INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Team Penske began preparation to chase its record 16th victory in the Indianapolis 500 with strong laps Saturday during the opening day of practice for the 97th of the running of the 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The story of the day for Team Penske was AJ Allmendinger easily passing his
rookie orientation program, clearing the way for the driver of the No. 2 IZOD
Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet to begin practicing for his first open-wheel
competition at the legendary Brickyard.
In his first official practice day, Allmendinger paced the
three Team Penske entries with a fast lap of 218.967 mph, which placed him
eighth overall on the IZOD IndyCar Series timing chart.
“I went down the back straightaway the first lap thinking to myself this is
pretty sweet; I’m driving the IZOD Team Penske car on the backstretch of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Allmendinger, who completed 52 laps within
an hour to pass his rookie test.
“I have to thank (Team Penske teammate) Helio (Castroneves) just a ton
because his going out there and shaking the car down and just talking to me
just made me a lot more calm than I would have been without him.”
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves recorded a fast lap of 217.923
mph in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Dallara/Chevrolet, the
12th-fastest lap of opening day.
The Brazilian driver will attempt to tie the record of four career Indy
victories when the famed race gets underway May 26 and he is one of seven
drivers to have won Indy three times. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Team Penske
advisor Rick Mears share the record of four victories.
"It felt really good to be back in the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet here at
Indy. It's always a special feeling when you take the track for the first
time,” said Castroneves, who spent the first practice session shaking down the
No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevy to prepare for Allmendinger’s rookie orientation.
“We were able to shakedown the No. 2 IZOD car for AJ and do the same for our
car which is what we wanted to accomplish. AJ did a great job today, it was
really fun being a part of the Rookie Orientation process with him, and I look
forward to having him as a teammate here."
Will Power was clocked at 217.595 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske
Dallara/Chevrolet, good for 14th-fastest of the six-hour session. Power, who
finished 28th in 2012 after Mike Conway’s car made contact with him, is looking
for his first victory at the historic 2.5-mile speedway.
"It was a good opening day for the Verizon team, we were able to
shakedown the car and everything feels good,” said Power, who enters the race
looking for his first win of 2013. “It's obviously a long couple weeks and we
are taking this step by step to be where we need to be for the race."
As has become a Team Penske tradition, Castroneves was first on track
Saturday, leaving the pits in Allmendinger’s car at 12:08 p.m. It marked the
fourth consecutive year that a Team Penske car was first on track for opening
Allmendinger appreciated what the veteran Team Penske driver provided him as
he began his first practice session. “It’s meant a lot for him to help me. You know, he could have easily just
went and drove the car and said it was fine and walked away and focused on his
program," said Allmendinger of Castroneves.
"But he’s here, talking to me. When we are back in the pits and he is
showing me, teaching me and just talking to me. My teammates here, Will and
Helio, they’ve been amazing since I showed up, and I feel very fortunate to
Teams will continue practicing each day through Friday at Indianapolis Motor
Speedway. Pole qualifying is scheduled to begin Saturday at 11 a.m. ET. It will
be televised live by NBC Sports Network, which also will air a special preview
Friday at 3:30 p.m.
ABC’s race broadcast is set to begin at noon on Sunday, May 26.
Credit - Penske Racing