INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Four newcomers and a few returning veterans took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval today for the rookie orientation/veteran refresher program to get up to speed for the upcoming 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
The day went better for some than others. While Ed Jones completed his rookie phases and Jay Howard, Sebastian Saavedra and Oriol Servia sailed through the veteran refresher, Jack Harvey had a day he’d rather forget.
Vying to compete in his first race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the rookie had his day cut short when he crashed into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 in the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda. Also slowed by an earlier fuel issue in the car, Harvey completed only the first of three rookie orientation phases and 29 laps with a top speed of 214.473 mph.
Harvey wasn’t sure what caused the crash on his out lap as he exited the pits.
“I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight,” he said after being cleared from the IU Health Emergency Medical Center at IMS. “I was coming out of the pits, I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph – so bizarre.
“Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”
Although the issues were troubling, the 24-year-old Brit remained positive about his experience.
“I knew it was awesome just from what I’ve seen and I knew the sensation I had of (driving) the Indy Lights car when I was here,” said Harvey, a two-time Indy Lights championship runner-up who won the 2015 Freedom 100 on the IMS oval.
“So honestly, coming to it in an Indy car now is such a dream. I think anyone would be lucky to have this opportunity. … But if there is going to be a problem, I’d rather do it today.”
Fellow rookie Zach Veach also completed Phase 1 of the rookie program in the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. Veach’s top lap in 26 circuits was 215.897 mph.
“It’s fast,” said Veach. “That’s the main thing. We were a little behind in rookie orientation, so we didn’t really get out on track until about 1:45 pm.
“With the amount of downforce we have on the car right now, we were really surprised at that. I think we’ve got a fast race car, just got to use it.”
Harvey and Veach will have their opportunity to complete the final two phases of rookie orientation – 15 laps running between 210-215 mph and then 15 laps above 215 mph – during remaining practices this week before being turned loose with the rest of the drivers.
Meanwhile, Jones joined Formula One ace Fernando Alonso – who completed the rookie phases in a May 3 private test – as the newcomers to finish all three phases. Jones, the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, is running the entire Verizon IndyCar Series season, while Alonso is doing a one-off at Indy in the middle of his Formula One season with McLaren-Honda.
“The car is quite a bit faster (than the Indy Lights car), but you have more downforce as well,” said Jones, driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. “It feels fast but it doesn’t feel ridiculously different to the Lights car. I guess the hardest thing, and what I’m building up to, is getting closer to cars in front because it is going to have more of an effect with the greater speeds and the greater downforce.”
Saavedra, who has competed in five Indianapolis 500s but sat out last year’s race, completed 71 laps on the day in the No. 17 AFS Chevy for Juncos Racing. His best lap was 222.593 mph.
“It’s good to be back after a year off,” Saavedra said. “It’s definitely the perfect day to do a refresher – perfect temperature, perfect sun, perfect wind. Good to get the first laps out there with the AFS/Juncos Racing car.
“I felt good. It took a little bit of time to get the speed back to the brain, but I have such great support around me that it made everything a lot easier, for sure.”