Cars on track at IMS

With the month of May and all that comes with it at Indianapolis Motor Speedway beckoning, teams, drivers and fans will get a sneak peek Wednesday at what promises to be an exciting and highly competitive 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge come May 26.

NTT IndyCar Series drivers are expected to participate in an open test primer Wednesday on the 2.5-mile oval that runs from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. ET. will stream all the on-track action live. Fans may also watch in person from the Turn 2 mounds viewing area inside the track.

With Monday’s announcement that JR Hildebrand will drive a second Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry in the race and participate in the test, it lifted to 29 the number of drivers anticipated to be on track from 13 teams. Among the drivers are seven previous Indianapolis 500 winners – including reigning champion Will Power and Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who’s again chasing that elusive fourth Indy 500 victory to join only A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in that rarefied air.

Fernando Alonso returns to IMS for his own bid at racing immortality. The two-time Formula One champion needs an Indy 500 triumph to complete the final leg of the motorsports Triple Crown. He led the race as a rookie two years ago in an Andretti Autosport-prepared car in combination with McLaren. This year, McLaren has taken control of its Indy effort and will debut the car that was meticulously prepared at its tech center in Woking, England, at the open test.

Four rookies – Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist – will turn their first laps in an Indy car on the IMS oval, though Herta and Rosenqvist have raced there in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.

The test day will be split into three segments. Veteran drivers can run from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., followed by rookie orientation and veteran refresher tests from 1-3 p.m. The track will be open to all entries for the final three hours of the day.

Marco Andretti, driving the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda painted in a color scheme resembling the car his grandfather Mario drove to Indy 500 glory 50 years ago, said the open test provides valuable track time that teams use to hone in on setups so they may hit the ground running when official practice begins in three weeks.

“It’s important,” Andretti said of the open test, “because we have a big checklist of things, the bigger items of stuff that we don’t want to be doing during the busy (practice) week. We’ll go through some bigger items and just get some yes or nos on those and have a better idea how we’re going to roll off for the month.”

After Wednesday, NTT IndyCar Series teams turn their attention to the INDYCAR Grand Prix race weekend on the IMS road course. Practice and qualifying take place Friday, May 10, with the sixth annual GP set for Saturday, May 11 (3 p.m. ET, NBC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

Indianapolis 500 practice opens Tuesday, May 14 and runs four consecutive days from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The first day of qualifying – Saturday, May 18 – locks the first 30 positions into the field. The second qualifying day – Sunday, May 19 – will see the battle for the final three spots on the grid, the Fast Nine Shootout to determine the NTT P1 Award pole winner and a late-afternoon practice for the 33 qualifiers in race-like conditions.

Live coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Carpenter names Indy sponsor, Jones changes car number

In advance of the test, Ed Carpenter Racing announced Tuesday that team owner/driver Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet will compete in the Indy 500 with sponsorship from Preferred Freezer Services. While the leader in cold storage, warehousing, distribution and logistics has been a team partner for five years, this year marks the first time that the company will be the primary sponsor on the car of Carpenter, the defending Indianapolis 500 pole sitter.

“I have always thought that the bold blue (Preferred Freezer Services) livery stood out and looked fast on track,” Carpenter said. “I can’t wait to represent Preferred Freezer, DEEM, SMC and all of their employees at the Indianapolis 500.”

Meanwhile, Ed Jones, who drives the No. 20 Chevy at NTT IndyCar Series street- and road-course events, will pilot the No. 63 entry in the Indy 500 for Scuderia Corsa in conjunction with Ed Carpenter Racing. The team initially entered the car as No. 64, but announced Tuesday on social media that it was changing to No. 63 in recognition of Scuderia Corsa’s four IMSA sports car championships and three podium finishes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans running that car number.