By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Hunter-Reay was among those who made the most of Opening Day Practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500. After starting the veterans session 14th overall at 220.805 mph, he ended Tuesday being second overall quickest at 226.371 mph.
The 2014 Indy 500 champion felt that his No. 28 DHL Honda was good and was nice to set a strong lap in the final sub-two hour session. In that portion of practice, he ran 43 laps with the personal best taking place on his 22nd lap.
That in mind, Hunter-Reay said his Andretti Autosport squad doesn’t focus on that kind of stuff. Instead, it’s the track conditions which is expected to add hurdles on the competition heading into this weekend’s qualifying.
“We just kind of fell into it and rolled with it,” said Hunter-Reay. “Car seemed good in traffic. Good start, but these conditions are really nice right now. The heat is coming later in the week, so it’s going to get a lot harder for all of us. Setups are probably going to change, as well.”
With aforementioned conditions set to heat up, Motorsports Tribune asked if adjusting to those changes are vital.
“I think you have to look at the forecast and kind of keep things in perspective,” Hunter-Reay replied. “On a day like this you kind of put that in the notebook as: ‘Okay, we can pull this back out if conditions are similar to this two weeks out from now when we go racing, or a week and a half, whatever it is.’
“It looks very much like this weekend where what we did today is going to have nothing to do with qualifying and the grip that we’re going to lose coming up.
“When the track temp gets up over about 110, 115, things go upside down in a hurry and you’ve got to start looking for grip that you may not find. These conditions are pretty fat today.”
This year’s 500 will mark Hunter-Reay’s 15th appearance in the “World Spectacle in Racing.” Experience does play a role on how drivers adjust to the different conditions Indy offers. From his perspective, it does take time to acclimate.
“I think it comes in when you’re thinking big picture and what lies ahead and how you go about your work process and checking those boxes off,” said Hunter-Reay. “Yeah, experience absolutely helps around here, wind directions ambient temp, track temp. All these things go into guys that are experienced take all that stuff into consideration and apply it as it needs be.”
A good start to Hunter-Reay’s bid for a second Indy 500 is encouraging and needed. After five rounds, he currently sits 17th in points. Not the start he would like to have, but knows that a strong 500 could be a turning point to his season.
“Just last week at the Indy GP we had really good speed. Started a little bit too far back, but had good speed and then we tripped over ourselves on strategy the last stop, and that kept us from finishing sixth or seventh,” Hunter-Reay commented.
“Starting two at the back of Texas gave me a lot of practice in traffic for this week, so I’m looking forward to seeing less cars ahead hopefully for the 500. This is definitely a huge opportunity for us to make the rest of the season a different story.”