On a day where Honda flexed its muscles leading into qualifying, Arrow McLaren SP’s young leader made sure he played the role of disruptor as Pato O’Ward placed the No. 5 Chevy in P6 on the Fast Friday speed chart.
The recent winner of the second NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway was the lone member of the Bowtie camp to prevent Honda from a clean sweep of the top 10 on Friday, and while his official best of 232.034mph was solid, it was his P3 on the no-tow report at 231.510mph that should give Chevy fans something to latch onto as qualifying looms on Saturday.
Asked which manufacturer has the apparent edge, O’Ward got to answer most of the question before Andretti Autosport Honda driver Alexander Rossi offered a humorous close to the subject.
“I think we can all look at the chart and see who is more dominant,” O’Ward said. “My Chevy has been good to me so far. I think we’ve been doing a good job with what we have. Tomorrow, obviously the goal is going to be getting to the Fast Nine. “Yeah, it’s just…”
And then Rossi abruptly chimed in, “Honda with a capital H.”
The switch to IndyCar’s highest boost level for Fast Friday brought similar results to those of the last Indy 500, where Hondas shined at maximum power around the big 2.5-mile oval. Prior to the installation of the aeroscreen driver safety device which weighs nearly 60 pounds, Fast Friday and qualifying was performed with medium boost settings.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) May 21, 2021
To counteract the performance deficit caused by the added weight, IndyCar shifted to high boost starting in 2020, and it was there where Honda runners demonstrated a considerable advantage in time trials. So far in 2021 during practice prior to Fast Friday, Chevy and Honda have looked close in terms of speed, and everyone – barring Honda, its teams, and its fans – hopes the race on May 30 proves to be a competitive affair.
But if last year’s Fast Nine where Honda claimed pole and eight of the top nine starting positions is anything to draw from, Friday’s Fast Nine might have foreshadowed something similar is in store as O’Ward was the only Chevy representative in the top nine.
Undeterred, the recently-turned 22-year-old is ready to fly the Bowtie flag and try to break Honda’s grip on qualifying speed.
“We are ready for qualifying tomorrow,” he said. “I’m happy with the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. 20th in the qualifying draw makes it interesting, so let’s see what happens tomorrow, but I can go to sleep in peace tonight.”