All about the Draft at Indy on Tuesday

May 14 Day 4 of practice for the 2013 Indianapolis 500

story and photos by Tim Hailey

James Hinchcliffe in his own car, crusing past me at 220 or so. MORE INDY PHOTOS

James Hinchcliffe, behind the wheel of the No.25 RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet normally piloted by Marco Andretti, set the fast lap of the day at 224.210 mph. Hinchcliffe was followed closely by fellow Chevrolet IndyCar V6 powered driver JR Hildebrand in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet. “I guess we are good at playing tow wars,” Hichcliffe said, referring to drafting behind another car to gain speed . “It is what it is. Every day you get guys going out there and getting a little bit of I don’t know…(turning to Hildebrand) did you genuinely do a 223?”

“Of course,” laughed JR.

“So, now I’m a little nervous because Marco’s (Andretti) angry,” replied Hichcliffe. “Not only did I like rock the big tow, which he is famous for, I did it in his car. Marco ‘Towdretti’ is a little upset with me right now. At the end of the day those numbers don’t mean a lot right now. It’s about the work you do on the race car and making sure that you are going to be good not over one lap, but over 200 in a couple of weeks.”

Hildebrand ran his good lap despite strong winds and a track that turned slippery duringb the 5-6 Happy Hour. “The wall magnet was very strong in turn 2,” quipped JR.

In all, nine Team Chevy drivers occupied the top-10 fastest at the end of Practice Session Four as Honda continues to stay clear of the speed charts. They did that last year, of course, then kicked ass on raceday. Andretti, was third quick of the day back in his No. 25 Chevrolet. “I think today went well,” said Marco. “I’m quite pleased with how things are going for us so far. Working with the car in the heat of the day can be challenging, but we made a lot of progress to get where we are. We are going to continue to look at things and try to be faster by raceday.”

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, was fourth on the speed charts. “It was another good day today for the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet,” said the sponsor-friendly Brazilian. “We feel we’ve identified the places where we can improve and so now we have to continue working. Finishing near the top yesterday and today shows we hopefully have the consistency that it takes to win the race in the end.”

Helio was followed by defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 1 DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet who put up the fifth fastest speed of the day. “It’s certainly getting interesting now with the heat and the wind,” said Hunter-Reay. “Conditions are changing every day so it’s keeping the team on our toes, and we’re just trying a lot of different settings now. We have five cars so we have a lot of options and, I think, as we work through the week we’ll work ourselves into a good car. But it’s a work in progress.”

E.J. Viso, Carlos Munoz, Oriol Servia and A.J. Allmendinger all turned in strong laps with bowtie power. “Very long day for me today,” said Viso. “I completed 134 laps – it’s enough to get the engine swapped. Anyways, it was a very good, productive day. We went through some tests…which we found some good answers. We did a couple of long runs with the rest of the Andretti Autosport guys, and we are still finding new answers every time we go on a run together. Today was a little bit hotter than the other days, and the weather predictions say that race day is going to be even a bit hotter than today. So I think the running that we did today was pretty productive to gather some data.”

“Today was the first day it has been warm outside, which was something I had not experienced yet,” said Allmendinger. “The track changed throughout the day, getting slicker than it’s been on the cooler days but we were able to make adjustments to the IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet that helped us put down some pretty good laps. I was able to learn a lot with a lot of cars on the track today, which obviously critical for me as we get close to the race. Productive day in all but I still have a lot to learn.”

“It’s starting to get interesting out there,” said Servia. “The track was very hot – up to 130 degrees at some points. It makes things a lot more difficult but that’s how race conditions are going to be. We lose a lot of downforce when it gets hot like this and it just gets tougher to get a good set up. It still was a great day. We were running in the top five most of the day so I’m very pleased. Third day of running for us and we have excellent notes. I’m very happy with where we are.”

Pole Day for the Indianapolis 500 is set for Saturday, May 18, 2013 when not only will the polesitter be crowned, but also the fastest 24 cars and drivers locked into the field. I’ll, however, be catching all the action over at Lucas Oil for the NHDRO opener.