Montoya Leads Indianapolis Motor Speedway Opening Day

Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was highlighted by a significant jump in speed in the on-track debut of superspeedway aero kits from Chevrolet and Honda. Twenty-one drivers surpassed last year's fastest lap of Opening Day as drivers turned more than 1,800 laps in preparation for this month's 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Footage from Opening Day practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is now available Click Here.

"It's faster, for sure, no doubt about it. Speeds are going to be up," 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay said. "The difficult part for teams and drivers is balancing the clouded read you get from a big tow and new tires versus getting a read on the new car."

Juan Pablo Montoya, who 15 years ago won the Indy 500, recorded the fastest lap at 226.772 mph (39.6874 seconds) on the 2.5-mile oval as 28 driver/car combinations became acclimated to the aero kits and developed a baseline for practice that begins May 11. The fast lap on Opening Day last year was set by Will Power at 223.057 mph.

"(Having the fastest lap) is good for Verizon and for Chevy and for everybody that is paying attention. But I think the time sheet, as always, is irrelevant until you get to the race or until you get to qualifying," Montoya said.

Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was 0.0533 of a second faster than teammate and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Marco Andretti was third on the speed chart at 226.268 mph and the fastest of the Honda contingent. Scott Dixon, driving a Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, was fourth at 225.881 mph and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske was fifth at 225.641 mph.

Takuma Sato (225.571) was sixth in an AJ Foyt Racing Honda, followed by Simona de Silvestro (225.317) in an Andretti Autosport Honda and two-time defending Indianapolis 500 Verizon P1 Award winner Ed Carpenter (225.257) in a CFH Racing Chevrolet. Hunter-Reay was ninth in an Andretti Autosport Honda (225.208) and Sage Karam, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the 2014 Indy 500, was 10th (224.931) in a Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet.

A rookie orientation test and refresher test for drivers who had not competed in a Verizon IndyCar Series oval race since last May also was part of the on-track activity.

Gabby Chaves of Bryan Herta Autosport completed the three phases of the rookie program that examines car control, placements and a consistent driving pattern at various speed parameters. Stefano Coletti was out of the country and will run through the rookie phases May 11 in a KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.

Overall, 1,845 laps were turned without incident.

A balance between aerodynamic drag reduction and maintaining sufficient downforce is the hallmark of both manufacturer superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork kits. Different approaches were taken by manufacturers to achieve optimal performance in conjunction with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines, and it is reflected in their base platforms.

Both manufacturer packages include a variety of individual aerodynamic components fitted to the Dallara rolling chassis that make them markedly different from the road/street and short oval kit that has been utilized in the first four races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Additionally, multiple options are available to teams to explore during practice for qualifications May 16-17 and the May 24 race.

"We have a laundry list of changes to try and luckily we have time to work with it," Andretti said of the aero options.

Verizon IndyCar Series teams return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 7 for a Promoter Test on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in preparation for the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9. Pagenaud was the winner of the inaugural road race in 2014 while with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Daly Will Be 'Fueled By Bacon'

Smithfield Foods will be the primary sponsor of Conor Daly's No. 43 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at the Indianapolis 500. The team's third entry will be called the Fueled By Bacon Special in reference to Smithfield, the global food company founded in 1936 that is the world's largest provider of high-quality pork products.

"We've been in motorsports, as most people know across the country, now in (NASCAR) Cup," said Bob Weber, Smithfield's vice president of corporate marketing. "It's exciting for us to finally step forward with the Indy 500. It's the next logical step for us. Our motorsports has proven very effective for us, not only in expanding our brand nationally, but also in generating sales for our company."

Daly, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with AJ Foyt Racing, participated in today's open test on the 2.5-mile oval.

Clauson Ready for Second Indy 500 Chance

Despite a three-year absence from the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," Bryan Clauson feels on more even footing with the competition as practice began today for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race - thanks to the new superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork kits that debuted with the oval test.

Clauson, the multiple champion in the U.S. Auto Club national series for sprint cars and midgets, made his one and only Indy 500 appearance in 2012 as a benefactor of an INDYCAR scholarship that funded his ride with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (now CFH Racing). Clauson started 31st and finished 30th, retiring after just 46 laps with mechanical problems. The Noblesville, Ind., resident has had a year to prepare for this opportunity after being named to drive the No. 88 KVSH Racing/Jonathan Byrd's Chevrolet in May 2014.

He spent Opening Day going through the mandatory driver refresher program to get himself back up to speed at a methodical pace. Clauson, 25, believes the fact everyone else has little experience with the new aero kits will work to his benefit.

"I guess it's probably a good year to come in again because everybody is starting, not necessarily from scratch, but not everybody knows what they have when they rolled in here this morning," Clauson said. "So we're all kind of starting from the same level to some degree. It's been too long for me (since driving an Indy car) to sit here and say that I could tell you the difference between it. It seems like the aero kits are definitely more efficient from what we've seen and definitely add some intrigue."

Making Entrepreneurs Out of Lemonade

A group of local young entrepreneurs met today with the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers they are paired with to raise funds for charity on Lemonade Day Greater Indianapolis, May 16 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A total of 10 lemonade stands will be set up on Pagoda Plaza that day. The young business owners selected to operate the stands will sell their individually prepared beverages to fans attending the first day of qualifications for the 2015 Indianapolis 500. Portions of the proceeds from each stand go to charities designated by the driver teamed with each stand. Among the charities benefitting from the day will be: the Julian Center (Juan Pablo Montoya), Susan G. Komen (Pippa Mann), Indianapolis Humane Society (Will Power, Simon Pagenaud) and Indy Family Foundation (Ed Carpenter).

