After just a total of 249 laps were turned on Thursday, things were much busier on Friday as 31 drivers combined to turn 3,956 total laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. That is not to say that mother nature didn’t make another appearance, but there were just a few sprinkles that caused a slight delay.
The track was busy throughout the day, as things began at 9 AM with drivers needing to complete their Rookie Orientation Programs, followed by those doing the veteran refresher tests. Shortly after 11 AM, all drivers had met those requirements and were eligible to participate in the all skate that ran until 6 PM on Friday. Speeds were much higher today with the warmer temperatures and cars running in large packs.
Josef Newgarden had the fastest time on the speed chart today at 226.819 mph. Two-time Indy 500 winners Takuma Sato and Juan Montoya were the only other two drivers to break the 226 mph barrier during the test. Newgarden has two championships on his resume, but clearly, his number one objective is to get his face on the Borg-Warner trophy.
“It was a pretty good day,” Newgarden said. “I was happy enough with the car. I think we still need some work, for sure, but to just get an initial read on where we’re at is good. Obviously, there are a lot of new parts and differences to the last couple of years, so we’re just trying to assess what we need to really work on these last couple of weeks before we get back here in May. But I’m pretty happy.”
Friday Session 3 Practice Results
Reigning series champion Scott Dixon was fourth-fastest on Friday. The 2008 Indy 500 winner is still seeking his second trip to victory lane at Indianapolis. Graham Rahal rounded out the top five today, giving Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing two cars inside the top five. Graham was also the fastest driver without a tow in traffic, which bodes well for the team heading into next month.
There was only one driver that did not participate in today’s session. Ed Carpenter Racing opted to concentrate on the cars of Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter and did not repair Rinus VeeKay’s Chevrolet after his brutal crash yesterday. The 20-year old driver is still dealing with a broken left index finger but has been cleared to drive.
Despite recording the third-fastest lap today, Montoya stopped short of saying it was easy. “Today was good,” Montoya said. “We worked through a lot of things. We found a lot of good things and a lot of bad things like you always do. “It was nice to get back a little bit in the draft. A lot to catch up again, learn, understand again what you need to do, the timing.”
“It’s funny, getting up to speed yesterday was, ‘Ooh.’ Today you don’t even think about it. This afternoon even better. The first few runs with traffic is like, Ooh. Then you start relaxing, getting in the flow of things. We did some pit stops at the end. Everyone at Arrow McLaren SP has been doing a very good job. It was fun so far. I think this test was very, very useful.”
Any day at the speedway is a good day. When you have sunshine and 31 race cars on top of that, it is a great day. The news just keeps getting better. IMS President Doug Boles shared some insight as he and Indiana governor Eric Holcomb were interviewed by NBC Peacock’s live stream on Friday.
The two-day test is now complete and teams and drivers can turn their attention to getting the season underway. Though the first two races of the season will be on road/street courses, the next two rounds will come on the oval at Texas Motor Speedway before returning to IMS for the road course race to kick off the Month of May activities.
Next up is the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on April 18. NBC will have live coverage of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at 3 PM ET next Sunday. The 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 30 at the World’s Greatest Racecourse.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar