Scott Dixon led an intense Carb Day practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500, which finally got underway after roughly a two-hour rain delay.
The pole-sitter for Sunday’s 200-lap race, Dixon put up the fastest speed on the timesheets at 228.323mph. There was such a comfort with the six-time IndyCar champion’s No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda that the team opted to pack it in with 45 minutes remaining.
“I was told we were done, so… we got through our list,” said Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner. “I thought the car felt good. I don’t know. Also the conditions, I thought everyone was going to feel like King Kong out there.”
Conditions were extremely favorable as the ambient temperature stayed around 58F, with the track starting at 89F before falling down to 73F at the end.
The session began with a bit of brief drama as the fuel probe was left open on Alexander Rossi’s pit lane and fuel spilled, which left cleanup for the AMR Safety Team. As a result, Rossi was forced to serve a five-minute stop and hold penalty by IndyCar for ‘disruption or interfering with the event.’
Dixon was followed by a trio of Chevrolets as Simon Pagenaud was second at 227.157mph, with Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden in third and the No. 47 Ed Carpenter Racing entry of Conor Daly in fourth.
With a handful of minutes remaining, Marco Andretti jumped from 13th and into fifth, ending the session in the No. 98 Andretti Herta-Haupert Honda at 226.396mph. It was a strong bounce-back for last year’s Indy 500 pole-sitter, who was sitting in his pit stall with the engine cover off with an electrical box issue after running 11 laps in the opening 20 minutes. In the end, Andretti ran 65 laps.
“I’m not a Carb Day fan, but today it saved my Indy 500,” he said. “That’s why you have Carb Day. There was a bad electrical box we would have found on lap one. That’s what Carb Day is all about. We’re lucky. Everything from here on out is a bonus, so we’re happy.”
The rest of the top 10 was led by Will Power in sixth, followed by rookie Scott McLaughlin, Tony Kanaan, defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato and Sage Karam.
It was a remarkable turnaround by Rossi and the No. 27 Andretti Autosport team. Not only did they have to recover from the pit road incident and penalty, but they spent the majority of practice in last place. However, they were able to make improvements and Rossi jumped up to 13th by the end of the session.
“Let’s just say we got our fuel issues, hopefully, out of the way early in Indianapolis, but huge hats off to the No. 27 NAPA Andretti Honda guys,” said Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner. “It’s the worst car I think I’ve ever had at this speedway for the first 45 minutes. Then we made some adjustments and brought it back to life. I mean, it was crazy, but again, I think we saw that the Honda power and that session was really good. That was a big team effort because for the first hour I was pretty scared.”
There was another penalty handed out during final practice as Marcus Ericsson had to serve a 10-minute stop and hold penalty for flowing fuel during practice with the engine running.
The flurry of on-track activity delivered a few close calls. There was a near-miss between Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter. As the pair were going into the short chute between Turns 3 and 40 with about 40 minutes remaining, Pagenaud got a huge run on Carpenter and the two were just inches apart before making into Turn 4.
At the end of the session, Daly admitted to one of his own with Santino Ferrucci, leaving him pretty upset.
“Oh my gosh. Like the guy nearly crashes at the same place where he crashed (in practice last week) in front of me and (Turn) 2, and then blocks all the way to the grass,” said Daly. “I’m just really confused. I know he thinks he’s a hero, but like my gosh, there’s no point in doing that. Dude, this is practice. I get that you’re hero; I get it. My gosh. We’re all just trying to work and get better. On race day, I get it. That’s totally fine. But my gosh, unnecessary.”
Gap wasn’t there for you… go high bro. https://t.co/N7zGExRvUm
— Santino Ferrucci (@SantinoFerrucci) May 28, 2021
The only time the caution came out was for rain with 10 minutes remaining on the clock.