Scott Dixon owned the top spot on the timesheets at the end of Wednesday’s second day of practice for the Indianapolis 500.
Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson set an early benchmark in his No.8 Honda, and held it for almost four hours before Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter towed each other to P1 and P2. Dixon’s tow-assisted 226.829mph moved him to the top shortly after, and he remained there for the final couple of hours of running.
Dixon’s 226.829mph effort was followed by Daly (226.372mph), Carpenter (226.103mph), Ericsson (226.007mph), and CGR teammate Tony Kanaan in fifth (225.774mph).
Temperatures climbed on Wednesday, hovering near 80F, which was up from the cooler weather from Tuesday, but far from the predicted highs approaching 90F over the weekend during qualifying. It left Dixon feeling pleased with being fastest, but fully aware it could change in different conditions.
“Once it gets a little bit hotter, I think everybody has a little bit more washout and it’s harder to stay close,” he said of running in a tow. “Yesterday was ideal conditions, but we’ll see. The race looks like it’s going to be fairly cool, which will definitely make for a robust race for people to watch. I would prefer it to be track-dependent, low-grip, and hopefully we have the better car.
“You see it all day; you chase it,” Dixon said of the constantly evolving setup needs dictated by the environment. “That’s the unfortunate part. Most of the time, when you first roll out onto the track, you feel like King Kong and the car feels really good, and you feel worse until right about now.”
For Daly, who was fifth on Tuesday, moving closer to the front brought plenty of smiles.
“We were quick all day,” he said. “We had good pace. We got deep into traffic towards the end of the day. Our car is fast, which is awesome. If you’re fast every day, it means you have a fast car. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The rest of the top 10 featured A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, who used a new engine installed overnight to go sixth-fastest in the No. 14 Chevy (225.491mph), Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Chevy (225.409mph), the fourth and final member of CGR in Alex Palou in eighth with the No. 10 Honda, Sage Karam at 225.300mph in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevy, and in 10th, Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti in the No. 98 Honda (225.018mph).
Beyond track inspections, there were no problem-related cautions on Wednesday.
Outside of CGR running P1-4-5-8, and ECR holding P2-3-11 with VeeKay, other notable performances included Bourdais’s pace after the Foyt team struggled on Tuesday. In the opposite direction, the lack of a Team Penske driver in the top 10 – after its quartet spent a lot of the day in drafting battles – with Will Power as its fastest representative in 15th was unexpected.
Andretti’s 10th was trailed by Ryan Hunter-Reay as the next-best Andretti driver in 16th, and the defending winners at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing were near the midfield with Graham Rahal in 15th and Takuma Sato in 20th.
Teammate Santino Ferrucci was sidelined for most of the afternoon, recording 11 early laps and returning just as the checkered flag waved, leaving him with the slowest time of the day.
The day got under way 15 minutes later than planned to allow Top Gun Racing’s RC Enerson to complete his Rookie Orientation Program obligations after his final ROP run cut short on Tuesday due to a mechanical failure.
Turning 48 laps in his special late morning session, Enerson posted a best of 216.056mph in the No. 75 Top Gun Racing Chevy and passed ROP with ease. Multiple reports suggested the No. 75 car began suffering fuel starvation issues towards the end of Enerson’s final run, which kept the team in the garage as the rest of the field practiced. A plan to begin running at 3 p.m. was apparently abandoned as the car did not return to pit lane after ROP.
AS IT HAPPENED
Conor Daly was first to use a big tow to take P1 with a lap of 226.006mph at 12:18 p.m. Marcus Ericsson took replaced him a few minutes later with a 226.007mph. By 12:45, some new names joined Ericsson and Daly with Scott Dixon in third at 225.833mph, Sebastien Bourdais in fourth with a 225.491mph, Ed Carpenter in fifth with a 224.528mph, and Helio Castroneves in sixth with a 224.357mph.
The first caution of the day came at 1:04 p.m. for a track inspection; the only change to the top six involved Rinus VeeKay, who moved his boss Ed Carpenter back to sixth with a lap of 224.993mph. The return to green came at 1:15 p.m. as more qualifying simulations and race-trim runs were performed.
Using a strong tow from his teammate Dixon, Alex Palou moved to sixth at 1:22 p.m. with a 224.744mph. By 1:45 p.m., little had changed, other than Alexander Rossi taking a popular spot – sixth – with a 224.988mph lap. Action was split between drivers looking for clean air to perform more qualifying sims and teams sending out their cars to run in dirty air to replicate race conditions and find setup improvements.
In fairly typical form, the arrival of higher midday temperatures had 32 of the 34 drivers either sitting on pit lane or back in the garage. Ed Carpenter and Colton Herta were the only active drivers at 2:20 p.m., and they were eventually joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay as RHR and Colton took turns leading and following. By 2:25 p.m., engines were silent and the track went unused.
The second caution arrived at 2:29 p.m. for another track inspection and was pulled down for the resumption of practice at 2:28 p.m. as 10 drivers hit the track for running in traffic.
A change to the top six came courtesy of Rinus VeeKay just before 3:30 p.m. as he went to fifth with a 224.993mph lap.
A hectic bunch emerged around 4:00 p.m. to draft each other, and with some aerodynamic assistance, Sage Karam motored to fifth at 4:02 p.m. with a lap of 225.300mph. New leaders appeared one minute later as the drafting duo of Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter went first and second with Daly at a 226.372mph and his boss at a 226.103mph.
Pato O’Ward joined in moments later in sixth with a 225.409mph.
The shuffled top six at 4:06 p.m. was Daly, Carpenter, holdovers from early laps with Ericsson, Dixon, and Bourdais, plus O’Ward, and Karam in seventh.
At 4:15 p.m., a pack of 12 cars started to break up as a few of the runners headed for the pits. Their laps speeds varied from 217-220mph in race trim. A new leader arrived at 4:33 p.m. as Dixon moved the number up to 226.829mph in a tow, moving Daly and Carpenter back to second and third.
With 90 minutes left to run, the top 10 was Dixon, Daly, Carpenter, Ericsson, Bourdais, O’Ward, Karam, Alex Palou, Tony Kanaan, and Marco Andretti.
By 5:15 p.m. ET, the shift into Happy Hour had Dixon continuing to lead Daly, Carpenter, Ericsson, a newcomer to fifth with Kanaan at 225.774mph, Bourdais, O’Ward, Palou taking eighth with a 225.302mph, Karam, and Andretti, which stood for the remainder of the session.
UP NEXT: Third day of practice, 12-6 p.m. ET, on Peacock.