104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 NTT IndyCar Series

Speeds ratchet upward in final Indy 500 practice day before qualifications

Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 18, 2018) – Fast Friday was just that at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With added horsepower at their disposal, drivers exceeded 231 mph for the first time in practice this week for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, on the eve of qualifying for the world’s largest single-day sporting event.

Marco Andretti was fastest with a lap of 231.802 mph in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda. It earned the Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian driver a $10,000 check from Harding Group for turning the top lap in Fast Friday practice.

“The car is close in race trim; I don’t know how much better we can get it,” Andretti said. “But (qualifying) trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the top nine, to be honest.”

Robert Wickens, the Verizon IndyCar rookie who has impressed in his first five races, was second fastest with a lap of 231.732 mph in the No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Ed Carpenter was third on the timesheet at 231.066 mph in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

“I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here,” Wickens said. “Fast Friday is for qualifying (simulation runs) and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am.

“Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re OK by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for tomorrow.”

INDYCAR rules permit increased engine turbocharger boost equating to approximately more 50 horsepower for Friday’s practice and continuing through the two days of qualifications. While the top lap speeds Friday also benefited from the aerodynamic tow of cars running ahead, the all-important no-tow list saw a jump in speeds as well – led by a trio of Team Penske drivers.

Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, topped the no-tow chart at 229.780 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Josef Newgarden, the reigning series champ and points leader after five of 17 races this season, was second on the no-tow list at 228.994 mph in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud was third among no-tow laps at 228.857 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I think the No. 12 Verizon Chevy is definitely in a good window,” said Power, who is third all time with 51 career Indy car poles, but has none for the Indy 500. “I think, obviously, we’re fast. I know there’s a lot of guys up there. I think it’s going to be very tight tomorrow.”

The fourth Team Penske driver at the Indy 500, three-time winner Helio Castroneves, was 12th on the overall speed chart (229.122 mph) and 11th on the no-tow list (227.895 mph) in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. Danica Patrick, competing in the final race of her groundbreaking career, was 20th on the overall list but seventh in no-tow laps (228.284 mph) in the No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.

“The car was really good on the first run,” Patrick said. “We did a step of trim and it was a little bit loose the second run, but still pretty good and definitely fast. … We just decided to, as they say, make a couple tweaks and put a cover on it and go out tomorrow.”

With 35 drivers entered, bumping into the field of 33 could come into play for the first time at Indy 500 qualifications since 2011. Dale Coyne Racing rookie Zachary Claman De Melo is expected to be the first qualifier on Saturday following the blind draw for positions held after the completion of Friday’s practice. Patrick would be 15th to qualify and Power 30th.

Saturday’s qualifying will determine the 33 cars that will start the race, but not the grid order. The fastest nine on Saturday are locked into Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout to decide the Verizon P1 Award and grid positions for the first three rows. The 10th- through 33rd-fastest qualifiers on Saturday will make another four-lap run on Sunday to determine those starting positions.

The lone incident in Friday’s practice occurred when James Davison spun exiting Turn 2 and made hard left-side contact with the SAFER Barrier in the No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Chevrolet. Davison was uninjured, but the Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi entry sustained significant damage that will need to be repaired overnight if he hopes to qualify on Saturday.

Davison wasn’t certain what led to the crash.

“I guess I became one of the drivers to slam the wall at Indianapolis, so I joined the club today,” the 31-year-old Australian said. “Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we had to try some things. We’re 32nd quickest, right on the bubble and we are not going to go faster just standing there and looking at it, so no regrets there.

“We’ll regroup, see what we can pull out of the bag tomorrow and give it everything again.”

Pre-qualifying practice is scheduled from 8-9:30 a.m. ET Saturday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying airs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on WatchESPN, with the final two hours broadcast on ABC from 4-6 p.m.

Sunday’s qualifying is available from 2:30-4 p.m. on WatchESPN and then from 4-6 p.m. on ABC.

The 102nd Indianapolis 500 airs live beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.

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