INDIANAPOLIS—Tony Kanaan departed from a personal tradition here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but at the end of the day, he emerged at the top of the speed charts in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet as 21 veterans took to the track in preparation for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
As Kanaan explained in the post-practice press conference, “My first lap, official lap, not the installation lap, I have got to go flat through Turn 1 just to prove a point. This was the first time in 15 years, 14 years, however many years I've been here, that I didn't do it. I was probably afraid of getting my butt kicked by A.J. today if I did something silly. I lifted the first lap.”
Kanaan confers with Technical Director (and TK's race engineer) Eric Cowdin prior to practice.
However, he didn’t lift in Turn 1 when he posted a lap speed of 226.181mph. He also posted the fasted ‘No Tow Speed’ lap which topped 223mph. The no tow speed is the speed recorded when a car does not receive the benefit of drafting a car ahead of it which can result in an artificial top speed.
“When you go qualify, you have no one in front of you for four laps so we looked good because we did it with no tow and we did it under a tow[set fastest laps],” said Kanaan, who logged a total of 62 laps, 53 of which were in the afternoon session.
Today is the first time Kanaan drove the 2.5 mile oval with the 2018 aero kit package and it got his attention.
“Came out of the pits and I can’t even say what I said in the helmet, I was impressed with the straightaway speed—there’s a lot less drag and this thing is hauling! I can’t even imagine when we put the boost to 140—it’s going to be an eye-opening for sure,” he told veteran reporter Robin Miller afterwards.
“It’s all different with this aero package. Different downforce levels, front wings, springs, it’s trickier which is nice. It was a good start for us. They [competitors] will catch up and we just have to be on top of it. Nothing that we learned last year can we apply this year. There’s a ton less downforce in this car, a lot of things have changed.
“To me it was a lot quicker down the straightaways, which was quite fun. It was like back in the day. You definitely feel the speed going down the straightaway. You have to hang on into the corners.
“A little bit different, to be honest, but fun. I don't know what to expect running in traffic. I didn't do a lot of running in traffic yet. I'll wait till a couple days from now then we will do some racing stuff. We concentrated today on understanding the car and trying to get a feel for how the car behaves. To do that, I prefer to do it on my own.”
Second through fifth (with speeds) were: Simon Pagenaud (225.910mph), Marco Andretti (225.637mph), Gabby Chavez (225.630mph), and Scott Dixon (225.448mph).
Matheus “Matt” Leist will be on track tomorrow in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet as one of several rookies participating in the Rookie Orientation Program. The ROP is a series of outings (one 10-lap and two 15-lap outings) with speed limits to allow new drivers to adapt to the Speedway in a supervised and methodical manner. The ROP will take place from 10 am to 1 pm. The refresher testing, for drivers who have been out of an Indy car for over a year, will take place from 2 – 5 pm. Both sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and the INDYCAR YouTube channel (youtube.com/indycar).
Asked about the advice he gave to his rookie teammate, Kanaan said, “I told him there are a few things that I got taught over the years and learned on my own, which first of all you’ve got to be calm, second, you have to respect the track. It's very easy to get frustrated. With the yellows especially. We have a good car, so he knows we're fast. He's going to get the same car tomorrow.
“I'm trying to tell him just to take his time and go through his rookie test because this place can bite you big-time if you don't take your time. Respect the track every time you go out. Focus. I mean, I'm the first guy to crack a joke, smile, this and that in the garage. But once you're on the track there, you need full concentration. You can't take this place for granted.”
The Indianapolis 500 takes place on Sunday, May 27 and will be broadcast on ABC-TV for the 54th and final time starting at 11 a.m. ET.