Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

Marco Andretti Leads Opening Day at Indy, Alonso Fastest Rookie

By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer

The opening day of practice for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 officially began after a two hour rookie orientation/veteran refresher period and Marco Andretti led the speed chart with a lap of 226.338 mph. Scott Dixon was second with a lap of 225.296 mph. Both are driving Honda-powered cars. The first Chevrolet was Ed Carpenter at 224.969 mph.

However, before the session for all drivers, some rookie orientations had to be completed, and one was.

In order to be declared ready for competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a driver must complete 10 laps between 205-210 mph, 15 laps between 210-215 mph and another 15 laps above 215 mph, non consecutively.

Jack Harvey and Zach Veach still needed to complete rookie orientation while Fernando Alonso completed his orientation on May 3rd in a solo test day.

During the two hour session from noon until 2:00 P.M. only Ed Jones was able to complete his ROP program. Harvey passed phase one.

However, Harvey didn’t exactly have the best of days. During practice, Harvey was exiting the pits in Turn 2 when apparently his steering failed, sending him into the Turn 2 wall at reduced speed.

Among the rookies that made the final session of the day, Alonso was the quickest with a fastest lap of 223.025 mph, his fastest of the month. Jones’s fastest lap in the final session was 222.533 mph.

Rookie Orientation Session Recap

The earlier orientation/refresher test period had 13 cars post times. Six cars did an installation lap or two, one car (Veach) did three shakedown laps with the rest posing laps over 214 mph.

Alonso was fastest in the opening session with a lap of 221.634 mph. Oriol Servia, Jay Howard and Sebastian Saavedra were doing veteran refresher tests with fastest laps of 220.759 mph, 217.069 mph and 216.598 mph respectively.

Jones completed his rookie orientation and turned 48 laps in the two hour session with a best of 219.288 mph.

Other Impressions

Alonso was more comfortable than he was on May 3rd. He turned 35 laps in the morning session and 20 more in the afternoon, for a total of 165 laps this month, or 412.5 miles. Feeling more comfortable enabled him to drive the car better.

“I felt better in the car. So yeah, definitely a much better day, much better feeling. I was able to drive the car or start driving the car today.

Still a long way for me to work and to learn, but yeah, definitely I feel some good steps today,” Alonso said.

Only one car didn’t make it on track, and that was Buddy Lazier’s. The car was undergoing assembly in the garage and probably won’t make it out for another couple of days.

Gabby Chaves was only able to get on track for six laps. Not a productive day but the wheels were able to turn.

Graham Rahal had an engine issue that shortened his day, prompting a yellow flag. Rahal was sixth fastest, teammate Servia was 11th fastest.

Zach Veach’s car had some bodywork fitting issues that prevented him from completing rookie orientation but the Foyt Racing crew guys will be hard at work trying to fix it.

Charlie Kimball and JR Hildebrand did the most laps today with 75 and 74 laps, respectively. Hildebrand was 17th fastest while Kimball was 18th.

Juncos Racing’s first laps with actual Indy cars were turned by Spencer Pigot and Saavedra. Saavedra was 21st fastest while Pigot was 29th.

Out of the 32 cars on track today, five of the first 16 cars were Chevrolet, the other 11 were Honda. The bottom 16 cars had nine Chevrolets and seven Hondas.

There were 1,501 laps turned for a total mileage of 3,752.5 miles, or eight miles shorter than driving from Indianapolis to Anchorage, Alaska.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.