The first two hours of Fast Friday running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway produced impressive speeds as teams began preparations for this weekend’s Indy 500 qualifying sessions.
Andretti Autosport made an early statement in cooler conditions when the track opened for practice at 11 a.m. as Ryan Hunter-Reay went to the top of the no-tow list in his No. 28 Honda.
The 2014 Indy 500 winner (232.124mph) was followed by teammate and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 Honda (231.859 mph), and on the other side of 2008 Indy winner Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Marco Andretti was fourth on the no-tow list (231.754mph) in the No. 98 Honda.
Hunter-Reay’s qualifying simulation also produced the best four-lap average (231.263mph), and Andretti took the early honors for the top overall lap (233.491mph) with the benefit of a tow. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly was second fastest in the No. 47 Chevy (232.337mph), and had yet to post a lap without a tow.
Continuing with the leading no-tow laps after two hours, Honda-powered drivers held the top 13 speeds; Chevy’s Simon Pagenaud, the defending Indy 500 winner in the No. 22 Team Penske entry, was the first among the Bowtie brigade in 14th. Andretti Hondas held P1-2-4-6-7, with technical affiliate Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey adding to the program’s strength in P9 with the No. 60 entry.
Making use of higher turbocharger boost pressure, which has pushed engine power to the 700hp range, left the likes of Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan with big smiles after climbing from their cars.
“That’s crazy jumping in with that extra boost, man,” Hinchcliffe said. “That is fun. 231, 232 — good God, this is why we do it, man. It’s so awesome to get out of here with that extra boost. And the Genesys car was honestly really good. That first run, strong pace, not a lot of (tire degradation), which was great. It was a little cloudier then. So obviously the conditions are going to change over the day.
“So for us, it’s important to run in different parts of the day. The sun comes out, track temperature comes up but, luckily with a six-car team, we’re getting through a lot of these different aero configurations. We wanted to start conservative just because of the extra power, but it looks like up and down the board, all the Andretti Autosport cars are pretty sporty right now.”
Kanaan’s no-tow speed after his first qualifying simulations left the No. 14 Chevy 20th (229.462mph)
“I’m going to sound an old timer, but for the first time I came out of the pit in years, and I pressed the throttle, my neck actually pulled back,” said the 2013 Indy 500 winner. “So, that was an awesome feeling.
“Today’s a mix of easy day to a very difficult day. You have five runs. A lot of the guys will pick four sets of tires to do four qualifying attempts. Try to get as clean track as possible. So, it’s a slow day. You do a run, you go back, you think about it. That’s when you start to getting nervous. Am I going to be able to go flat? Am I going to be able to put four laps together? So, this is all we’re doing today. A lot of fun to see the speeds at 230, 232. It’s awesome.”