Pick your cliché’ – Different verse, same as the first – Same ol’ stuff, different day – Another day, another dollar – Whatever you want to call it, the NASCAR Cup series has returned to Indianapolis and Juan Pablo Montoya has picked up right where he left off. When the checkered flag flew last year, even though he didn’t win the race, Montoya was the fastest car on the track. His pit road gaff cost him more track position than he could make up over the closing laps. When the cars took back to the track for the first practice session for the 17th running of the Brickyard 400, Montoya showed up right back where he left off, at the top of the charts. Teams didn’t run many laps during the first session (no one had a 10-consecutive lap average on the time sheet) but 46 teams took times during the session.
The track is very warm with heat indexes in the Indianapolis area reaching 110 degrees, so teams were mostly trying to shake down their cars and make sure they weren’t out in left field with their setups. Montoya’s lap was 50.883 seconds for a speed of 176.876 mph. The only other car that was able to come across the line was Jimmie Johnson who ran a 50.923-second lap for a 176.737-mph average. Johnson is going for his third consecutive win at Indianapolis which has never been accomplished in any form of racing at the Speedway.
Max Papis was the first surprise name on the speed chart with a fast lap of 51.050 and a speed of 176.298 mph. Papis has to qualify on time for the race and a lap like that has to have the team feeling very confident going into tomorrow’s qualifying session. Papis was followed by Robby Gordon, the third of the top-four drivers on the list who has open-wheel experience around this famed oval. Gordon ran a 51.299-second lap for a speed of 175.442 mph. Rounding out the top five was another former winner here at Indy, as Bill Elliott piloted the Wood Brothers No. 21 to a lap of 51.521 seconds at 174.686 mph. The top speeds look like this:
1) Juan Pablo Montoya – 50.883 – 176.876
2) Jimmie Johnson – 50.923 – 176.737
3) Max Papis – 51.050 – 176.298
4) Robby Gordon – 51.299 – 175.442
5) Bill Elliott – 51.521 – 174.686
6) Jeff Burton – 51.628 – 174.324
7) Todd Bodine – 51.659 – 174.219
8) Carl Edwards – 51.667 – 174.192
9) Denny Hamlin – 51.739 – 173.950
10) Tony Stewart – 51.756 – 173.893
Qualifying for the Brickyard takes place tomorrow at 10:10 a.m.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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