Today was Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where speeds were expected to increase, given a turbocharger boost to the engines. Due to windy conditions, and a hot and slick track, the speeds weren’t as high as predicted. There were still six cars that crossed the 230 mph barrier, with Simon Pagenaud leading the way for Team Penske, with the fastest lap of the month at 230.698 mph. Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Will Power, and Sage Karam were the other drivers to break 230 mph.
IndyCar has given each entry an additional engine turbocharger boost through qualifying weekend that will add about 40 horsepower to the engines. Qualifications begin tomorrow, with the Pole being decided on Sunday. Teams were trying to work on qualifying setups today, but the track conditions just weren’t ideal. Fortunately, for the first time since Monday, there were no incidents during practice.
Every car entered in the race made it on track today, including Pippa Mann, who’s car was repaired by the team after Wednesday’s nasty crash. There were a total of 1,055 laps turned today at the track. During all five practice days this week, there were a total of 8,248 laps completed. Bryan Clauson completed the most laps during the week, with 350. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti each completed 345.
There were quite a few tweaks going on for each manufacturer on Friday, as far as the aero kits were concerned. The Honda teams were going with different rear wheel guards on the back, which included more curvature, and no rear winglets. Chevrolet was still going forward with the side pod rear wheel covers, after they were tested and cleared by IndyCar for use last night. In an odd twist, the Penske cars were running both side wheel covers at the same time.
Qualifying begins tomorrow, at 10:45 AM, following a two hour practice session at 8 AM. The first “group” (half the field) will run from 8 until 8:30, with the other group going from 8:30 until 9. All cars will be able to practice from 9 until 10. All cars will attempt to qualify for the race, and the full field will be set on Sunday, including the Fast Nine to determine the Pole sitter for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. One car will also be bumped out of the race, as 34 cars are entered in the event. Here is the qualifying order for Saturday. Ed Carpenter has won the Pole for the last two Indianapolis 500 races.
Highlights from Fast Friday are below, courtesy of IndyCar.
Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy ran well today, despite the heat as it took us a bit by surprise. We did a backtrack and have a better understanding of what to run. We’ll take another good look at everything tonightfor tomorrow. But overall, we feel comfortable with the way we ended the day.”
Juan Montoya: “We struggled a little with the balance of the car today. Nothing major but we just need to figure out why before qualifying tomorrow. I’m pretty confident that we’ll have plenty of speed but we need to find just a bit more to get the Verizon Chevy to where it can win the Verizon P1 Pole Award.”
Helio Castroneves: “The Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet was looking strong out there today. We really worked hard on the qualifying setup and feel that we have a very quick car. Now we just need to wait and see what the weather will be like tomorrow to help guide us in the direction we need to go. I’m really looking forward to qualifying. We played around with a few sidepod configurations, going from one extreme to the other with them. We just need to look at data to see what we are going to do tomorrow.”
Sage Karam: “We knew that early in the morning or late in the afternoon would be the best conditions. In the middle there, you didn’t see a lot of track running just because of the wind and how hot the track was. It was very slippery. In qualifying trim in general, the cars are very sketchy. Every lap I was out there, I felt like I was going to crash. Tomorrow’s going to be the longest five laps of my life. The car is really, really fast, but it’s on edge. I think we have a good shot at the Fast Nine, which is the goal.”
Scott Dixon: “It was hard to tell with the conditions changing so much out there today. It was hot and slippery in the late afternoon but better in the early afternoon. I was happy with the speed in the Target car but I think there is more in it. We have go look over everything tonight and look at where we can make improvements. Qualifying here at Indy is always a challenge and you never know what the weather will throw at you.”
Tony Kanaan: “It was a good last day of practice before qualifying. We were able to get quite a few laps in today for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet and really work on how we want to approach tomorrow. The weather was a little difficult to work through, but it’s better to know you’re fast in difficult weather just in case we run into it tomorrow or Sunday. We’ve had a really solid week and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to be fast this weekend.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a very challenging day for the Hydroxycut/Haus Vaporizer team. We tried to make the low downforce setup that we had yesterday work today and it never did. So we backtracked and put more downforce on the car, but by that time we had messed with the setup quite a bit and we couldn’t quite hit our marks after that. We are just going to have to take a good hard look at the data tonight and try and get the proper setup for the conditions for tomorrow’s qualifying. Fortunately we have one more practice session before we qualify, so hopefully we will get it right.
Takuma Sato: “It was an interesting day, very different from the last couple of days. It’s very warm with heavy air and a lot of humidity. So that made for a loss of track grip and at the same time we’re trimming out the car, so that makes for a doubly hard time. It was a good test, a good experiment, because under very low grip conditions you’re trying to maximize the mechanical grip with the low downforce. I think we made good progress in gathering good data from the three cars so hopefully we can put it all together and go faster tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “We didn’t run much today, we were just trying out some qualifying simulation stuff. It was so hot, and windy, and sunny which is the big thing so the track temperature was pretty high. I think it was a pretty tricky day to be out there and we ended up calling it a day early just because we didn’t want to confuse ourselves too much before tomorrow. The Steak ‘n Shake car has been competitive all week. I feel like we are right in the hunt as far as being the top Honda. I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and seeing what we can do.”
