INDIANAPOLIS – Whether on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway diving into turn one or in the garages tweaking a car, 34 drivers and crews this week are competing against time.
One change in setup shaves off a few hundredths of a second. Another nearly a tenth. Then a new piece is added to the strategy, and you’re back where you started. Such is the battle, day in and day out, preparing for the Indianapolis 500.
“Hopefully we can get it together by the time, next Sunday, everything should be up to speed,” says two-time champion Takuma Sato.
“You look ahead, and you’re like, ‘there’s lots of time. We can get stuff in,'” says Juncos Racing’s Callum Illot, preparing for his second Indy 500 start, “and you get close to qualifying and you run out of that time.”
Days like Tuesday’s full rainout sure don’t help, but they do lead to more action on the track, as we have seen throughout Wednesday’s first green flag 500 practice of the month of May.
“It’s tough for everybody because you think you have a full week of practice and then suddenly one day gets washed out, so you cannot test the huge planning list (our team engineers) had,” explains Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who finished second at the 2021 Indy 500.
“I was frustrated yesterday, missing the day,” admits 2022 champion Marcus Ericsson, “and then someone came up to me and said, ‘you won the race last year. It’s the other guys who should be frustrated missing out on practice time.’ I was like, fair point. It’s gonna make it more busy the next few days, but that’s how we like it.”
Ericsson is one of nine drivers in this year’s Indy 500 field to have conquered the Greatest Spectacle in Racing before. Each one is quick to admit though, past success won’t shed a single second from a single lap turned this month.
“I think keeping your eyes open and (being) ready for some change,” says 2008 champion Scott Dixon on his strategy early in practice. “Yeah, last year or 10 years ago means nothing, man, so just eyes forward and focused on this weekend.”
That focus will only narrow as time ticks away toward the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.