INDIANAPOLIS – Team Penske continued to top the scoring pylon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second day in a row on Wednesday.
This time, it was 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden who had the fastest lap of the 3,219 turned on the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice.
Newgarden’s fast lap was 228.856 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the No. 2 Shell Chevrolet. That was better than Scott Dixon’s 228.835 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda.
Fernando Alonso of McLaren had issues for the second day in a row. On Tuesday, an electrical issue sent the No. 66 Chevrolet into the garage early. The team changed the alternator and electrical loom and he was back on track Wednesday.
But at 12:34 p.m. Eastern Time, Alonso crashed in turn two, damaging the No. 66 McLaren entry. According to team IndyCar President Bob Fernley, the backup car will be prepared and that will become Alonso’s primary car for the remainder of the week. The primary car will be prepared and available as the backup before Saturday’s qualifications.
Rookie Felix Rosenqvist also had a crash in turn two in the final hour of practice and slid across the track in front of Jack Harvey and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Power. Both were able to avoid the calamity, but Rosenqvist’s Honda was badly damaged.
“I was behind Colton (Herta) and just trying to run the car in traffic, and I just felt a very sudden change of having a bit of push, and it went very loose, very fast,” Rosenqvist said. “I couldn’t react to it.
“A shame, but that’s how it is.”
Power continues to have the fastest overall speed for the month at 229.745 mph. That was set during Tuesday’s opening day of practice.
Newgarden backed up Team Penske’s speed with another fast run on Wednesday.
“It was an OK day, pretty clean, for us at least,” Newgarden said. “It’s not easy. A couple wrecks today. I think that shows you that it’s not super straightforward to try and get around here even on a practice day.
“For us, we’re just trying to work through our program. I think we need to be a bit better in traffic. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what we need on the race car. That was kind of our focus today. We didn’t really do much qualifying sims or anything like that.
“We’re trucking forward. I think the Shell car feels OK. It’s not a bad start. I’m trying to stay careful with it. I always try and respect this place at the beginning. I never try and push until it’s time. Just you’ve always got to watch your back around here. She’s a tough place at a lot of moments.
“So far, so good. I’m really happy to be here with the group again and trying to go for a good month. I think we’ve got all the capability in the world, so hopefully we can seal off a good Sunday.”
Nearly all of the 36 car/driver combinations that were on track Wednesday were working on race setup. Teams won’t begin working on qualifying setups until Friday.
“You have so much time, I think it’s easy to do that,” Newgarden continued. “Just you have so many sets – you have 36 sets of tires. It’s crazy how much time and tires you have. I think being methodical is really the wise thing to do. It just works really well in my opinion.
“You’ve got to peak at the right moments. Qualifying is very important. There’s a time there when you need to go quick, you need to have the car trimmed correctly, and it’s got to feel good, and then there’s a time to push in traffic and make something happen in the race.
“I think you pick your moments carefully, and it’s always fun running around here, though. I’ve been having a blast the last couple days.”
Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing was third in a Chevrolet at 228.658 mph followed by rookie Santino Ferrucci at 228.561 mph. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was fifth at 228.561 mph.
There were 36 drivers on the track with Newgarden the fastest. Rookie Ben Hanley was the slowest at 224.361 mph, but that is a margin of just .7879 of a second that separates positions one through 36.
Practice for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 continues Thursday.