Photo: Matt Fraver/INDYCAR

Pagenaud Fastest on Opening Day At Indianapolis

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — In the first day of practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud turned the fastest lap of the day.

Pagenaud’s No. 22 Menards Chevrolet went around the 2.5 mile superspeedway at an average speed of 225.787 mph in a lap that came during the morning session.

“It was a very productive day,” said Pagenaud. “So, yeah, felt pretty happy. We’re obviously still learning a lot about the aerodynamics of the car. It’s quite different to what we had the past few years. There’s still a lot to learn for everybody, I believe. But we’re on the right track.

“I tell you what, feel pretty confident already, which is a big step forward. It’s definitely important to be already ahead of the game if we have some weather this week. I think that could be very important.”

Three sessions made up the opening day of practice. Veteran drivers ran for two hours until rookies and other drivers needing refresher tests were cleared for their running. After the rookies ran for their two hour session, the track allowed all competitors to turn practice laps.

During the rookie session, Dale Coyne Racing rookie Zachary Claman De Melo completed his rookie orientation and is allowed to qualify for the race. Claman De Melo is substituting for Pietro Fittipaldi who was injured in a sports car crash in Belgium. James Davison completed his veteran refresher during the session while Oriol Servia completed his veteran refresher test later in the day.

Only Matheus Leist’s No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing did not turn a lap on opening day. Jay Howard turned the most laps during opening day with 69 laps in his No. 7 One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and another 61 laps in the No. 5 ARROW Electronics Honda that normally is driven by teammate James Hinchcliffe.

Of note, all drivers completed 2,066 laps for 5,165 miles. The first driver on track was Jack Harvey.

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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.