INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 12, 2012 – At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, patience is a requirement at every stage of preparation for the Indianapolis 500.
When you combine a talented rookie driver with a fast race car, patience is vitally important. So patience was in the game plan scripted by Sam Schmidt Motorsports General Manager Rob Edwards for the first day of practice for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
When the green flag was waved Saturday at Noon to start practice, the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car was still in its Gasoline Alley stall being massaged by its crew. Rookie driver Simon Pagenaud was relaxing and joking with team members deep in the garage.
Around 2 p.m., the team pushed the car out to its pit box and Pagenaud climbed in. Following the checklist, the team and driver methodically went to work.
“It was the perfect day, really, for what we wanted to do,” said Edwards. “Simon wants to know it all ‘now,’ but we have all week. Anyone that’s been around here for a few years knows that you need to learn a little bit each day. We had some specific things we wanted to get through and cross off the list for today, and we did that.”
Pagenaud was equally pleased with the game plan and the team’s preparation.
“The guys at SSM did a great job understanding what I need to feel comfortable,” said Pagenaud. “We did one run, and then came back in and made a few changes. Then we went back out, and the car was just magic. So, I’m very, very happy to be that comfortable that quickly. We ran in traffic, and it all felt good.”
With a full week of practice ahead before qualifying and the arrival of Pagenaud’s teammate, Townsend Bell, on Sunday, Edwards was confident the team started the week off exactly as it needed.
“We built momentum throughout the day so Simon and the car were at their best at the end of the day,” said Edwards. “It was a good point to end on. I look forward to Townsend being here tomorrow and for them to start working together in developing the two cars to make them as fast as we can.”
Pagenaud turned a total of 39 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday. His best lap was 41.3825 seconds at 217.483 mph and was eighth-fastest on the day.
Fellow rookie Josef Newgarden led the Saturday speed chart with a lap of 40.8627 seconds at 220.250 mph. He was followed by JR Hildebrand with a lap of 40.9662 seconds at 219.693 mph. The rest of the top-five consisted of Newgarden’s rookie teammate, Bryan Clauson (219.632 mph), James Jakes (218.286 mph) and Tony Kanaan (217.741).
A total of 26 cars turned 693 laps during the six-hour practice session. Practice resumes Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. ET.
Notes and Quotes:
Red-Eye Guy – Pagenaud’s teammate for the month is Townsend Bell, driver of the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. This year marks the third consecutive appearance for Bell in the Schmidt-owned No. 99. Bell doesn’t arrive in Indianapolis until Sunday morning after flying all night after racing today in California in an American Le Mans Series Race.
The first order of business for Bell will be to complete his Indianapolis Motor Speedway physical before taking some shakedown laps in the afternoon.