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Spins abound in Indy 500 test as Colton Herta averts disaster; Helio Castroneves hits wall

Nate Ryan outlines some on-track incidents during Day 1 of the Indy 500 open test involving Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves, and Colton Herta, and Corey LaJoie shares a story on how Jimmie Johnson helped his career.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Three Indy 500 winners had spins coming out of the pits Wednesday during an open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and four-time race champion Helio Castroneves hit the Turn 2 wall with about 80 minutes left in an unusually chaotic session.

Castroneves was taken to the track’s infield medical center where he was checked and cleared to drive shortly after the crash. The Brazilian won last year’s race in the same car that hit the wall.

“Very strange,” Castroneves said. “I wasn’t pushing, I wasn’t even trying. It was very unusual. I don’t know if you guys saw but I was like I can’t believe what just happened.”

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The testing session was delayed early in the day for about 90 minutes following rain. After the track dried, temperatures were in the high 40s (and eventually warmed up into the low 60s) as drivers took to the track.

Castroneves wasn’t the only veteran who had trouble with the chilly, breezy conditions.

Alexander Rossi, who won the Indy 500 in 2016, and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power also spun in the warmup lane.

While neither hit the wall, Colton Herta looped his car through the first turn to avoid Power.

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Herta brushed the wall but averted major damage to his No. 26 Dallara-Honda while also missing Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson, who barely avoided hitting the Andretti Autosport driver as he came to a stop.

Power couldn’t explain it, either.

“It scared the absolute daylights out of me,” Power said. “I feel terrible for Colton because he (spun) because of me. But I had zero warning. Zero. It felt like water.”

Shortly after the third incident, series officials halted testing for the day so they could give the track a more thorough inspection. IMS, IndyCar and Firestone, the tire supplier for the series, said they were working to evaluate the warmup lane in turns one and two.

The test was scheduled to continue at 10 a.m. ET Thursday (with six hours of coverage on Peacock Premium). Inclement weather had the test on hold Thursday morning.

Herta, 22, quickly was released from the infield medical center and cleared to drive.

“I wasn’t sure how far up the track Will was, but I had to go wide,” Herta said. “I was close to having nowhere to go.”

Six-time series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing posted the fastest lap of the day at 227.187 mph. Conor Daly of Ed Carpenter Racing was second at 226.985, and rookie Callum Ilot of Juncos Hollinger Racing was third at 226.308.

“The first thing I said was the warmup lane felt slick and then I saw Alex spinning so it made sense,” Daly said. “I think the more we go, it will get better. It’s unfortunate but I think we can run if we’re just a little bit cautious with it.”

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, driving with a surgically repaired hand in his first IndyCar season driving ovals, was 25th overall at 218.785 mph after recording the eighth-fastest non-tow speed in the first of the three two-hour windows.