High temperatures and thin air made for an interesting afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan kept the four-car team atop the Indy 500 practice speeds for the second consecutive day, following Scott Dixon’s run to P1 on Wednesday.
Kanaan’s blast to 225.341mph came during Happy Hour using a strong aerodynamic tow to lay claim to the fastest lap. Despite the positive race-trim performance, Kanaan knows there’s no reason to relax as Fast Friday and high boost is on order for tomorrow as teams prepare for time trials.
“You’re never happy here, and when you’re happy, you learn something that maybe makes you happy or unhappy,” he said. “Right now, we’ll switch to qualifying mode and see what we’re going to need for tomorrow. Early on, I think we’ve had a strong week.”
In an ongoing theme, Conor Daly was a rocket for Ed Carpenter Racing to go second-fastest in the No. 47 Chevy (225.245mph). With winds increasing and drivers either running in packs to simulate race traffic, or looking for clear track to perform qualifying simulations, the Hoosier was a witness to varied agendas and fortunes over the six hours of practice.
“It was tough earlier today,” Daly said. “We struggled. The rear of the car was moving around. One of the most difficult days I’ve been involved in. I think [Alex] Palou and Josef [Newgarden] are some of the best cars, so to be running with them, I’m happy. Our car’s fast, but old Tony has to ruin the party.”
After Kanaan and Daly, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Santino Ferrucci in the No. 45 Honda (224.922mph) went to third moments before crashing. The Connecticut native injured his left leg and was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
IndyCar Dr. Geoffrey Billows was of the belief Ferrucci will be able to resume on-track activity once RLL repairs the heavy damage done to the rear of the car as it spun and backed into the exit of Turn 2.
The rest of the top six featured Team Penske’s Newgarden in fourth with the No. 2 Chevy (224.885mph), Dixon in the No. 9 Honda (224.666mph), and Rinus VeeKay in the second ECR entry with the No. 21 Chevy (224.409mph).
Behind them, a pleasant surprise was found in Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves, who claimed seventh-fastest in the No. 06 Honda. After the three-time Indy 500 winner, Andretti Autosport’s best performer was Colton Herta in 10th (223.944mph), and Arrow McLaren SP’s fastest driver was Pato O’Ward in 14th with the No. 5 Chevy.
Towards the bottom of the 35 runners, A.J. Foyt Racing was relegated to P24-29-30-34 as the Chevy-powered outfit registered laps between 219-221mph. And in 35th, Top Gun Racing got down to business with RC Enerson in the No. 75 Chevy, who completed 50 laps with a best of 217.444mph.
On the No Tow Report (NTR), MSR’s Jack Harvey was fastest (220.090mph) in the No. 60 Honda, Simon Pagenaud was second in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevy (221.659mph), and Andretti’s Alexander Rossi third in the No. 27 Honda (221.606mph).
AS IT HAPPENED
At 12:02, Colton Herta brushed the Turn 4 wall and the right side of Scott McLaughlin’s car in a crazy start to practice. With the three RLL drivers running slow out of Turn 4 for a photo opportunity, McLaughlin and Simona de Silvestro were stuck behind them – also at half-speed – and with Herta unaware of the blockage, he flew into the corner and tried to squeeze through as the Penske driver faded to the right towards the wall. Contact was made and both drivers, grumpy and confused, pitted and saw their cars sent back to the garage for inspection.
After the first 30 minutes of running, a number of drivers focusing on qualifying simulations – often without a completely clear track and a small aerodynamic tow – or partial race-stint runs showed Alex Palou in first with a 223.679mph peak. Takuma Sato was second with a 220.926mph, which demonstrated the differences in early speeds on Thursday. Continuing a theme from Wednesday where Top Gun Racing did not participate in the six-hour practice session, the No. 75 Chevy was not on pit lane to start Thursday’s running, nor was it present by the 30-minute mark.
