• 73°

Helio gets up to speed by pacing Indy 500 practice

By Jenna Fryer

AP Auto Racing Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Team Penske topped opening day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves paced the first practice sessions for the Indianapolis 500.

It was a big boost of confidence for Castroneves, who wasted no time getting up to speed at his favorite race track. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner was fastest in Tuesday afternoon’s opening practice session, while Pagenaud led the morning session.

Pagenaud went 225.787 mph in the morning to earn fastest driver of the day. Castroneves went 224.665 for fastest in the afternoon. The Brazilian was moved by team owner Roger Penske to sports cars this season, but returned to IndyCar last week for the road course race at Indy to prepare for a run at a record-tying fourth 500 victory later this month.

“It’s Helio. We call him the Speed King,” Pagenaud said. “This is what he lives for. He loves Indy and he’s very, very focused on getting his fourth win. He’s very ready, like a fish in the water.

Danica Patrick, preparing for the final race of her career, was 18th on the afternoon speed chart at 222.728 mph.

“Today went really well. We accomplished what we wanted to,” she said. “A really solid day.”

Unlike her test session two weeks ago when she struggled with the weight of the steering wheel, Patrick’s biggest issue Tuesday was remembering how to work in traffic. She left IndyCar after the 2011 season finale and spent the last six years in NASCAR.

“I am still not completely confident in traffic. The team, they’ve been encouraging me to use my tools,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I need to feel the traffic first, before we create another variable.’”

It was a busy first day of practice for the May 27 race as Dale Coyne Racing waited until an hour before cars hit the track to announce that Zachary Claman De Melo would be the replacement driver for injured teammate Pietro Fittipaldi. The Canadian made his IndyCar oval debut at the speedway in the rookie orientation program, and his speed of 220.852 led that class.

Fittipaldi was scheduled to make his Indianapolis 500 debut but suffered serious injuries in a May 4 crash at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Fittipaldi is back in Indianapolis rehabilitating, but will be out at least eight weeks.

So Coyne had to find another driver and used Claman De Melo in last week’s road course race at Indy, where the driver finished 12th on Saturday. He then had to wait three more days before Coyne gave him the Indy 500 nod.

“It’s an iconic venue and I’m extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to drive here,” Claman De Melo said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s under these circumstances with Pietro’s injuries, so I realize how lucky I am to have this chance.”

As he was getting ready, Patrick was navigating a throng of autograph collectors stationed firmly outside his garage stall.

Patrick was a featured speaker later Tuesday at the “Fuel the Female” round table event.

in the Gasoline Alley, where she spoke to area high school students about succeeding as a woman in a male-dominated sport. She touched on the road she followed into racing — leaving high school to move to Europe and pursue a career as a driver — and the determination it took for her to succeed.

“I would say I never had people tell me I couldn’t do this verbally. But I don’t doubt that there were many people who thought I couldn’t do this in their mind,” she told the group of female students. “You can feel that. You can feel when people don’t believe in you. And to be honest, there were times I didn’t think so, either. That’s the reality of it and we’re all human, and there were times when I lacked confidence and doubted myself.

“But you have to find ways to cope with that and gain empowerment and confidence and know what you want and be absolutely determined to get there.”

The rest of Tuesday’s opening day went to Ed Carpenter, owner of Patrick’s car, who was third fastest as Chevrolet drivers took the top three spots. Jay Howard was fourth fastest and was followed by Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti in a trio of Hondas.

Sage Karam made his season debut and was seventh fastest.

Will Power, winner of the road course race on Saturday, was 19th out of the 35 drivers who turned laps.

___

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org

Comments

Local

Hundreds turn out for annual Juneteenth celebration on newest federal holiday

Local

Between local champions and an upcoming state tournament, pickleball putting Salisbury on map

Business

Business leaders hope to draw big crowd for job fair at West End Plaza

News

Officers cleared in Mooresville shooting

Business

From firefighter to photographer, Brianna Mitschele is ready to capture more moments in downtown Salisbury

News

25 years later, runners reflect on Olympic torch’s trip through Rowan

News

Commissioners to consider designating Newberry Hall House as county historic landmark

Farm & Garden

51st annual Old Southeast Threshers’ Reunion set for July 1-5

Business

Biz Roundup: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation awards grants from Salisbury to Jerusalem

Lifestyle

Kristy Woodson Harvey: For Dad

News

South Salisbury Fire Department activates new weather siren

Lifestyle

Library Notes: Meet the ‘Dare Devil Dogs’ in Week 5

Faith

Q&A with Bishop Tim Smith

College

Wolfpack tops Stanford falls in College World Series opener

Lifestyle

‘Down by the Praise Pond’ shares local author’s faith in debut children’s book

Nation/World

Driver crashes into crowd at Pride parade in Florida; 1 dead

News

Search continues after 3 tubers die, 2 disappear at dam

News

Research from NC State professors is aboard space station

Education

Livingstone College celebrates federal recognition of Juneteenth

College

Wolfpack faces Stanford today in College World Series

Nation/World

Tropical weather lashes Gulf Coast with winds, rain

Nation/World

Girl attacked by bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

News

Cooper vetoes bill that would have allowed more to carry guns in churches

News

Two tubers remain missing after going over Dan River dam