With the distractions of rain, rookie orientation and refresher programmes out of the way at last, the drivers and teams got down to proper business on Tuesday with the second day of official practice for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

After effectively sitting Monday out and only going out on track for quick shakedown laps, the Penske squad were properly in action on Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it was no surprise to see Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud go to the top of the timesheets.

CLICK: Full times from practice 2 for the Indianapolis 500.

Castroneves set the best time of the day early on, with a time of 39.5580s (227.514mph) in just his seventh lap of 72 in total on the 2.5-mile speedway, while Pagenaud was among the drivers who left it late in the day for when cooler air prompted the drivers to take advantage of an outbreak of draft running. His time was just 0.0229s off that Castroneves, who also set the fastest non-draft lap of the day clocking in at 225.315mph.

"It was a good day," said Castroneves, who is a three-time Indy 500 champion and was runner-up in 2014 to Ryan Hunter-Reay. "The Shell V-Power Nitro+ car was super strong, super solid, felt comfortable.

"Now we've got to just keep working with this new aero kit," he continued. "Today was basically the second day that we've been working constantly, but I like what I see. Things are looking in the right direction. We're not focused on just the lap, we're focused on the performance of it all."

Pagenaud finished a tenth up on Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon who was third fastest. "We struggled a bit with the Target car for most of the morning, specifically with the rear of the car and the way I wanted it to be in order to be comfortable," said the New Zealander. "We worked on a lot of geometry with it and later on it seemed to come around to my liking. I think we made some decent progress and will keep working on things tomorrow if the weather holds up for us."

Justin Wilson was fourth fastest and the best of the Hondas on Tuesday, but was subsequently also the cause of a full course caution late in the day when he suffered an apparent engine failure that sent smoke billowing into the air.

"I looked in the mirror and there was a lot of smoke coming out of the exhaust so, yeah, it's unfortunate," said Wilson, whose engine was in any case near to its end of required mileage. "I don't know exactly but I guess we put the other engine in early. It's not a big issue and I'm not concerned about it. We have lots of miles and won't reach the maximum of 2,500.

"I don't know any more than that right now. But looking back over the day, I think we've had a pretty good day. The car's been quick. We tried a couple of different set-ups that the team's got going on. Both feel pretty good and quick."

James Jakes suffered a similar-looking problem earlier in the day in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #7 car - again, a Honda-powered entry - while Jack Hawksworth also pulled off onto the grass in turn 2 when the #41 AJ Foyt Racing car lost power.

"Well, we had some issues today but we'll get it sorted," said Hawksworth, taking an optimistic view of the incident. "Today we wanted to mileage out our engine and we were able to do that. Now the guys can put in the updated spec engine for tomorrow."

But by far the biggest and most dramatic incident of the day was the huge fire that engulfed the back of the #29 Andretti Autosport car after a problem with an O-ring connection which allowed fuel to leak out onto the hot engine where it immediately ignited. De Silvestro pulled over and jumped out unharmed but there was extensive damage to the car.

"I was going down the straightaway, and it wouldn't upshift and it was already on fire then," de Silvestro explained. "It happened really quickly. We were ready to go do a longer run and now we're not getting that in, so it's really frustrating.

"It's definitely unfortunate because the car is pretty burnt down," admitted the Swiss driver. "Until now, everything was working fine, and it's just annoying because it's a pretty big setback for us, but I have four great teammates and that will make it easier for us to continue moving forward."

It's far from de Silvestro's brush with fire in the IndyCar Series, or even at Indianapolis. In 2011, the 26-year-old crashed during practice for the Indy 500 and her overturned car caught fire before she could be pulled free, leaving her with painful burns on both hands although she was still able to take part in the race two weeks later.

De Silvestro also suffered burns to her finger when she crashed in turn 2 at Texas Motor Speedway in 2010 and her car had burst into flames as she climbed out.

"It's really frustrating that it seems like fire follows me," de Silvestro said. "Maybe this time is third times the charm, and hopefully the team can get the car back together as quickly as possible."

Tuesday also saw confirmation of the final driver in the 34-car field, as James Davison took to the track for his first laps at the wheel of the Dale Coyne Racing #19 entry. The Australian driver - a veteran of two years in Indy Lights in 2008 and 2009 who made two IndyCar appearances with DCR in 2013 - made his Indy 500 d?but with KV Racing Technology in 2014 when he finished in 16th place.

However Davison has a scheduling conflict this weekend with a prior commitment to the Nissan Motorsports GT-R GT3 car in the Pirelli World Challenge race in Mosport, Canada which means he's not available to qualify the car at IMS on Saturday. It's expected that former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Tristan Vautier will step into the car instead.

Lynne Huntting of PressSnoop.com reports from trackside on the first day of official practice at the two-and-a-half mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Tuesday was on and off sunny with gusty winds upward of 30 mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second day of Verizon IndyCar Series practice for the 99th running of the Indy 500. Temperatures were in the low sixties, with the track no warmer than 92F/33C.

At the 90 minute mark, 30 cars had turned a wheel in anger and that number continued to hold steady for another 90 minutes with Castroneves quick to set what would prove to be the fastest lap of the day.

Just when it looked like it was an uneventful, no drama/all work sort of day, Simona de Silvestro flamed out big time. She came down the back straight blowing ever increasing amounts of smoke. She kept to the left and when the flames erupted like Mount Vesuvius she then pulled onto an access road and bailed - so quickly she knocked over a fireman coming to her rescue.

She was physically alright, and quickly made her way back to where she was last seen conducting a debrief of the incident with team owner Michael Andretti and Rob Edwards, the director of race operations and engineering, having been recently recruited to the team after five years at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

During the first half of the day the cars tended to come out in small numbers. Many were late in coming out, some were still in the garage, or on their way back to the garage, and one garage was shut tight with no activity. The strong winds may have been discouraging, as the majority of the cars were in the pits or garage. At one point all the Dale Coyne Racing Hondas were in the garage, but then Pippa Mann and Carlos Huertas finally ventured out.

The #19 stayed in the garage up on jacks until late in the day, a crew member explaining that the speedway aero kit components had only just arrived overnight and were being attached and installed. Eventually James Davison was confirmed as the driver for the car and headed out for 15 laps near the end of the day.

The only driver not out to be on track today by design was Buddy Lazier in the #91 Lazier Racing Chevrolet. He's on a short program with Chevrolet and is the only driver not intending to run full time practice in order to keep engine wear-and-tear to a minimum, and also minimise the risk of damaging the car which could compromise his ability to take part in the race itself. Lazier should be on course by Thursday, giving him two full practice days and one hour on Saturday before qualifying.

Practice continues all week, with the next session set for noon on Wednesday, May 12 and due to last for six hours in total, weather permitting. Friday's session should see a big boost in times in accordance with the day's nickname of 'Fast Friday', thanks to manufacturers being allowed to increase turbocharger boost pressure from 130 kPa to 140 kPa, which will generate more horsepower and likely higher speeds, track conditions permitting.



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