Pole-sitter Pagenaud leads post-qualifying practice

(Courtesy: IndyCar/Mike Harding)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The driver who will lead the field to green in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 is atop the speed charts yet again.

Pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud clocked the fastest speed Monday with a lap of 228.441 miles per hour in a two-hour practice to begin race week.

“It was really good to be able to run with a lot of people on track,” said Pagenaud. “I thought at the end it was almost like a race. Everybody was on track, so that was entertaining. It was a good way to see how the car was reacting.”

The Team Penske driver is riding a wave of momentum after capturing the pole with a qualifying speed of 229.992 MPH a week after winning the IndyCar Grand Prix.

Pagenaud’s Penske teammate Josef Newgarden was second fastest with a speed of 228.273 MPH.

“It’s just every day making small steps forward,” Newgarden said. “Trying to understand the temperature differences each day, but slowing making the car better. I think we’re really getting there. I think Friday can be close to peak day and then Sunday is really the day you need to be peaking for having the best car possible. I think we’re getting there.”

James Hinchcliffe rebounded nicely in Monday’s practice after an eventful weekend. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson driver had the third quickest time at 227.994 MPH a day after surviving the Last Row Shootout to qualify 32nd. He went to his back-up car after crashing during his qualifying run on Saturday.

“We had a good race car in practice, and luckily all that information transferred well from the primary to the ‘T’ car,” said Hinchcliffe. “The car’s decent. We learned some things that are good. We learned some things that are bad. The conditions today are a lot different than what we’ll see on race day, so I think Carb Day is going to be more representative, but glad we have some speed in the car.”

Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five on Monday. The reigning series champion Dixon will start 18th on Sunday, the worst starting position in the 500 in his career.

“We really didn’t run a qualifying set-up until Fast Friday,” Dixon said. “We tried to focus on race running as much as possible, so I think we feel decent. I think we would definitely like to see warmer track temps. I think our car will be better on the long run that way, but we can’t control that. We’ll have to wait and see. Race running we feel pretty good.”

The drivers have one last practice at 11:00 a.m. on Carb Day before the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

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