INDIANAPOLIS — James Hinchcliffe will have to wait a little bit longer before he can return to the track.
The Canadian driver was evaluated Tuesday and IndyCar’s medical team has yet to clear Hinchcliffe to begin Indianapolis 500 practice. He was progressing well and is now cleared to begin light training with a another evaluation set for Thursday.
The 27-year old driver was diagnosed with a concussion Saturday when he was hit in the head by debris in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He was taken on a stretcher to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway medical center and was later transported to a hospital.
Hinchcliffe hasn’t been made available to the media since.
“Pretty much the doctors said he should be a little bit disconnected,” E.J. Viso said. “Just pretty much trying to stay in his room and rest.”
Filling in for Hinchcliffe for the third consecutive day, Viso shot straight to the top of the speed chart on the third day of practice. He reached 224.488 mph within the first 20 minutes of the start of practice. Kurt Busch was second fastest at 224.159 and Colombia’s Juan Pablo Montoya was third at 224.115. Just before a yellow flag for rain, Montoya pulled off the track and required a tow. The rookie reported an electrical problem with the car.
“That’s why I stopped in the grass,” Montoya said. “We ran a lot of laps yesterday in preparation for it, so it’s nothing major and it gives the guys time to catch up on the car.”
Meanwhile, Viso is spending each practice session with the intent to qualify and even race Hinchcliffe’s No. 27 car in this year’s Indy 500. That kind of focus, Viso believes, will have him best prepared should have be called on for the May 25 race.
“I just put myself into the driver’s role,” he said. “I believe that it’s the best scenario that I could put myself in right now is with that mindset.”
There’s still a chance that Hinchcliffe could return in time for IndyCar’s signature race. Nothing has been offered to the Venezuelan, but if that’s the case, Viso hasn’t ruled out stepping into another car to race in the Indy 500.
“If it’s a competitive ride, I will of course take it,” he said. “Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being lapped every two laps, so for that I truly don’t know if it’s worth it. It’s not like I’m dying to do it, but I’m dying to do well and to have a chance to win.”
Other things to know from Tuesday’s practice session:
FAST HONDA: Honda engines recorded some of the top speeds, with seven of the top 10 fastest cars. The three fastest Chevy cars on Tuesday were Montoya, Scott Dixon (223.235), and rookie Sage Karam (222.635).
PRACTICE CANCELLED: Teams wasted no time getting on the track for practice. Twenty-six cars made their way to the pits within the first 20 minutes of the start of practice before rain and thunderstorms ended track activity early. Teams have been pressed for time after a quick turnaround from Saturday’s race. Rain is in the forecast for the remainder of the week.
OPPORTUNITY TO RELAX: Josef Newgarden had no problem with Tuesday’s practice being called early. The inclement weather that cut practice short gave the 23-year old and his crew a chance to relax after a busy stretch. By the third day of practice, Newgarden said many teams have made the full transformation of going from road course to oval racing in a short amount of time. “Most people by now are pretty sorted,” Newgarden said. “There’s not a lot to do. There’s not big items you have to take off the list. It’s all little things that you’re looking for now.”
FIRST PRACTICE: Sebastian Saavedra returned to practice for the first time since wrecking at the start of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The pole-sitter for Saturday’s race was clipped by Carlos Munoz before he was hit from behind by Mikhail Aleshin. Saavedra completed just seven laps and reached 208.985 mph on Tuesday.