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Indy 500: Newgarden top, Alesi passes ROP

Josef Newgarden continued to be one of the stars of practice for the 2012 Indianapolis 500, topping the times on Monday by being the first man to record a lap over 222mph.
To lead one Indianapolis 500 practice session could be considered a fluke, but after dipping down to a 'mere' third place on the timesheets on Sunday, Josef Newgarden dismissed any questions about how genuine his pace was by blasting back to the top on Monday with a lap of 222.486mph (40.4519s).

"It's another strong day," said the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver. "We're stepping through it each time, and we have a lot more to go still. Our good start is continuing to roll forward. So we're feeling positive."

Newgarden's boost above 222mph was largely due to an outbreak of drafting that went on going into the final hour of the Monday session, with Newgarden looking particularly sharp in hunting out drafting opportunities to help speed him along.

"It looks like everyone was trying to race runs, and we kind of jumped in as well," he said. "It was a lot of fun. It was good to run out there with the guys, and I think we need to do more of that probably and figure out how the car operates in the draft a little bit. Certainly learned a lot of the way it reacts today."

Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti also broke into the 221mph speeds in the final hour, in what is already a markedly better Indy 500 preparation then their lamentable team showing in 2011.

"We ran on our own most of the day just trying to sort out some pretty big setup changes, and then at the end we ran in a group with our teammates here, and a few others joined in," said Hunter-Reay, who had the humiliation of failing to qualify last year and ending up having to buy into a seat at AJ Foyt Racing to get onto the grid. No such problems so far this year, though: "It was pretty good," he smiled.

Among the rest of the five-car Andretti contingent at IMS, Sebastian Saavedra was fifth fastest after previously topping the Sunday times, James Hinchcliffe was tenth fastest in the GoDaddy.com car, and Ana Beatriz was 13th.

"I'm pretty impressed with all five teams," said Hinchcliffe. "We've been really good about sticking to our plan across all the different programs, and I think it's reaping good benefits. We had a lot of good clean running today.

"We didn't do a lot of traffic running [until the end], and the car feels pretty good on our own, so tomorrow we'll probably run a little more in the pack," he added.




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