Jack Harvey climbed to second at 12:32 p.m. with a 221.243mph with no tow, and led the No Tow Report (NTR) speeds at that stage. Josef Newgarden took second from Harvey a few minutes later with a 222.767mph and ownership of P1 on the NTR.
Second remained the most popular spot to claim as Santino Ferrucci took it from Newgarden with a 223.054mph lap. Next, a proper shot at P1 was finally taken, and it came courtesy of Marcus Ericsson with a 223.956mph which came with the aid of a decent tow.
One hour in, the top six were Marcus Ericsson in first (223.956mph), teammate Alex Palou (223.679mph), Santino Ferrucci (223.054mph), Josef Newgarden (222.797mph), Alexander Rossi (222.412mph), and Simon Pagenaud (222.364mph). Good news for Top Gun Racing fans, as well, as RC Enerson’s No. 75 Chevy was towed out to pit lane.
Top Gun began its lapping at 1:21 p.m., completing four tours with a best of 216.596mph before pitting. Mclaughlin, his car ready to run, showed immediate speed in a jump to fifth with a lap of 222.518mph.
Herta’s car was ready to resume practice as the session reached 1:30 p.m. Scott McLaughlin climbed to third at 1:58 p.m. with a 223.491mph as temperatures rose and few drivers made improvements.
As the clock hit 2 p.m., the top six had one evolution thanks to the Penske driver, with Ericsson holding first (223.956mph), Palou (223.679mph), McLaughlin 223.491mph, Santino Ferrucci (223.054mph), Josef Newgarden (222.797mph), and Alexander Rossi (222.412mph) in sixth.
The Top Gun watch continued as Enerson produced 24 laps with a best of 217.444mph, which was good enough of 34th of 35. Foyt’s JR Hildebrand was 35th, with 19 laps and a best of 217.433mph. Tony Kanaan joined the party at 2:23 p.m. with a big tow to take second at 223.783mph.
The Ganassi takeover of the top four was achieved shortly after when Scott Dixon grabbed first with a tow-enabled 224.666mph and the first track inspection followed.
Returning to green at 2:54 p.m., four drivers took to the track as the halfway point of the session approached.
At the halfway point, the top six saw Dixon in P1 (224.666mph), Ericsson in second (223.956mph), Kanaan in third (223.783mph), Palou in fourth (223.679mph), McLaughlin in fifth (223.491mph), and Ferrucci in sixth (223.054mph).
Rinus VeeKay spoiled the Ganassi quartet’s order at 3:25 p.m. by capturing second with a 224.409mph. Newgarden was next to join in with third and a lap of 224.048mph.
The benefit of a strong tow helped Helio Castroneves to record a 224.300mph lap, which earned third.
By 4 p.m., the top 10 was filled by Dixon, VeeKay, Castroneves, Newgarden, Ericsson, Kanaan, Palou, McLaughlin, Ferrucci and Rossi. It wasn’t long before Newgarden took first at 224.885mph as the drafting runs continued. Conor Daly was up next to take P1 at 225.245mph and Ferrucci joined in right behind at second with a 224.922mph lap.
Ferrucci’s day took a turn for the worse at 4:14 p.m. as he became the first driver to crash this week, causing heavy damage to the left-rear corner at Turn 2. He’s unable to put a lot of weight on his left leg, and was later reported as being mostly uninjured and likely able to continue.
“He has a minor injury of his left leg,” said IndyCar’s Dr. Billows. “He’s able to bear weight.”
The green flag waved at 4:29 p.m. and a mix of Andretti and Penske drivers took to the track.
Reaching 5 p.m. and Happy Hour as cooler temperatures and shadows enter the conversation, the top six was Daly, Ferrucci, Newgarden, Dixon, Kanaan, and VeeKay.
Kanaan shuffled the order at 5:05 p.m. by going to the top with a 225.341mph lap in a tow.
At 5:30 p.m., the top six was unchanged as a number of drivers spent the last half hour working on race trim by running in packs and remained in the same order until 6 p.m.
UP NEXT: Practice, 12-6 p.m., Peacock