Thursday, September 21, 2023

Dixon Tops Day 1 of Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Scott Dixon led Day 1 of IndyCar's open testing at IMS.
Scott Dixon led the way for the NTT IndyCar Series in Day 1 of the Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

Scott Dixon was fastest at the end of the first day of the NTT IndyCar Series’ Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 41-year-old New Zealand native put down a flying lap at 227.187 mph in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to vault to the top of the scoring pylon.

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“Yeah, I think the conditions are always pretty ideal when you run this time of year,” said Dixon, a six-time IndyCar champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner. “The car feels really good. A lot of it depends on track placement and how much confidence you have in the car, how big a toe you can get. I guess we lucked out on that today.”

Yeah, we still have a bit of a test left. We didn’t get through too much of it because how the session was kind of fragmented, then obviously finishing early. Still a lot of work to do I think for tomorrow. Maybe we’ll get a bit of a time extension tomorrow depending on conditions.

All in all I think all the drivers were really confident with how the day went and how the cars felt. But I think that’s maybe across the board because of conditions.

Conor Daly put his No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet second, just 0.0352s off the top spot. Rookie Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Santino Ferrucci (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) and Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing) rounded out the rest of the top five.

While the day delivers the first indication that the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is right out the corner (on May 29), it also came with some drama.

It began with Alexander Rossi spinning out in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda moments after exiting the pits to start the day. Although much of the day’s running remained straightforward, the final two hours were trouble for some.

Reigning and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves crashed out of the session with roughly 1h21m remaining. He lost control of the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda – the same exact car he drove to victory in 2021 – on the acceleration lane after exiting the pits. The outcome was a heavy crash into the Turn 2 wall and a return trip to the garage to examine repairs.

“Oh, because I wasn’t pushing. I wasn’t even trying,” said Castroneves, on the Peacock broadcast. “Honestly, we were just trying stuff on the race track to make sure the car felt good. So, it very unusual. That’s why I’m kind of like for all of you guys, I don’t know if you guys saw me looking because I’m like, ‘I can’t believe it. What happened?’ I mean, the driver has the knowledge that if you push trying to do something different. It was just very… I’m not sure what happened.”

It only took a few minutes after the session resumed before a near-similar incident for Will Power. His No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet spun and drifted slightly into the track before sliding back down towards the grass on the inside portion of the track. However, an incoming Colton Herta reaction and put his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda in a drift to miss Power as he was sliding up, which then left Herta hitting the outside wall and doing damage to the rear of the car. During the incident, Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing) narrowly avoided Herta, who was in an uncontrolled slide back towards the bottom of the track after hitting the outside wall.

“I wasn’t really sure what exactly happened at the time,” Herta said. “You know, I saw Will. I wasn’t sure how far up the race track he was, but I knew I had to go a little wide and yeah, unfortunately just not really any grip out there and the car got loose. But, happy that it wasn’t terrible. I got out of the car. I was pretty mad when I crashed because I thought I just ruined my great race car that they made for me for the month. I got out, looks like the attenuator took a bulk of the damage and maybe a little bit on the left rear where the underwing is fine, and a lot of the aero bits that you kind of want to stay in shape are good. So, I’m happy about that. Happy that Will’s fine. It could have been a lot worse if he slid up the track just a little bit more. I was close to having nowhere to go and luckily, we kind of got away with that one a little bit.”

Rossi and Castroneves ended up sixth and seventh at the end of the day’s best times, while JR Hildebrand (A.J. Foyt Racing), Herta and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing) closed out the rest of the top 10.

Of note, each of the first-time Indy 500 drivers passed their three-phase Rookie Orientation Program.

The second and final day of open testing is currently set for Thursday, with action running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.

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