Indy 500 hit with an early equalizer: ‘It’s the same for everybody’

Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo Credit: The Indianapolis Star)
Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo Credit: The Indianapolis Star) /

While an Indy 500 hasn’t been affected by rain since 2007, you can always count on at least one practice rainout at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in mid-May.

If you made the safe bet on an Indy 500 practice rainout, you were able to cash out after day one of practice week, marking the second rainout of three scheduled sessions if you go back to the two days of the open test in April.

Fortunately, the Indy 500 practice schedule contains far more time than the practice schedule for any other IndyCar race. There are still three six-hour sessions and another one-hour session scheduled from now until qualifying this weekend.

The good thing about a rainout is that it’s the same thing for everybody. There isn’t much, if anything, that can be learned without any on-track activity around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval.

We spoke to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who finished the race in second place in 2021 and started on the front row in 2022, during the rainout.

“No, not much [to learn],” he admitted to Beyond the Flag. “It’s the same for everybody.”

On the plus side, Palou and the Chip Ganassi Racing fared well in the open test last month, so day one of on-track activity this week being canceled shouldn’t affect them as much as it does other teams.

“The good thing is that we finished really strong at the open test, so I’m not crazy to go out on track and be like ‘oh, we need to try that’,” he continued. “We have a test run. If we cannot go out now, it’s okay, we’ll be able to go out tomorrow.”

It’s all about making the most of the down time.

“Just talking to the mechanics, to the engineers, seeing what’s the plan, trying to just talk and go over the race as well,” Palou explained. “Try to wait until the sun comes, and we can go out on track. But there’s nothing really that we can do.”

When an Indy 500 practice session is canceled, it presents somewhat of a unique scenario for teams.

With so many long sessions scheduled before the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, teams go into each day with a different focus in mind, while also aiming to achieve a bigger goal.

“I would say it’s both at the same time,” Palou said of his and his team’s approach. “Obviously, our goal is to make the car as fast as possible, and the second thing is to be as comfortable as possible in traffic.

“But each day, we have different focus points. For example, we have quite a lot of new aero stuff for IMS this year, and one of the first goals is to try to understand what we want for qualifying and what we want for the race. And then we start evolving our setup, mechanical setup, after that.

“It depends on the day. We have different goals. The good thing of having four really good cars is that we can try a lot with each other and just copy what the other cars do, and I think that makes a team really strong at the end of the practice week.”

This year’s Chip Ganassi Racing team features three Indy 500 winners, with Palou ironically being the odd man out. Scott Dixon, the race’s all-time laps led leader, won it in 2008. Takuma Sato won it in 2017 with Andretti Autosport and then again in 2020 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Marcus Ericsson won it last year after Palou was knocked out of contention early with an untimely caution rendering him unable to pit when he needed service. Dixon himself was knocked out of the lead due to a late pit road speeding penalty.

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Following Tuesday’s rainout, practice is scheduled to get underway on Wednesday, May 17. Qualifying for the 107th running of Indy 500 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21, while the race itself is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 28. Start a free trial of FuboTV now!