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Indy 500: Newgarden tops Opening Day times

Indianapolis 500 rookie Josef Newgarden made a flying start to his Indy 500 campaign, topping the timesheets on Opening Day with a lap of 220.250mph (40.8627s).
Anyone fearing that the new Dallara DW12 and new specification Honda and Chevrolet engines were going to result in much slower cars on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year will have been cheered by an impressive lap of 220.250mph recorded on the very first day of track activity by race rookie Josef Newgarden.

"It's not really a big deal to be quick on this day, but it speaks well for the team," said the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver. "I think the team deserves that credit. I'm really happy for them that they get the credit because they do deserve it. They do a good job, and I'm proud to be with them."

To back that up, SFHR's other rookie recruit for the Indy 500, USAC national drivers champion Bryan Clauson, was himself in third place in the timesheets at the end of Saturday with a lap of 219.632mph.

"I don't know that it could have gone much better - those SFHR boys prepared a fast Honda race car for us for this month. We were really quick out of the gate," he said. "Josef and I were very quick all day."

Clauson made the point that the raw time sheets could be deceptive, however, as many of the best times were set by cars drafting along in the wake of others.

"The fastest laps can be misleading because of the tow you catch," he said. "It will be interesting to see as the month goes on where guys end up. It's hard to tell whose flat-out at this point and who is not. But I felt really good about our car and the program we have in place for the rest of the month."

Certainly team owner Sarah Fisher was pleased with the way the session had gone, after having spent the day acting as Clauson's spotter to pass on her own oval racing experience to the newbie.

"Today is very encouraging, but it's still a very long month and we still have a lot of room to grow and room to learn," she said. "Having two rookies and it being their first experience, we need to make sure we have an even month so that when we arrive on both Pole Day and Race Day we're as prepared as today."

Last year's Indy 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand was in second place on 219.693mph sandwiched by the SFHR duo, while Britain's James Jakes was the highest non-American driver on the practice 1 timesheets with a lap of 218.286mph as he continued a strong start to his second bit to make the Indy 500 starting grid after falling short in 2011.

Related Pictures

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Bryan Clauson on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. May 2012. (c) 2012, Michael L. Levitt. (Photo credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver Josef Newgarden. (c) 2012, Michael L. Levitt. (Photo credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
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