As expected, "Fast Friday" lived up to its billing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Speeds crested in the final practice day prior to weekend qualifications for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, despite 2.5 hours of track time lost to midday rain. When the checkered flag waved to conclude practice, Sebastien Bourdais had the fastest lap of the day and week, at 233.116 mph.
"There's never a bad day when you're at the front," said Bourdais, driver of the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
The four-time Indy car champion ranks sixth all-time with 36 wins, but Bourdais has never qualified or finished better than seventh in six previous Indianapolis 500 starts. The 38-year-old Frenchman feels good about his chances this year.
"The car felt good," said Bourdais, who pocketed $10,000 for being fastest on the day. "We tried a couple of things and finished the session really happy with the speed and the car balance. Hopefully it stays that way. … It's pretty exciting just to be in the mix, knowing that we seemingly have a chance to do well in qualifying."
Bourdais drew the 19th qualifying position among the primary cars for the 33 drivers slated to make four-lap runs in Saturday's first day of time trials on the 2.5-mile oval. Each car is guaranteed one attempt through the qualifying line and teams may make additional attempts as time permits. The fastest nine cars at the conclusion of Saturday's qualifying are locked into Sunday's Fast Nine Shootout to determine the Verizon P1 Award and pole sitter for the May 28 race.
Drivers spent most of the available track time today trimming out the downforce in their cars to conduct qualifying simulation runs. Following Bourdais atop the speed chart were a trio of Andretti Autosport drivers: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Fernando Alonso.
Hunter-Reay's best lap was 232.132 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda. The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner also racked up the fastest lap of the week without an aerodynamic tow from a car in front, 231.273 mph.
Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan and defending race winner Alexander Rossi all exceeded 231 mph on no-tow laps. All teams benefited from the INDYCAR regulation upping turbocharger boost equating to about 30 added horsepower, which continues through qualifying.
"We had a good run today, found some things that worked and found some things that didn't," Hunter-Reay said. "It was definitely one of the most on-edge couple of days this whole year. It's nice to be done with the day and we're looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can put this (No.) 28 DHL Honda at the front."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet, was fifth on the day at 231.682 mph. The two-time Indy 500 champion was the only Chevy driver among the top 12 on the time sheet.
"We didn't do a lot of laps, but we accomplished enough," Montoya said. "We'll see what the weather does tomorrow. If the schedule starts getting shuffled around, then we need to be ready to go when we can. Hopefully, it won't affect us that much. I like where the car is, but we'll find out for sure tomorrow."
Separate incidents late in the afternoon damaged the cars of Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach, but neither driver was injured. Pigot, looking to qualify for his second Indianapolis 500, made hard contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier in the No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet. Veach, rookie driver of the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing, made initial contact with the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier before coming to a stop in Turn 2.
James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports won the Indy 500 pole position a year ago with a four-lap speed average of 230.760 mph. The driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda will be the 13th driver in line to qualify Saturday. Pippa Mann (No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda) is slated to make the first qualifying attempt. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2017 points leader Simon Pagenaud is in line to qualify 11th and defending Indy 500 winner Rossi 20th.
Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion set to make his heralded Indy 500 debut, sits 15th in the primary car qualifying order.
"Today was obviously a little bit stressful with the rain coming and we tried to fit as many laps as possible (before the rain)," Alonso said. "Yes, we managed to fit another two (qualifying simulation) runs late in the day. We're quite happy. It was another day of learning those extra speeds, and hopefully tomorrow we have a good (qualifying run).
"Tomorrow is about doing a good four laps, hopefully (qualify) in the first nine and wait for Sunday for the real final classification. Tomorrow is another day, but for me, it is another learning day. We'll see what we can do, but there's not much pressure for tomorrow."
A final pre-qualifying practice begins at 8 a.m. ET Saturday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com . Qualifying runs from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m., with live coverage on WatchESPN from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and network coverage on ABC from 4-6 p.m. Coverage of Sunday's climactic qualifying day airs from 2:30-4 p.m. on WatchESPN and from 4-6 p.m. on ABC.
The 101st Indianapolis 500, the sixth race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, takes place May 28, with live coverage commencing at 11 a.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The weather definitely wasn't a welcome sight for us. After losing a good chunk of yesterday, we could've used all of the track time would could get today. There's nothing we can do about it. It was good to get the hum by Verizon Chevrolet back out there today. Everybody did a great job in getting everything fixed. It's unfortunate that they had to do that. We're excited about getting out there tomorrow and we'll see how it goes."
|Ryan Hunter-Reay 2nd quick|
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): "I've been coming here for a long time and handling the weather is part of the mix. We tried to anticipate what was going to happen the rest of the day and tomorrow morning to formulate our plan. The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy felt good today. It would've been great to get a full day in, but none of us can control that. We did as much as we could do."
