Full practice times for day 3 at Indianapolis
The Verizon IndyCar teams and drivers got only a limited amount of track time on Tuesday in the third day of scheduled practice for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500.
The session, which started at noon local time, was something of a stop-start affair even before the first rain of the day rolled in over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway some 90 minutes later. The track was comprehensively 'lost' just a few minutes later, and by the time the skies briefly cleared the circuit was thoroughly submerged.
But worse was to come, with the ugly truth all too vividly detailed on the weather radar which showed intense storms heading directly to the speedway. There was certainly no time for the track to even start to dry off, and the threat of lightning meant that it became a matter of safety to clear everyone away from exposed outdoor areas where they might be at risk.
Finally the organisers confirmed what everyone knew was inevitable, and shortly after 2.30pm the official announcement came confirming that there would be no resumption of track activity for the rest of the day.
When the rain had started to fall, the man at the top of the timesheets was EJ Viso, still sitting in for the injured James Hinchcliffe in the #27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport car with a best lap speed of 224.488mph (40.0912s) on the 2.5-mile speedway circuit, well down on Monday's times which saw Ryan Hunter-Reay become the first man to top 225mph.
Viso was six hundredths faster than his team mate Kurt Busch in the Pennzoil-yellow #26 who posted a best speed of 224.159mph (40.1501s) during his limited time on the track, putting him just ahead of Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya who was third fastest despite having caused a yellow flag when he pulled off the track and onto the grass just before pit entry with a mechanical problem on the #2 car.
Prior to that, there had already been an early stoppage for light rain in turn 3 half an hour after the start, and then a second yellow for a track inspection following a brief sprinkle just before the one hour mark. Montoya's problems came around 15 minutes before the arrival of the downpour that caused practice to be abandoned for the day.
If nothing else, at least the brief running on Tuesday gave KV-AFS Racing's Sebastian Saavedra a chance to get back on the horse again, after being forced to sit out the first two days of practice while the team rebuilt his #17 car that had been heavily damaged in a starting grid accident in Saturday's road course race.
"It was good mentally for him and the whole team," said two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who is working with the KV team at Indy this week. "The crew on this team has done a fantastic job getting the car together. They started with the car down to the tub and built from there. It was a great achievement and important for Sebastian to get out there in."
Saavedra himself says that he is fine after the horrific accident in which his stalled car was hit from the rear by the unsighted Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin, but that he certainly felt the impact.
“It feels like somebody has given me a kidney punch and I'm stiff but okay,” said the 23-year-old Colombian after completing seven shakedown laps on Tuesday. “I just wanted to get out there. Kudos to all my boys who had a couple of long days to put it together. She's looking amazing."
Or at least, the car will look amazing once all the bodywork has received the AFS livery: at the moment, large parts of the chassis are in a plain unadorned black, making it looked like a badly scarred Frankenstein's monter. But for Tuesday at least looks were secondary, and the key achievement was simply in bolting a car together that was immediately able to lap at more than 200mph.
Saavedra's appearance means that the only drivers still left to pull ut on the track for the first time are James Davison and Buddy Lazier, both of whom have limited budgets that need to be carefully guarded if they're to make it to race day. Davison is expected to make his bow on Thursday morning in a specially scheduled Rookie Orientation Program session - at least if the weather cooperates, as Tuesday reminded everyone all too well.
There is still no new word on when or if James Hinchcliffe will be cleared to return to duty this week, following the concussion he sustained from flying debris during the maiden road course race on Saturday.Full practice times for day 3 at Indianapolis