Rahal leaps to top during Indy practice
Driver speeds from 34th to 1st
INDIANAPOLIS — Graham Rahal’s one-day turnaround looked good and felt even better.
Now he needs to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
Just 24 hours after finishing 34th out of 35 on the Indianapolis 500 practice speed charts, the 29-yearold American jumped into the top spot with a fast lap of 226.047 mph. The only driver to top 226 on Thursday heads into the weekend with a little momentum.
“It’s cooler to lead practice than being 34th because you don’t have to answer all the questions about being 34th,” Rahal said. “But today was a very good day. We found some pace and at the end of the day we found some things that will help us. That last run was the best I have felt in traffic.”
Rahal had been struggling to figure out how the new car works. He was clocked at 222.102 on Wednesday.
He’s not the only one searching for answers.
Tony Kanaan, the second-fastest Thursday at 225.896 and the 2013 race winner, acknowledged everyone’s curious to see what happens when series organizers boost the horsepower by about 50 today and for qualifying weekend. He’s driving for A.J. Foyt Racing this year.
But he also didn’t wind up in the wall like JR Hildebrand, who suffered the first crash of the week when his car drifted up the track and slammed into the wall between the third and fourth turns. He was checked at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s infield center and was released and cleared to drive.
It put a damper on Dreyer & Reinbold’s first attempt to make the 500 since 2013.
“We had something happen in turn three with the car. We are still analyzing what might have happened. The car felt out of the ordinary,” Hildebrand said. “It felt like I had a wacky wheel of a shopping cart because the car kept wobbling a bit. But I’m fine and ready to go tomorrow.”
Rahal said he had similar sensation in his car throughout the day and thought he might be the first to crash, too.
Instead, he managed to get some help to jump to the top of the speed charts.
“Going out there and sitting in a big tow has never been my thing but when you do, it feels good,” he said. “If you do get a tow, it is massive.”
Rahal, who drives for his father’s team — Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing —was one of two Honda drivers in the top six.
The other was Marco Andretti, who was third at 225.584. Andretti, who also drives for his father’s team, had the fastest speed Wednesday.
Two-time Indy 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter, Sage Karam and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden rounded the top six. They, along with Kanaan, all drive Chevrolets.
Danica Patrick was 30th at 222.216 as she prepares for the final race of her career.
“Today definitely didn’t go as well as we’d hoped,” Patrick said. “The changes we made seemed to help a little bit in traffic, but it just felt worse alone and I had a lot more understeer. We’ll regroup tonight and come back tomorrow focused on trying to find more speed before qualifying.”
Practice continues today when the cars get a horsepower boost. Qualifying for the traditional 33-car starting grid will be held Saturday and the nine-car pole shootout is scheduled for Sunday, one week before the race.
IndyCar adds eye-tracking system to concussion test
INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly every indicator suggested Will Power was suffering from concussion-like symptoms after his car hit a wall during one of the first practice sessions of the 2016 season. He was dizzy, had difficulty standing when he climbed from his car the next day, and was overcome with nausea.
IndyCar doctors checked him several times, determined he had a concussion and ruled him ineligible to race in the season-opener.
But too many things about Power’s case baffled the IndyCar medical team. They sent the Australian to see Dr. Steve Olvey, IndyCar’s former medical director, at the University of Miami for further testing. Olvey had a new tool that determined Power was not concussed after all. He was instead suffering from an inner ear infection, with symptoms still strong enough to keep him out of the race.
The new diagnosis and how Olvey got to it intrigued IndyCar.
“That was a game-changer for us,” said Dr. Terry Trammell, safety consultant to INDYCAR and its medical staff.
Olvey had used an eye-tracking computer test called the I-PAS system, and IndyCar wanted access to it. Created by Pittsburgh-based Neuro Kinetics Inc., the I-PAS is commonly referred to as the “goggles test.” It’s a portable system and resembles a virtual reality headset. The test integrates clinical eye tracking with a digital display, and medical professionals run a series of 14 tests to determine if a driver has a concussion.
IndyCar has used the I-PAS, which is portable and available at all events, through its development phase since Power’s incident. It has now been added as a requirement in IndyCar’s concussion evaluation protocol.
pietro Fittipaldi a spectator at Indy after breaking legs
Pietro Fittipaldi thought he would be preparing for his Indianapolis 500 debut this week. Instead, he is recovering from multiple leg fractures and watching someone else drive his race car.
Fittipaldi was injured in a crash during a qualifying session for the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps in Belgium earlier this month. The 21-year-old grandson of two-time Formula One world champion Emerson Fittipaldi returned to Indianapolis last Friday after surgery to stabilize his legs.
“I’m disappointed, I’m hurt that I’m not being able to race here in the 500,” he said Thursday. “But it is what it is. It’s toughen up and get back as soon as possible.”
Fittipaldi is expected to be sidelined at least eight weeks, and Dale Coyne Racing has picked rookie Zachary Claman De Melo to drive the No. 19 in the May 27 Indianapolis 500.
Fittipaldi is staying in a motorhome at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next two weeks.
“I couldn’t really get much closer than that,” he said. “We decided with all the doctors to stay at the track, at the motorhome, because Dr. (Terry) Trammell is at the medical center here every day, with all the nurses there. They’ve been helping me out a lot.”
Being at the track also helps Fittipaldi keep his spirits up after missing a chance to participate in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” His Brazilian grandfather won the race in 1993.
Graham Rahal pulls on his gloves as he prepares to drive during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 on Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.