Newgarden Tops Indy Charts, Busch Crashes

Kurt Busch walked away from a crash during Monday's Indianapolis 500 practice. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Kurt Busch walked away from a crash during Monday’s Indianapolis 500 practice. (Al Steinberg Photo)

Up front, it was Newgarden that showed he has a pretty good car in race conditions by leading the field in speed on Monday.

“After this qualifying format we had this weekend, it was just so stressful and tiring, mentally fatiguing this weekend,” Newgarden said. “I think everyone felt that way. Everyone I talked to, including guys like Simon Pagenaud were just stressed to the max from these two days so that’s a good thing.

“You should have that at Indy. You should have that stress factor that you have to get through. So it was a little hard getting there today and having to go back out, but we really needed it. I mean, honestly we needed it on our team because we had so much rain last week that it was helpful to have a day where we’re able to work on the car before Friday on Carb Day because you’re quite limited. You have an hour on Carb Day. So whatever you’re doing pretty much needs to be done you don’t have time to really work on it on Carb Day.

“It’s more about preparing yourself for the race environment. Everyone’s going to be out there running like it’s the race and you kind of get yourself set up for that. So you’re not really working on the car, whereas today we were able to work on the car, refine what we needed to because of the weather we had last week and not getting everything done so for us it was very helpful. And I’m sure it was the same for everyone up and down the field.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, was second quick with a fast lap at 226.532 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet for Team Penske.

“For me, what I really tried earlier, was running behind as many cars as possible to get the worst situation possible,” Montoya said. “I think our Verizon car is pretty good and we’ll see what it does. I don’t think anybody is happy. It’s really neutral by ourselves. It likes snaps and moves around a lot. And then you get in the back of the pack and it doesn’t turn. So, what do you do?”

Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, was third quick on Monday at 226.433 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet followed by Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin’s 226.371 mph in a Dallara/Honda and Kanaan’s 226.336 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet.

“I was happy with how Team Target regained its speed after we struggled in qualifying on Saturday,” Dixon said. “We qualified 11th on Sunday and I think we have done a pretty good job of it. It’s always had to see how things play out until we get into the race.

“Time here still flies by. This year having another practice day with all the other commitments we will have later in the week this flies by really fast. We have to stay healthy and get some rest. This has been a little slight shift but the hard part has been on the mechanics to switch from road course to qualifying to race setup is a big ordeal. Hopefully, they can get some rest now.”

Dixon thought the new format of qualifications was “quite cool” on Saturday because there was a lot of jockeying for position in the qualifying line. But he thinks Sunday’s format should be tweaked a bit.

“For the drivers Sunday was quite tough because we had just one run,” Dixon said. “Back in the day you could wave off an attempt if the car wasn’t quite right or you had an issue. Now, you can’t do that. I think they can make some changes to that part of the format.

“Saturday was cool but what would have made Sunday’s qualifications better would have been to do some redo’s on your qualifications. Some adjustments should make it even better. But our TV rating was up (1.2 overnight rating on ABC). The overall format was good. It just needs a little bit of an adjustment.”