Rain Shortens Indy 500 Practice

Scott Dixon was the third-fastest driver in Wednesday's abbreviated practice session for the Indianapolis 500. (David Heithaus photo)
Scott Dixon was the third-fastest driver in Wednesday's abbreviated practice session for the Indianapolis 500. (David Heithaus photo)
Scott Dixon was the third-fastest driver in Wednesday’s abbreviated practice session for the Indianapolis 500. (David Heithaus photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Another day of rain and gloom at Indianapolis Motor Speedway led IndyCar officials to make the unusual move of extending Wednesday’s practice session to 7 p.m. after a five-hour delay because of the weather.

But even that concession to tradition didn’t work, as another rain shower stopped practice at 6:24 p.m. with the session being called five minutes later.

But during that 1 hour and 24 minutes of action, 31 drivers hustled around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway turning 1,044 laps with 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya turning 61 laps – the most of any driver. That’s pretty good, considering the session that started five hours late including 33 minutes and one second of caution time after Jack Hawksworth stuffed the Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara/Honda into the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier at 6 p.m.

It was the first crash since practice began for the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. Hawksworth was checked and released form the IU Health Infield Care Center and cleared to drive.

“I have no idea what happened to be honest,” Hawksworth said. “We just went into Turn 3 and it just snapped so we’ll have to look into it. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to comment just yet because I have no idea. Suddenly it just snapped.”

One of the drivers that did not participate in Wednesday’s practice was 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch. With it appearing doubtful there would be any on-track activity Busch returned to North Carolina to spend the day with his regular team, Stewart Haas Racing. Busch will return to Indianapolis in time for Thursday morning’s practice session.

“Sometimes to just have a reset and have a day when we’re not continuing to feed information and just have a day to digest,” Busch said before leaving Indianapolis. “Once the track is good to go, we’re going to have cooler conditions and it’s going to be more ideal for qualifying trim anyway. We’ll have qualifying Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then come back around and work on race trim again Monday.”

Busch has been able to get up to speed quickly and was the third fastest driver of the week after Tuesday’s rain-shortened practice when he ran a fast lap of 224.159 mph in an Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda. He did not have a chance to back that up on Tuesday and with cars going faster with cooler conditions he is now the 18th fastest for the time so far at Indy.

He is attempting to be the first driver to compete in both the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 in the same day since Robby Gordon in 2004.

Busch has enjoyed the experience so far.

“The biggest thing that’s been a surprise is honestly just the open arms that everyone has had here and supportive of me being here and just kind of rooting me on,” Busch said. “It’s nice to talk to Rick Mears or to bump into Juan Pablo Montoya and we’re talking NASCAR and the crossover to IndyCar. Then again Michael (Andretti) has been amazing. He’s a great owner to drive for and even the camaraderie with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Marco (Andretti); it’s just been neat to experience it all.”

On the track, Simon Pagenaud was the fasted driver of the session as the Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner ran a fast lap at 226.122 miles per hour in a Dallara/Honda. That was faster than J.R. Hildebrand’s lap at 225.854 mph in an Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet.