Superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork packages from Chevrolet and Honda quickly captured the attention of spectators for their visual departure from last year’s car, differences between the manufacturers’ platforms and a significant speed jump during their debut on Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who 15 years ago won the Indy 500, recorded the fastest lap in the four-hour afternoon session for all cars at 226.772 mph (39.6874 seconds) on the 2.5-mile oval as 28 driver/car combinations got acclimated to the aero kits and developed a baseline for practice that begins May 11.

Twenty-one drivers surpassed the fastest Opening Day 2014 lap of 223.057 mph by Will Power.

“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.”

Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was .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.

Eleven-time Indianapolis 500 starter Davey Hamilton, who had driven a Verizon IndyCar Series car since 2011, shook down the No. 24 Robert Graham Special for Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing in lieu of Townsend Bell, who was competing in a sports car race in California.

“Getting in the car is just about me doing the easy stuff. Townsend gets the hard stuff the rest of the month,” said Hamilton, managing director of Kingdom Racing and the analyst on Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts. “Townsend is great around this place and we have a lot of high expectations. I’m fortunate to be able to do it and help the team as a whole and not lose a day. I have no aspirations to get back in and race. (The car) definitely feels different than the last time I drove with the new components. It will help me do my job with the radio broadcast, too.”

Four-time USAC champion Bryan Clauson, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the 2012 Indianapolis 500, de Silvestro, Oriol Servia, Pippa Mann, Justin Wilson, James Jakes, Conor Daly and Karam also completed their refresher tests.

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.

“Right now we’re focusing on the 500 and everything we need for that,” said Wilson, who will drive the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda in both races this month. “(When the) checkered flag flies, we’ll switch over and we’ll be focused on how to get the most out of the situation for that GP. I get to do the GP first and get used to the team and the environment and work everything else out before we get into the rest of the month of May.”

Pagenaud was the winner of the inaugural race in 2014 while with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.


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