Welcome to Indiana-ville via Jay Alley: 23 cars took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third day of practice plus one rookie who arrived after racing in Barcelona, Spain.
Andretti Autosport drivers continue to show the fast way around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and today it was Marco Andretti's turn. With 32 cars hitting the track today on a beautiful spring day which was decidedly warmer than Sunday, the groove is really starting to blacken in the corners now as more laps are run and Firestone rubber gets laid down. With no rain of any significance since the track opened on Saturday, the upward climb in speed is likely to continue. But rain is forecast later in the week so the track could get washed clean and don't let any of the current top speeds fool you as they are all being run in the draft as single car runs were not the order of the day to go fast.
Possibly the happiest driver at the Speedway today was Conor Daly who was clearly a kid in the world's biggest candy store today, getting to turn his first laps for AJ Foyt's team at a track he surely dreamed of racing at as a kid. Proud Papa Derek Daly, a former Indycar and Formula One driver himself, was on hand to watch Conor pass his rookie test today so the door is open for CD to make his mark as an Indy 500 driver this month. I got to the track this afternoon just as he was coming out to finish the last phase of his rookie orientation, having completed the first two phases at a special 10:00 a.m. slot this morning when no one else was allowed on the track. I've watched Conor come up through the ranks and when he won a Star Mazda race in dominant fashion at Lucas Oil Raceway a couple of years ago in the Night Before the 500 event, it seemed like half the town of Noblesville, Indiana was in Victory Lane to help him celebrate. Expect more of the same this month regardless of his results.
Tristan Vautier sports a new paint job
Other changes today included a new paint scheme for Tristan Vautier, his #55 machine bedecked in Lucas Oil white now. Townsend Bell hit the track for the first time and got quickly over 221 in only 12 laps, showing his mettle as an Indy specialist. Pippa Mann was also out and essentially every driver entered has now seen some track time on a perfect day for practice.
Sebastian Saavedra of Dragon Racing
Most of what I shot today was on the north end of the Speedway in the Turns 3 & 4 area where the lighting is absolutely perfect, with over-the-shoulder, low angle sunlight bathing the cars in brilliance while casting long shadows toward the inside of the track. Reflections off the driver's visors add highlights and it is by far my favorite place and time to shoot at Indy, from about 4:30 in the afternoon until the 6:00 gun ends practice. I don't often get to do it, but with teaching taking up the bulk of my days this week, it's the best I can hope for. A couple of laps up and down the pit lane to see who's out, then a swing through the garage area, and a hike to the north end are all that time allows on days like today, but the superb lighting makes it all worthwhile. I hope to catch more of the same during Happy Hours the rest of this week.