The first day of practice runs for the Indianapolis 500 was affected by rain showers, but still gave the teams and drivers a chance to get used to their surroundings, shake down equipment and have a few laps at speed around the historic circuit.
Ed Carpenter put in the fastest time of 224.786 mph, compared with last year's pole position time of 227.970 mph - clearly early days yet. "It's only day one, but it's really exciting to see hard work pay off and see progress," he said. "We're going to have to keep up the effort because it's a long week heading into qualifying, but I definitely like the start that we're off to."
The Ganassi duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were in the top four, and JR Hildebrand split them in third with a very impressive 224.433 mph just two days after passing through the Rookie Orientation Program.
"Today was short and sweet, as we only turned four laps at speed. Always great to be back at IMS," said Dixon. "Early days, but I can't wait to get back in the car tomorrow."
"It was a good shakedown of the #10 Target car," agreed Franchitti. "Both Scott Dixon and I seemed to have good speed right away, but the real work starts on Monday."
"There really wasn't anything unexpected from my side," said Hildebrand. "It will be different when there will be 10 cars running out there. For a few laps running behind another guy I felt pretty comfortable and the car's hooked up."
Mike Conway turned 20 laps and finished back in 28th on his first return to the track that saw his horrific season-ending crash in the final lap of last year's Indy 500, but he brushed aside any questions about the accident: "It felt great. Obviously, it's been a while since we were here," he said. "All in all, it was just a shakedown with the T car today. You know, it's just good to see all the fans out here today. I'm sure it will get busier and busier as the days go on."
2004 race winner Buddy Rice was 4th on his first return to the track since 2008. "I feel good, and I'm happy to be back. Everything is going pretty well," he beamed. "I'm excited to be back here. I wanted to make sure I'd be in good equipment, and the Panther crew has run really well here recently. It's a great opportunity for me. I'm excited for the centennial."
James Jakes put the limited running to good use, and in the course of 42 laps completed the final phase of his Rookie Orientation Requirements (ROP) at the first opportunity. All eight of this year's rookies have now completed the mandatory ROP and can proceed through to qualifying next Saturday.
"It was pretty easy today. It's my first time at Indy and my first time on an oval. We're still running a lot of downforce, so we're driving around and just learning the ropes," said Jakes. "We have a lot of testing to do, go through all the stuff with my teammates, and I'm just taking my time. It will be good at the end of the day to look at all the data."
Dragon Racing rookies Scott Speed and Ho-Pin Tung were both absent from proceedings today.
No one pushed too hard on this first day, and there were no incidents.
Despite the rain, a total of 669 laps were put in during the afternoon. The forecast for Sunday is for drier conditions.Full practice times available