Takuma Sato lived up to his “no attack, no chance” motto on “Fast Friday” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, turning the fastest Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge practice lap since 1996 on the eve of the start of qualifying.
Two-time “500” winner Sato led the six-hour session with a lap of 38.3382 seconds, 234.753 mph in the No. 11 Deloitte Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing, the ninth-fastest practice lap in Indy 500 history. The eight fastest practice laps at Indy were turned in 1996, led by Arie Luyendyk’s speed of 239.260.
Sato’s best lap came during a four-lap qualifying simulation early in the six-hour session that he had to abandon after coming within a hair’s width of touching the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4.
“The beginning of the run, first time today, was really too light,” Sato said. “The middle run, we had more downforce, and I was getting more comfortable. By the end of the day, I think I wanted to try to find the limit again, so we went to a little bit sketchy one (setup) again, so I had to lift in Turn 4. But overall, I think we were very satisfied with our performance.”
This was the second time this week Sato was the fastest driver, as he led the first day of practice Wednesday at 229.439. Speeds climbed today, as extra turbocharger boost added approximately 100 more horsepower to the Honda and Chevrolet engines. That boost also will be available during PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying on Saturday and Sunday.
2020 Indy 500 pole sitter Marco Andretti was second today at 234.202 in the No. 98 KULR/Curb Honda fielded by Andretti Herta w/Marco & Curb-Agajanian. Rinus VeeKay was third at 234.171 in the No. 21 Bitnile.com Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing.
Reigning “500” winner Marcus Ericsson took the fourth spot at 234.029 in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Pato O’Ward rounded out the top five at 233.796 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
All 34 drivers spent the entire session on the 2.5-mile oval in four-lap qualifying simulations to prepare for two days of pressure-packed qualifying. Sato also drove to the fastest four-lap average speed of 233.412 during the sims.
Three other drivers produced four-lap qualifying sim average speeds of 233 mph, with Ericsson at 233.112, two-time series champion Josef Newgarden at 233.085 in the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet and reigning series champion Will Power at 233.070 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Saturday’s action starts with practice from 8:30-9:30 a.m., separated into two groups. Qualifying takes place from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m., with spots 13 through 30 in the field of 33 determined.
2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay drew the No. 1 spot in the qualifying order Friday night, gaining the advantage of cooler air and track temperatures as being the first driver to attempt to qualify Saturday morning. Sato drew the 25th spot in the qualifying order, when temperatures could be higher and the track slicker.
The 12 fastest drivers Saturday will return Sunday to compete for the coveted NTT P1 Award through two rounds of qualifying, while the four slowest cars also will be back on track Sunday to grab one of the final three spots in the field in Last Chance Qualifying.
Public gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday.
The 107th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network). PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying is Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21.