By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – A far cry from Wednesday’s Chevrolet domination, Honda found themselves at the top of the speed charts during Thursday practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 with an unfamiliar face at the top.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’s Jay Howard turned a lap of 226.744 mph, the fastest of the month on his ninth lap of the day around the 2.5 mile oval.
However, Thursday was not without its problems. Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden became the first major victim of wall contact at 1:11 in the afternoon as he hit the wall with his No. 2 hum by Verizon Chevrolet. Newgarden was third fastest at the time of his incident and would end up being the fastest Chevrolet of the day in fifth place.
Behind Howard, Ryan Hunter-Reay led an Andretti Autosport 2-3-4 as the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner was second fastest ahead of Marco Andretti and rookie teammate Fernando Alonso was fourth, the fastest rookie of the day.
For Howard, this was an interesting day as one of his sponsors is the Tony Stewart Foundation and Stewart made an appearance at the track, possibly raising Howard’s game a bit in front of his backer.
“I’m going to chain [Stewart] up in the garage,” said Howard. “He ain’t going nowhere. He might think he’s leaving, he ain’t. He’s going to get out to his car, he’s got flat tires. I’ve already been out there taking care of all the tires. He’s not escaping.”
As for Alonso, he did a fastest lap of 225.619 mph which was his fastest of the month. The Spaniard turned 96 laps of practice, bringing his monthly total to 417 laps. Alonso’s driven 1,042.5 miles around Indianapolis, or just ten miles short of driving from New Orleans to Cleveland.
Including Buddy Lazier’s sole installation lap, the field turned a total of 2,362 laps for a total mileage of 5,905 miles, or 25 miles short of the distance from Cairo to Detroit.