The stand owners and drivers held an introductory session this morning to prepare for the big event. Lemonade Day is an annual national initiative directed at teaching children the fundamentals of starting and operating a business, as well as giving back to their community. Scott Jones, local entrepreneur and founder of Cha Cha, spearheaded bringing the program to Indianapolis in 2010.


POST-PRACTICE DRIVER QUOTES:

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, fastest of the day): "It's OK. (Having the fastest lap) is good for Verizon and for Chevy and for everybody that is paying attention. But I think the time sheet, as always, is irrelevant until you get to the race or until you get to qualifying. Everybody is posting times in the draft and it's a matter of who is doing the best in the draft. I'll tell you, the Hondas are looking strong - I think they were doing a lot of race work at the end, so we'll see." ... (On switching from today's oval test to the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis road course): "It's going to be a little bit of work for the team this week to switch the cars over, but it is what it is, and it's the same for everybody. This is a pretty cool road course and the race last year was pretty amazing. With the long straights and the draft, it's pretty exciting and it should bring really good racing."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda, third fastest of the day): "It's interesting. I think there are definitely still some gremlins to work out. We have an overwhelming laundry list of changes to try. Luckily we have a lot of time to work with it, but we're going to need some time. I don't really want to go into a lot of detail, but there are a lot of things to work out still. I'm not thoroughly pleased with my car now. The good thing about that is we're still in the hunt speed-wise." ... "I enjoy the road course. It's tougher on the (team) because for me, you can wake me up and I'll drive whatever and wherever. But I enjoy this layout with the long straightaways, we're going to see a lot of different downforce levels and a lot of games being played. From that standpoint, it's fun. We're trying to find the ultimate lap time, do you want to trim, do you not? And it's going to be the same for everybody."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda):  "It was a good first day testing the aero kit. We also had to mileage out an engine, which we successfully did, but we have a little work to do with the handling of the Steak 'n Shake car. It's better than last year, but we're not where we need to be. It's the first on-track day of the month, which is good, so there is a lot of time ahead of us. The team is a little split up right now over the two cars, but once we get a full staff in here it will be a lot easier."

DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet, filling in for Townsend Bell, who was racing sports cars at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca): "It's cool to be back and in a race car. Townsend couldn't be here today. We're just running the car to shake it down and do a system check. We're doing a few baseline runs. It's definitely not a full test; just for today and then Townsend will take over."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): "The day started off really good, but as soon as it got a little hotter it got a little difficult and we started to slide around quite a bit. All in all I'm quite pleased with the first day, there is still a lot to work on and lots to try and understand with the new aero kits and the new downforce levels. We're not sure what is a typical baseline for running race run trim or qualifying trim, so we're just working it all out."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): "The first day with the new Honda oval aero kits - our first time at IMS with the new aero kits. Today was just a learning day. I feel really good with the car and I think we had a fast car all day. Here in Indy, it comes down to whoever has the best tow, the least amount of aero. It's only the first day; we still have a lot of testing to go, but it feels pretty good."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda): "Today was a pretty good first day. ... I think our speed was OK. For me, it was a really good day just being with the team and learning a little bit on the oval. I think we're all pretty happy with the test day, and for sure we have some work to do, but I think we'll be OK. I'm just happy to be back in the car here in Indy."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda):  "I enjoy driving here almost every time. It felt really good, I felt at home immediately and it helped that I was with the team I drove with last year. Everything felt like it was only yesterday that I drove an Indy car here instead of a year ago. The team did a great, great job. It already felt better than last year. We just went through a lot of changes and gathered data. We have a whole week now to look at the data and basically understand the new aero package. We have wind tunnel figures, which is good, but it's not the same as being on track so both cars tried different things to gather as much data as possible. Graham (Rahal) and I did a lot of laps today, but this week the engineers have a lot of work ahead of them to go through. I'm feeling pretty good. It's quite amazing to see how different the two aero packages are and yet are still so close in speed."

PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "First off, it was just absolutely fantastic to finally be back in an Indy car after almost a year sitting out on the sidelines. It's great to be reunited and continue the strong relationship with my team at Dale Coyne Racing. I'm pretty happy with our performance on day one since we were able to get over 223 miles per hour. We have some work to do next week to help polish out everything, especially the driver. We certainly knocked the rust off today and I am really looking forward to getting in the car on a more consistent basis come next week. It was also great to get the INDIEGOGO logos on the pink Indy car and out on track today for people to see because our partnership with INDIEGOGO is so important to help us raise money in the fight to end breast cancer forever."

GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda, who completed his Rookie Orientation Program): "This was a very special day for me to be out there in an Indy car and to work with the new aero kits. The car felt great, very comfortable. I can leave today with a very positive feeling and I'm very happy with the teamwork. This is the first time I have gone over 200 miles per hour. It's very different. I thought it would be closer to what it was like in an Indy Lights car. When you're running 30 miles per hour faster than you have ever gone before, everything comes at you a lot quicker. That was the first thing I noticed, how quickly I am completing laps. We managed some pretty good results, top three in the trap times. We kept finding more speed all day. Now we can focus on trying to build a strong consistent race car."