Marco Andretti, grandson of the great Mario Andretti, was able to grab the top single lap time in today’s Indy 500 practice session in his Andretti Herta Autosport Honda, averaging a speed of 233.491 MPH over the 2.5 mile course.
Today’s cars were in a different class than they were for the previous days of practice because they were set up in their special qualifying modes. The cars are allowed to run a higher pressure in the turbochargers for qualifying, leading to an extra 80 horsepower from the 2.2L V6, and significantly higher speeds.
Teams did their best to send their drivers out in clean air to further simulate a qualifying run, contrasting the large packs of cars that were seen the previous couple days.
Honda-powered cars were solidly at the top of the running order with the higher power spec, occupying nine of the top ten spots for Friday’s running and laying down speeds that were over seven miles per hour faster than yesterday’s top speeds.
Andretti Autosport seems to be the class of the field heading into the first day of qualifying tomorrow, with three of the team’s cars in the top seven spots on the timing chart.
The most important times of the day, however, are the no-tow times that represent the empty track conditions the drivers will see in qualifying. By that metric, Andretti Autosport occupies five of the top seven positions, and is the favorite to earn a pole position on Sunday.
On the other hand, Team Penske was surprisingly slow all day. The fastest driver from the normally-dominant team was Will Power, ending the day in 11th position.
The track was significantly hotter than the previous days, and the entire field was battling slippery conditions as well as the higher speeds. The temperatures are expected to stay high tomorrow, so the conditions today were mostly representative of the ones the drivers will face during qualifying.
There were no incidents on track throughout the six hours of running, but there were multiple close calls as drivers pushed the envelope and ran within inches of the outside wall exiting the corners.
There was a bit of drama on pit lane, however, as championship leader Scott Dixon was stuck in his pit box for 45 minutes while the team scrambled to figure out why the car would not stay running. In the end, an errant line of code in the car’s electronics was discovered and corrected. Dixon subsequently hit the track and quickly laid down the day’s second-fastest no-tow speed,
The drivers will get one final hour of practice tomorrow morning at 8:30 EDT, followed by a full afternoon qualifying to set the back of the field starting at 11:00 EDT. The top nine drivers will then battle for pole on Sunday afternoon.