Katherine Legge is getting her appetite for competition filled this month.
She arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday after a red-eye flight ready to go, 48 hours removed from racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Although rain forced the cancellation of opening practice for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, she put together a respectable start Wednesday behind the wheel of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s fourth entry, the No. 44 Hendrickson Honda.
“It's been busy, and it's weird because you get used to driving that car,” Legge said of the Acura NSX GT3 she drives in IMSA. “You get used to all the buttons on that wheel and then you come back here, and you're like, ‘Wait, OK, opposite side here,’ and I have to kind of relearn everything going back in the Indy car, but apart from that, it’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
Admittedly superstitious, the first foot Legge will push through her fire suit is the same one that mashes the gas pedal: the right one.
The Briton is a two-time starter of the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” but the last came in 2013. To say this attempt has an entirely different feeling is an understatement.
“It's been so different,” said Legge, 42. “This is my third Indy, but every year I've done it, it's been so different. The first year, I didn’t get a test or anything leading up because we had the Lotus engine, and we were changing it out. … we didn’t know what we were doing. And then the second year, I literally got in on Bump Day and luckily put the car in the field, but I had no testing at all.
“I had Carb Day and that was it. We were really fast. This time I’m like, ‘I've got all of these tests, and this is going to be awesome.’ I don't know. I have no frame of reference because I've done it differently by fate, not by choice. So, this is going to be the first time I do it properly – traditionally – like everybody else.”
Legge has spent “absolutely every day” dreaming about what winning the Indy 500 on May 28 would be like.
“If we're in it at the end of the race and I have a good car, I don’t see why that can’t be a possibility,” she said.
And that potential life-changing win also brought a wide smile and an added sparkle to her eyes when she played out the celebration.
“You think about what happens on the radio, what happens on the lap after you take the checkered,” Legge said. “Then you think about what happens when you kiss the bricks and where you have to go and how crazy that would be, how it would change your life, in general.
“But you think about how emotional you would be coming after the checkered with the team on the radio like, ‘You freaking won the Indy 500,’ and you’re crying like: ‘Oh my God. This is so awesome.’”
Legge ended up 31st out of 34 drivers in Wednesday’s practice but sat out the final hour of the session when the majority of the fastest times, assisted with big groups with an increased aerodynamic tow, were set.
Drivers on Alert… for Rossi
Pato O’Ward knows the reputation new Arrow McLaren teammate Alexander Rossi has developed through some of the more memorable pranks to grace the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And O’Ward, last year’s Indy 500 runner-up, also provided an important detail that is likely to put everyone on guard through the end of the month.
“It hasn’t started, but I know he’s cooking up something,” said O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Then, O’Ward chimed in that even though his Indy-only teammate, 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan, is making his last start in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in this race, that maybe Rossi could provide a last memory.
“If I was Rossi, I would want to give Tony the goodbye he deserves,” said O’Ward, smiling and looking over at Kanaan roughly 15 yards away talking to other members of the media.
While O’Ward believes he could be at risk for shenanigans, as well, getting revenge if something happens is unlikely.
“No, I’m not a prankster,” O’Ward said.
Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner, isn’t thinking about being among those that are pulling any pranks, but why would he confess that if he was?
“It used to be the Andretti drivers, but now Rossi has moved over (to Arrow McLaren),” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “I think that’s what happened: You take Rossi out of Andretti, and now he’s focused on racing and not on pranks. Yeah, I think you’ll see Rossi do really well this year.”
When confronted with the knowledge of people in the paddock weary of Rossi being the main source of pranks during the Month of May, Rossi said with a sly grin, “I mean, because I did it last year...”
Then the driver of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet confessed: “Yeah, there is some stuff. I have haven’t fully decided what we’re doing.”
And in proper fashion to keep everyone on their toes, it may or may not also include his teammates.
“I don’t know, man,” Rossi said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Ferrucci Delivers Promising Start for AJ Foyt Racing
Santino Ferrucci ended up producing the third fastest speed on the day after going 228.977 mph, which was just .0339 of a second off the top spot set by Takuma Sato’s mark of 229.439 mph.
The lap came in the final hour of the session while his No. 14 Home for Our Troops Chevrolet was in full race trim, in a car that was specifically kept away from previous visits to the racetrack by AJ Foyt Racing and purpose-built for this year’s Indy 500.
After a tough start to the year, with Ferrucci and rookie teammate Benjamin Pedersen sitting 22nd and 27th in points, respectively, this showing helped provide a boost for all the team’s efforts.
“I think a lot of people know that this year at the team there's been a lot of changes, a lot of personnel changes, and I'm commenting as the veteran driver,” Ferrucci said. “With (technical director) Michael Cannon coming in, a lot of his focus has been put toward this race and the second half of the season. I think we actually showed quite a bit of speed in the (GMR) GP, especially for the race, to go from last up to about 13th before we had a small issue.
“I think our season is going to turn around hopefully starting with this race,” said Ferrucci, who has four top-10 finishes in as many Indy 500 appearances, including a best of fourth (2020). “But it's not for lack of trying. We've definitely had some really good pace and results up to certain points that I think people can see if they pay attention.
“No, it's just keeping our heads down, and today I think was a huge relief because we didn't really know what we were going to have, and to just roll out and be straight comfortable, I don't know, I don't feel like that's something we're going to lose this month.
“I think the team is really proud of themselves. I'm really proud of the team. We'll just keep the Homes for Troops car up there.”
Odds & Ends
- Callum Ilott's first "500" didn't go well last year, ending with a Turn 2 crash. So, he's switching things up, and it starts with the milk he has selected should he win this year's race. "I chose whole milk this year," he said Wednesday. "I chose 2 percent last year and crashed."
- Of the 34 drivers trying to qualify for the race, eight of them are aged 42 years or older (Ed Carpenter 42, Helio Castroneves 48, Scott Dixon 42, Ryan Hunter-Reay 42, Tony Kanaan 48, Katherine Legge 42, Will Power 42, Takuma Sato 46). Additionally, there are 11 drivers 24 years old or younger (Devlin DeFrancesco 23, Santino Ferrucci 24, Colton Herta 24, Callum Ilott 24, Kyle Kirkwood 24, Christian Lundgaard 21, David Malukas 21, Pato O’Ward 24, Benjamin Pedersen 24, Sting Ray Robb 21, Rinus VeeKay 22).
- RC Enerson, driving a maiden one-off entry for Abel Motorsports, was the lone driver running in the Rookie Orientation Program. He passed phases one and two during the exclusive two-hour ROP session, and completed the third and final phase with just over two-and-a-half hours remaining in the full practice session run in the afternoon that featured all competitors.
- Three part-time drivers ended up in the top 10 at the end of Wednesday’s practice, with Takuma Sato (Chip Ganassi Racing) leading the charge by going fastest overall at 229.439 mph. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) was eighth, followed by Marco Andretti in 10th (Andretti Herta w/ Marco & Curb-Agajanian).