INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 15, 2012 – Rookie Simon Pagenaud had his eyes wide open during the last 30 minutes of practice on Day 4 at the 2012 Indianapolis 500 on Tuesday.

Pagenaud is not only a rookie at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he is a true rookie when it comes to oval racing. During the last 30 minutes of practice Tuesday, the Frenchman had his No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in the middle of a 15-car, 220 mph congo line.

“Running in traffic is definitely something else,” said Pagenaud. “It changes the balance of the car through the corner a lot more than I’m used to. So, it’s a matter of playing with the tools in the car and getting used to that. It’s definitely not easy to learn how to play the momentum game. But, I think we did a good job.”

Though he has no experience to which he can compare, Pagenaud knows the feel of a good race car – whether its on a road course or oval.

“We have a very good race car, and I feel very confident with it,” said Pagenaud. “I could stay with Helio and the Penske boys, and we stayed with Dario when he was doing some pretty quick lap times. So, we’re in the ballpark but I’m going to be learning every day.”

Pagenaud recorded a top lap of 40.9579 seconds at 219.647 mph in 68 laps of practice. It was his fastest lap this month.

His Sam Schmidt teammate, Townsend Bell, has quickly gotten the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car up to speed. He turned 36 laps Tuesday with a top lap of 40.9748 seconds at 219.647 mph.

He was also part of the on track action in the last 30 minutes on the 2.5-mile oval. Bell was asked if the final 30 minutes was indicative of what fans can expect to see in the 500.

“That, and a whole lot more,” said Bell. “That was a good chance to really find out what it’s going to be like on race day. And, I think it’s going to be busy. It’s going to be busy meaning the drivers are really going to have to work, which is good. I’m glad that we got a good indication of what it’s going to be like this early on in the week, so we can look at a lot of data and make some educated guesses on how to improve.”

Marco Andretti was the first driver this month to go above 223 mph. He was alone in that category with his lap of 40.2367 seconds at 223.676 mph. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was the only other driver above 222 mph. His lap of 40.5359 seconds at 222.025 was his fastest of the month.

Rounding out the top five on Tuesday’s speed chart were James Hinchliffe (221.864 mph), Graham Rahal (221.855 mph) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (221.814 mph).

A total of 30 drivers turned 1,602 laps during Tuesday’s six-hour practice session. In four days of practice, 31 drivers have produced 4,632 laps.

Practice resumes Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. ET.


The forecast calls for sun: This May is already one of the driest and warmest in recent Indy 500 history. It is creating a hot, slippery race track during the day. Townsend Bell was asked how it’s affecting his No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports car. He said, “Deep in your tire run, you’re starting to slide around pretty good and a lot more than I expected. That’s going to contribute to a great race and for now, it’s going to make us think pretty hard on where we want to be on set-up.”

Simon Needs Sunglasses: Simon Pagenaud has a habit of losing his sunglasses. To help him get through the long sunny days at IMS, Pagenaud is asking for fans to bring him gently-used sunglasses to the track throughout the month. While Pagenaud will wear some of the sunglasses, all of the collected sunglasses will be donated to Goodwill of Indianapolis at the end of May. Fans are encouraged to bring used sunglasses to Pagenaud during autograph sessions, but he will gladly accept them from any fan at any time.