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We tried a lot today, honestly. There was more power so we have to try to get ready for qualifying trim out. I haven't been entirely comfortable all day today, but at least we worked through a lot. And that's good. We worked through a lot of changes, tried a lot of things, but we have to do a little bit more tomorrow to see how we can gain more speed."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "A shorter day for sure, but not too bad for the Gallagher team. Our first run doing a qualifying simulation earlier today wasn't bad, but we struggled a bit as we tried to go faster. The conditions were tricky and we tried to get in as much as we could knowing that weather was coming our way fast. Our qualifying simulations after the track dried were OK, but we still need to do some fine-tuning to get where we want to be."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I think most of this week, preparation is all for race setup and you're typically at the [1.3 bar] boost, which is the lower boost and the speeds are four to five miles per hour slower, I think, than race situation. I think Fast Friday today is significant. I think it's definitely a big step for the drivers, for the teams, for everybody and even for a fan to see how fast they go through the corners leading up to Saturday and Sunday. So it's a significant jump. Overall today, after the rain I was happy with the car and with the speeds we laid down."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "It was unfortunate that we lost more track time today with the weather, but I think we made a lot of progress in our limited time on track with the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. I'm feeling pretty good about where we are with the car heading into qualifying after our sim runs this afternoon and I think I have a really good race car as well. I'm looking forward to tomorrow – hopefully the rain will hold off to let us get a clean day of qualifying."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): "I'm not really sure what happened. I entered Turn 2. It had not been an issue for us all week. Before I knew it, I was backwards. We'll have to go back and look and see what happened. I'm fine. The cars are really safe and it wasn't that bad a hit. I don't think the actual chassis is damaged, so we'll go put some new parts on it and get back out tomorrow."
|Castroneves at speed|
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I would've liked to have gotten more time on the track today, but the weather kind of got in the way. That's part of racing and everyone has to deal with it. It just wasn't us that lost the time. The Verizon Chevrolet team has been spot on all through our time in Indy. We're definitely looking for good things tomorrow."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "The day was cut off a little bit with the rain. Our first two trims the car was OK – we missed a little bit of speed, but the sensation of the car wasn't bad. Then in the afternoon we wanted to change the car completely just to try something different to gain speed but it didn't work. So we'll see tomorrow – I think tomorrow we'll just go through the day the best we can without overstepping and try to have a good car for Monday for practice."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 AFS Chevrolet): "First of all, I'm very appreciative of the amazing job the whole team did from yesterday to today. We got an amazing amount of speed without any tows, which is exactly what we're looking for this weekend. Today still was not the day we wanted, still very draggy and we don't know where that's coming from. Tonight is going to be another one of those brain nights with the engineers to get more speed from the No. 17 AFS /Juncos Racing car, but we're getting there. I'm very focused on continuing the good path that we've been on so far."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "There's never a bad day when you're at the front. Definitely happy with the way things turned out. Obviously, we had a bit of another issue yesterday. That was pretty pleasing. The car felt good. We tried a couple of things and finished the session really happy with the speed and the car balance. Hopefully it stays that way. It's a tricky place. When you get any sense of consistency through different conditions – sunny, shade, different track temps, humidity, wind – it always gives you confidence. You never know what's going to come at you the next day. I think tomorrow's going to be another example of that, so Sunday might be pretty tricky, as well. We'll just hopefully be able to deal with those conditions very well and make it happen when it matters because this is obviously awesome. I can't thank Dale (Coyne, team owner) and Craig (Hampson, engineer) and Olivier (Boisson, engineer) and all the mechanics and everybody. Craig was the first one to tell me, 'Yeah, let's do it when it matters on Saturday and Sunday.' It's pretty exciting just to be in the mix knowing that we seemingly have a chance to do well in qualifying. Every other time I've been there, I've never been in contention to really be any kind of factor, and that's just boring. When you're in that position where you know there's going to be something you can do to actually play at the front, then hopefully it happens, because it's a heck of a lot more fun."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "At the end of the day, I'm happy we even got to run today and get some time on the boost since it could have been a wash. I wish I could say I feel more confident going into qualifying, but we've got our work cut out for us. It's going to be really hard to make the Fast Nine right now, but we will keep doing what we can do on our end to make the best of it. The longer I ran today, the more focused I am on race running for the next day of practice to make sure the car is the best it can be just because qualifying is going to be a struggle right now."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): "I feel like we made good changes for where we are and have dialed ourselves into a window. It seems like the Hondas are pretty fast right now, so it's hard to know how everything will stack up. We can only control what we can control. I feel like we've gotten pretty close to understanding what our optimal window is. The weather conditions lately haven't helped for qualifying this weekend because it all comes down to the track conditions when it's go time. Tomorrow, we will just have to see where and how we can get the best speeds to make something out of our week."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet): "A little interruption by the rain today, but we got some stuff done today with the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy. We didn't do a lot of laps but we accomplished enough. We'll see what the weather does tomorrow. If the schedule starts getting shuffled around, then we need to be ready to go when we can. Hopefully, it won't affect us that much. I like where the car is, but we'll find out for sure tomorrow."
SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR Mecum Auctions Chevrolet): "Right now, we're just trying to figure out our qualifying car. I really like my car in race trim. I think we can pass really anybody in that. We've been struggling a little with the qualifying speed. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where you qualify, it's where you finish the race. I think it's going to be another year coming from the back. We obviously want to qualify in the top 10, but we'll see if we can do that. I'm feeling good, though. It's going to be a good May. Good things are going to happen for me, the DRR boys and Mecum. I'm really excited."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It was quite good day. Very productive, I must admit. Working quite seamlessly. We share most of the data together. Obviously, oval speed is sometimes a little artificial. Some people get tow. But it was obviously good to see we all up there. Especially non-tow lap, which is a true speed. I'm pretty happy. It looks like I'm eighth quickest in no-tow laps, I take it, concerning the conditions today. Where we are in terms of the car setup, I'm feeling better, actually enjoying the working all together with Andretti Autosport. Definitely this is the best situation or environment compared to past few years of my experience in Indy 500 this close to qualifying. This is a good preparation. It's nicely all coming together."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Fast Friday was definitely fast. We had a good run today – found somethings that worked and found some things that didn't. It was definitely one of the most on-edge couple of days this whole year. It's nice to be done with the day and we're looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can put this No. 28 DHL Honda at the front."
FERNANDO ALONSO (No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda): (About if he felt faster speeds on Fast Friday) "Not really. I think at the end of the day when you're driving the car you don't realize if you are six or seven miles (per hour) faster; you always want an extra mile to be able to go faster. Today was obviously a little bit stressful with the rain coming and we tried to fit as many laps as possible in the (early afternoon). Yes, we managed to fit another two (qualifying-simulation) runs late in the day. We're quite happy. It was another day of learning those extra speeds and hopefully tomorrow we have a good (qualifying run)."
ZACH VEACH (No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet): "Overall, I'm extremely disappointed that we had the accident so close to qualifying. We'd been making such progress all day for this to happen, I feel badly for the entire crew and A.J., of course. Still trying to figure out what happened. At this point I'm thinking maybe it was a gust of wind. The entry to the middle of the corner felt perfectly fine like the runs before and then extremely late in the corner, the car just turned really suddenly. So we need to have a good look at everything to see exactly what was the cause, but with where it happened and particularly how things were feeling then, it caught me out by surprise. I had no idea this was going to be the outcome when I turned into that corner because things felt quite well by that point. So we need to look over everything. I hate it for these guys because they're going to have a long night and everyone's been working so hard, and we were finally getting ahead of everything so for this to happen, I'm just extremely disappointed."
BUDDY LAZIER (No. 44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Chevrolet): "We started the day welcoming Jeff Teague's family and the Factory at D1 Sports as a new sponsor, which is a huge boost to our program this year. To me, in Indiana, what more could you ask for because you have basketball and Indy car racing all in one story, and to me that's as Indiana as it gets. We're working on the race car, these guys have done a great job, Mitch Davis…all these guys. They built the car really since Monday and I think we are going to be able to go quicker pretty easily. The speed was coming just as we expected as we were trimming off. We are just trying to be smart and go about it very methodically and actually I think we caught up a bunch. For one day, I thought that was a pretty good day, especially when it rained out on top of it all. We are just one or two steps away from a good qualifying run for the No. 44 Chevrolet."
JACK HARVEY (No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda): "It's been a pretty typical day for us for how the week has played out. The Michael Shank Racing guys did a great job today and the track ended up drying so we could get back out there. Today, we started to get into some qualifying trims and I actually think our non-tow time was pretty comparable and competitive. I think we are right in the ballpark of where we wanted to be and what we thought we could be. We've been ending all the days well, we just need to make sure we have a problem-free day (tomorrow) so we can keep building and working on everything."
PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda): "It was good to get out there this morning and have a really positive start to Fast Friday. We have had a couple of issues this week, so to go out there this morning and run a 230 in our first run was really kind of cool. I believe that was the first time that's happened for a female athlete here at (the) Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sadly, it was done with a tow, and I don't think we stand a huge chance of repeating that tomorrow in qualifying. We're just working on our qualifying car. We still have a little bit of work to do and some decision-making tonight, and then we cross our fingers for tomorrow and hope we can have a good day."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "During this last practice when you're focused on qualifying, the car is definitely on edge. It gets light on downforce; the car moves around a lot. It can be interesting when the weather conditions change, but we found some speed in the car this afternoon after the rain came through. I'm happier with the car after the first couple of runs late this afternoon, so I think we were able to make some progress during the rain delay. Really, it will just come down to getting four really good laps out of the No. 83 Tresiba Honda tomorrow. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys will do everything they can to be sure it's prepared. We'll have all the speed secrets we can think of for the car, so we'll see what we've got for 10 miles in qualifying."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet): "It was definitely a day of up and down, well more like down and up. We missed a crucial first two hours of practice this morning. We just couldn't get the No. 88 Harding Racing car ready in time with the changes we made overnight, but we got out at the end and we got a lot of work done. I think we ended up in a spot where we can really take the next step and be right up where we feel we can perform."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): "We used the rain delay to our advantage and found some speed in the NAPA car. I feel like we may be 95 percent of the way there, so we just need to really make sure we get everything right tomorrow with there being a very good shot that it will just be one run due to weather. So, we have to really do our homework overnight and make sure all the pieces are put together, because we have a car to be at the front."