SPEEDWAY – New cars. New engines. New drivers at the top-at least for one day.
In a Month of May where the playing field between rookies and veterans is leveled by the advent of change it was the first timers who had the most success in the opening practice for the Indianapolis 500 on Saturday.
Of the six rookies that took to the track for work three finished in the top five of the day-end speed charts in what was a feeling-out type day for the Izod IndyCar Series.
“I think it caught us off guard,” said Sarah Fisher Hartman driver, Josef Newgarden who was the fastest of the opening day. “We didn’t really expect the speeds we ran in rookie orientation and we really didn’t expect the speeds that we had here.”
Newgarden topped the charts with a top lap of 220.250 while running 46 laps on the day. JR Hildebrand finished behind him at 219.693 miles and hour, just a few hundreths of a second ahead of rookie Bryan Clauson.
Rookie James Jakes was fourth fastest on the day with veteran Tony Kanaan rounding out the top five.
Enthusiasm over the first day times, however, remain tempered. Hildebrand admitted to getting a tow for his quick lap and knows that work is ahead for the team as they continued to adjust to the new equipment on a oval.
“They guys have worked long and hard to figure out what our plan of attack is gonna be and that’s going to be a big part of being successful this year,” said Hildebrand.
Practice continues on Sunday with practice opening up at 12 P.M.