JR Hildebrand has spent enough time reflecting on mistakes. He just wants to make enough corrections to take advantage of his second chance at the Indianapolis 500.
“It’s really good to be back and to be able to turn the page,” Indy’s 2011 hard-luck runner-up said after posting the second-fastest lap Saturday in the opening practice, 219.693 mph. “We’ve got a bunch of stuff to work on and it’s a new chapter, so it’s nice to get started.”
The California native was leading the 2011 race going into the final turn of the last lap and had the checkered flag in sight.
But when Hildebrand saw Charlie Kimball’s slower car in the way, he tried to pass on the high side of Kimball’s car. The miscue sent the No. 4 car up the track, into the wall and skidding across the finish line in second place.
For the past 12 months, the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year has had to relive that moment constantly.
The replay looped through sports highlight shows so many times, Hildebrand temporarily stopped watching them. The crash still appears on the speedway’s television ad, and every time Hildebrand does an interview, he has to revisit it again.
“There are things you take away from it, like trying to be a little more prepared for things that can happen … like when you don’t have a spotter on the radio and you think everything is honkey-dory,” Hildebrand said. “But you have to trust your gut and accept responsibility for whatever happens.”
Newgarden lap tops
American Josef Newgarden was the only driver to top 220 mph on the first full practice day for the Indy 500. The rookie posted a fast lap of 220.250 mph. Hildebrand was second at 219.693. Rookie Bryan Clauson, Newgarden’s teammate with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, was third at 219.632.
As expected, speeds were down from last year as teams used mostly cautious strategies to decipher how the new cars with less horsepower would respond at Indy.
Katherine Legge returned to America to race in the Indianapolis 500.
So far, she’s been watching film, studying data and bugging engineers with questions. The problem: Legge and teammate Sebastien Bourdais were still looking for engines as practice opened Saturday.
“It is frustrating,” said Legge, a rookie.
Jay Penske’s team has been using the struggling Lotus engines. He is trying to find a more competitive engine, and many in Gasoline Alley believe Penske’s father, Roger Penske, will find a way to get his son the more powerful Chevrolet engines.
Lewis Hamilton lost the pole position over a rules breach on Saturday, giving Pastor Maldonado first place on the starting grid at Barcelona for the F1 Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s McLaren team ordered him to stop after crossing the line following his final flying lap. The team said it didn’t believe he had enough fuel to make it back to the pits.
It’s a violation FIA upheld, noting McLaren controlled the amount of fuel in the car, voiding his time.
Hamilton will start last.
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