Josef Newgarden fastest on Indy opening day

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Allan Brewer, IndyCar Series correspondent

Sarah Fisher Racing's Josef Newgarden recorded the fastest time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, as practice for the 96th Greatest Spectacle in Racing commenced in earnest for the May 28th 500-mile race.

Newgarden's best mark of 220.250 mph was over half a mile per hour faster than JR Hildebrand, the 2011 Indy 500 runner-up at 219.693 mph for Panther Racing. Newgarden's teammate, Bryan Clauson (219.632 mph) was third.

"The team has done it all year," said Newgarden afterwards. "People have seen before that they can produce a good road/street car, and there's no issues oval-wise. They've built really good, reliable, comfortable race cars for me, and they're doing the same for Bryan now."

They've built really good, reliable, comfortable race cars for me.

Josef Newgarden

"I don't know that it could have gone much better," said Clauson. "We were really quick out of the gate. The fastest laps can be misleading because of the tow you catch, but even by ourselves, Josef and I were very quick all day. It will be interesting to see as the month goes on where guys end up. It's hard to tell whose flat-out at this point and who is not. But I felt really good about our car and the program we have in place for the rest of the month."

Rookie James Jakes (2198.286 mph) was fourth quick while Tony Kanaan (217.741 mph) completed the top five in the KV Racing Technology machine.

"It was a good day. We were just trying to get everybody into the Indy 500 mood," said Kanaan. "We ran the T-car (backup car) today to make sure everything was all right, and we have no concerns there. It was a smooth day."

The all-day session saw 26 drivers’ record 693 laps without mishap.

In other news, Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti switched car numbers from No. 10 to No. 50 for the race in order to celebrate sponsor Target's 50th anniversary in 2012.

IndyCar also said that standard boost levels of 130 kappa (kilopascals) for superspeedway ovals will be upped to 140 kPa for the Fast Friday, May 18th practice session, Pole Day and Bump Day. The increase will result in the addition of 40-50 horsepower.

Indianapolis 500 Pole Day qualifications are set for May 19th.

Gates at the Speedway open at 10 AM tomorrow (May 13th) for noon-6 p.m. practice.

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Series INDYCAR
Tags brewer, chevrolet, featured, fisher, franchitti, hildebrand, honda, newgarden, panther