Ed Carpenter: “With today being the first sunny day with warmer track temperatures, it really threw things for a loop and slowed things down. Everyone was running with much more down force and we’re not running anywhere close to last year’s down force. The way today went, I’ll be thrilled if we make it into the fast nine. We’re on the outside looking in now. Last year we were pretty solid so I think we can get in, but we got to play our cards right and find a little bit overnight. The thing we’ve got to figure out is how to make the fourth lap still be good. It was definitely a tricky day, I think everyone was struggling at times and it’s really hard to tell who’s good and who’s not.”
Josef Newgarden: “The guys did an amazing job. They prepared another car really quickly and got us ready to go. We’ve been out here today just getting up to speed and we are relatively back in the game. Qualifying will be tricky because it’s slippery when it’s hot. Looking at the heat, I think whoever draws the first spot is going to be the luckiest guy. It’s only going to get worse as the temperature comes up so you want to draw early if anything. I like the fast nine and obviously you want to get into the fast on Saturday and go for the shootout for the pole on Sunday. We got a lot of good data today, as did my teammates, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud: “Today was a good day. The conditions were difficult. The conditions were finally hot and there are a lot of differences in how the body kits react depending on the weather. For Team Penske the biggest thing is we worked really well as a team to get different versions of aero levels for tomorrow and understanding that, so we can look at that information tonight and decide very precisely what we need. Really excited about that.” (Do you feel like a favorite for pole?): “No. I don’t feel like I’m favorite. I feel like I have a great race car and the whole Team Penske is doing a great job. The car is amazing and really fast. There’s so many outside factors that will come into play tomorrow. The biggest one is the draw. The decision that we make with the aero level may be too low or too high for the temperature. It’s going to be really tough for the engineers. I hope my engineer Ben (Bretzman) still has some hair at the end of the day.”
Townsend Bell: “We have had a good week of practice in gathering information for race day as well as running traffic. And parallel with that, we have had to work on our pit stops every day. We have made many hot stops each day so far. Now it’s time to worry about getting the car ready for qualifying. We have been gaining more data for the fastest four laps we can put together. Qualifying on Saturday really depends on track temperatures and conditions – plus getting a good draw position for the qualifying line. You have to remember that the qualifying speed is the average of four laps and that is the challenge everyone is facing right now. Are you a little soft on Lap 1 and pick up speed for the rest of the run or do you have a fastest one first and then fall off for the final three laps? It’s a tap dance to get your tires just right throughout the four laps. This Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom team is a great group and they have put together a solid and strong program this week. Now, it’s up to me to execute on Saturday.”
Alex Tagliani: “Today was a very important day for us, but unfortunately we spent a lot of time in the garage. We showed up on pit lane with a little over an hour to go, and we tried to do too much in an hour to get a strong qualifying setup. But the positive thing is that the car is good in race trim. I just want to do so much for AJ Foyt Racing, I want to do so much for our sponsor in Al-Fe Heat Treating and be fast. But with the limited amount of running we’ve been able to do, we couldn’t really put the car where it needed to be for a qualifying run. Buttomorrow’s another day. We’ll try to be ready to go early in the morning and see what we have. That’s going to be the key – that we try to get the best position we can in qualifying. Obviously it’s important to be in the show, and I think we will be, I have no doubt about that. But I also think there’s a bit more to it, and I would really like to extract everything out of what we have to put on a great showing for qualifying.”
Pippa Mann: “Words cannot describe how proud I am of the Dale Coyne Racing crew for getting this car built and getting us back out on track today for an install lap and a shakedown. I’m so thankful to them for all the work that went into this and it is so great for us to have that baseline going into tomorrow for the qualifying effort. I am hopeful going into tomorrow that I’ll have a strong qualifying effort in my Dale Coyne Racing car supporting Susan G. Komen.”
Bryan Clauson: “It’s been a roller coaster week, but our car has been fairly comfortable all day. We have been moving the balance around all day and we finally got it right at the end. We ran some pretty good laps on our own. We’ll look at our notes tonight and see what we can do to get even quicker. We have a short laundry list of things to do in the morning before qualifying. We’re right there to be in the top 30 when it’s all said and done tomorrow, all we have to do is give it four good ones”
Gabby Chaves: “I think we had a very positive day today. We made some good changes. The car was working well. It’s definitely been the hardest day out there for me. I think here, today, tomorrow andSunday will be the hardest days. I think once we get back to race trim downforce configurations it will be a lot easier. I’m sure you’ll hear the same for Sage (Karam) – it’s not easy out there. I think the track conditions weren’t very favorable, as well. Very strong winds. The track was very greasy, as well and it definitely made for some tough times out there. But I was very happy with the car. We made great progress all day. Made some good changes that allowed me to post some quick speeds.”
Below are some of my photos from Thursday. (Special thanks to IndyCar and IMS)