Indy 500: Rahal Letterman Racing day three report

HUNTER-REAY CONTINUES TO FIND SPEED AS RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING PREPS FOR POLE DAY INDIANAPOLIS- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is and always been about lightning-quick, greasy-fast speed. You will hear drivers talk about handling and the...

HUNTER-REAY CONTINUES TO FIND SPEED AS RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING PREPS FOR POLE DAY

INDIANAPOLIS- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is and always been about lightning-quick, greasy-fast speed. You will hear drivers talk about handling and the wizened railbirds will tell you that luck plays as big a part as anything here at the monstrous 2.5-mile oval, but speed is king.

Speed is so important here that the paddock vernacular here changes to reflect it. Every other track you go to on the IndyCar Series tour, the garage talk about lap times are always reflected as times - as in "We're going to need a 24.6 (seconds) to qualify up front." or "did you see Driver X turn a 34.2?"

At Indy, it's all about speed. Nearly every fan in the place could tell you that last year's pole speed was 225.8 mph, but very few could give you the time in seconds. And teams cringe when they hear of guys running 222 mph when they are at 215.

So it was on a sunny Tuesday morning at Indianapolis that the Rahal Letterman Racing team attacked the venerable oval in its search for speed, as they prepare for the ultimate test of speed - Indy 500 Pole Day.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Alex Lloyd (#16 Rahal Letterman Chip Ganassi Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had successful days and continued to make their cars better for Saturday's four-lap qualifying procedure, with Lloyd turning the team's fastest lap of day with a speed of 222.620 mph (40.4277 seconds). Hunter-Reay snapped off his fastest lap of the month by logging a best trip of 221.640 mph (40.6063 seconds).

"We know that we are going to be better than where we are right now," said Hunter-Reay after posting the 23rd-best time of the day. "We have been to a couple tracks this year where we haven't been that great on the first days but we end up being right there during qualifying and race day. The Rahal Letterman Racing team has a great history here. It's a long month and you can drive yourself crazy getting caught up in speeds so early."

Lloyd's quick time of the day left him 17th on the first day of full-field practice for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Thirty-three cars turned laps on the opening day of practice, marking the first time this decade that Indy practice has opened with 33 cars on track.

"We didn't do all that much running today and on our late run, we made a change that took us in the wrong direction," Lloyd confided. "But it still helps us as we can come back tomorrow and start from where we left off and get back to work. I think we still have a few steps to make as far as trimming the car out, and I think there's still a lot left in this car."

Marco Andretti carded the fastest lap of the day with a best speed of 226.599 mph (39.7177 seconds) which he admitted was logged with the help of a drafting tow from Graham Rahal. Hunter-Reay turned 39 laps on the day while Lloyd ran 52 laps - which included some in and out laps to practice pit stops late in the afternoon.

-credit: rlr

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