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet spun and hit the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 1 in nearly the same spot where Castroneves’ car hit a day earlier. Newgarden’s car slid on its top before coming to rest in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2.
“I got around pretty quick in Turn 1; it definitely surprised me,” Newgarden said. “I knew it happened when it did, so I’m just lucky that everything’s good. The Dallara tub held up pretty well. I just want to get back to my guys and see what the damage is. I’m sure it’s bad but we’ll see what we can do going forward. It was a hard bit, (but) I feel fine.”