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Indy 500 Day One Round-Up: Rain radars, mist, moisture and more

Written by Archie O’Reilly


The opening day of practice for the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is complete. And much like April’s open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), there was not an awful lot of track time. A caution was thrown for conditions shortly over 20 minutes into the morning’s running and from there it was a day of waiting with no avail.


The day’s action was ultimately cancelled four hours from its intended end point - the second year in succession to see the opening day washed out. And as a result, Wednesday’s day-long session will start two hours earlier than planned and run from 10am until 6pm ET to try and make up for some lost time.


In the meantime, DIVEBOMB presents a round-up of the very limited action from Indianapolis on a significantly curtailed Day One of the oval fortnight…


How many words for wet weather?


What were the highlights from the opening day of this year’s Indy 500? Well, aside from the splendour of seeing cars rolling at the Speedway, not much came from less than a half-hour of on-track action.


But there were some off-track moments to keep those tuned into the IndyCar stream entertained. A fan failing to get up from their camp chair with the broadcast cameras focused on them is one, along with repeated footage of a person face-planting when performing a pogo-stick stunt. 


Will Power lying on the wall in front of his pit stall probably best encapsulated the mood of everybody that waits year-round to see cars in anger on the oval at the Brickyard. But at least there was Graham Rahal sporting his marvellous high-vis jacket-inspired race suit to keep the mood high.


Those tuned into the NBC Sports coverage will have been exposed to a number of words used to convey the level of dampness in the track’s vicinity. It went from mist delaying the start by three minutes, to moisture and full-on rain. Of course, Indy cars cannot run in any degree of wetness on ovals, especially travelling at over 200 miles per hour at IMS.


The endless convoy of trucks circulating the oval, while cars sat and were gradually dragged away from the pit lane, ‘held onto’ a relatively dry track for a while. But the rain only intensified and the track’s state eventually went beyond any easy drying process.


The initial plan for the day was a two-hour session, then a two-hour break before five hours of running. The break was scrapped to allow the greatest window possible for running but the radar, inundated with thick green blocks of rain through the surrounding Indiana area, looked bleak and the 100 percent chance of rain on the forecast did not lie.


Dixon tops limited running


In terms of the on-track running, it was Scott Dixon that led the way with a fastest single-lap average speed of 229.107 mph from his meagre nine laps. It was then Andretti Global’s one-off entry Marco Andretti - a third generation driver - in second with a 228.399 mph quickest lap amid a big tow and some quick early track conditions.


There was a drop-off to Takuma Sato with a fastest lap average of 225.551 mph in third place for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL), who have taken the experienced two-time Indy 500 winner onboard in an extra entry as they look to turn around their woes of 2024. The RLL team also had Christian Lundgaard inside the top five after the brief running.


Of the 34 drivers attempting to make it into the field of 33 when qualifying rolls around at the weekend, 26 set somewhat representative laps of over 200 mph. Rinus VeeKay was the slowest of that group with a 214.060 mph quickest lap average. 


Essentially only running to shake the cars down, the Team Penske duo of reigning winner Josef Newgarden and 2018 victor Will Power both had their quickest laps with an average speed beneath 150 mph. Newgarden was prevented from further running due to a sensor issue.


Kyle Larson, the 2021 champion and current points leader in the NASCAR Cup Series, also ran a fastest average lap speed of below 150 mph. He is attempting the ‘double’ this month by making his IndyCar debut in the Indy 500 on the same day he tries to run NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600.


“It’s good to finally have the Indy 500 here,” he said. “I’ve known about this for a couple of years now, so it’s been a lot of waiting. Just happy to get this experience underway. The weather is getting in the middle of things today, but once we get through today, it should be good.”


While Dixon topped the session, Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Alex Palou, Marcus Armstrong, Linus Lundqvist and Kyffin Simpson - the latter trio all oval rookies - did not set a time. There was also no running for Katherine Legge in the No.51 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.


Felix Rosenqvist, Scott McLaughlin and Kyle Kirkwood ran the most laps with 13 and only 219 total laps were completed. Those that did not run did not miss out on lots, albeit their teams will not have got the same gauge on how their cars are running heading into the rest of the week. 


In terms of action beyond the pylon, there is not much to report. Some small pack running emerged on track, including the Meyer Shank Racing trio trading positions. The sketchiest moment came as Kirkwood got a little too close to a kerb and caused raised voices in the booth.

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