INDIANAPOLIS — After the starting lineup for the 100th Indianapolis 500 was set on Sunday, the 33-car starting field participated in a final full day of practice Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in what could be best described as Mileage Monday.
The 33 combined to run 2,886 laps. The majority of the drivers put in close to 100 laps — or half of a 500-mile race to fine-tune their race day setups for the Indianapolis 500.
Josef Newgarden, who starts second in the middle of the first row, was the fastest driver during Monday’s session at 227.414 mph in a Chevrolet. Newgarden ran a 111 laps, but three drivers ran more than that, including Max Chilton and Carlos Munoz with 117 laps apiece and Pippa Mann with 116.
Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, was second quick with a lap at 226.393 mph in a Chevrolet, followed by his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon at 226.339 mph. Sage Karam gave Chevrolet a sweep of the four-fastest speeds with a fast lap at 226.045 mph.
Mann was the fastest Honda driver at 225.833 mph for Dale Coyne Racing.
Polesitter James Hinchcliffe kept a low profile in the final full-day practice session as he clocked in 17th with a fast lap of 224.602 mph in a Honda.
This wasn’t a day for speed, however, it was a chance to make full-tank runs and see how the car handles with race setups.
There were times when the cars with a higher ride-height to accommodate the domed skids made Monday’s practice look like a frantic, high-speed traffic jam.
“It gets really interesting and difficult and you react to what everybody else is doing not just what you are doing,” Mann explained. “If a driver four cars up in front of you has an issue, you also have to be able to react to what that issue may be and try to get back to power appropriately to make the most out of his issue and pounce on the guy in front of you.”
That also makes this practice session a matter of “holding your breath” to get through the session without any issues.
Newgarden admitted he about wrecked 10 times during the session.
“It was a hot day and it was hard,” he said. “The track temperature today was similar to Sunday so now that we are putting our race downforce on it was even more than we needed last week when it was cool. This is the most representative day of what we are going to see on race day and that is great. Everyone ran in a pack today and that is what we needed to see.
“To me, some guys looked really good at some points and bad at other points. That is how it is going to look on race day and it’s about making your race more good than bad. That is going to be the key.”
The only issue that developed out of Monday’s practice was a small engine fire on Jack Hawksworth’s A.J. Foyt Racing Honda.
With the extra half-inch on the ride-height to allow clearance for the domed skids, what kind of race will this year’s Indianapolis 500 be — a wild affair or favoring the leader of the race?
“I think it was four-wide at one point today,” Newgarden said. “I can’t see you are going to have much worse of a race than last year. The race really couldn’t have gotten much better than what you have seen over the last four years. People are expecting that every year, something spectacular with passing, passing, passing.
“And I think you are going to see that again this year. Maybe at the end of a stint that will trail off because the car is more susceptible to the heat. But you are going to see a great race day. If we could run on race day like we did today you are going to have a great show, I have no doubt about that.”