Rain pushed the start of testing from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and once the two-day Indy Open Test was complete, Josef Newgarden and Takuma Sato used big tows during happy hour to crack the 229mph barrier.
Newgarden’s Chevy-powered Team Penske entry was the fastest among the 31 drivers in motion (229.519mph) and Sato, in his Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda, wasn’t far behind (229.427mph).
“I can’t deny things feel really good on the No.2 car,” Newgarden said. “They’re just progressing. It’s not like two steps forward, two steps back, or vice versa. I feel like it’s going forward every single time, and we’re just getting better.
“We’ve been on a good trajectory at the moment. I don’t want to see it flatten too much; I want to see it go the other way. I feel confident with what we’ve got, feel good at showing up anywhere. Being at Team Penske makes that easier. I always feel confident in our group.”
Where Wednesday’s abbreviated running saw teams trying to find clear track for solo runs, the final day of Indy 500 testing featured plenty of group activity as drivers used the sunshine and higher temperatures to simulate race-day behaviors. The top 10 could foreshadow what’s coming in May as seven of the 10 belonged to Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing; Sato in second, Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti in sixth and Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist in ninth were the only drivers to disrupt the Penske and Ganassi dominance we’ve seen all season.
After Sato, CGR’s Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon were followed by Penske’s Scott McLaughlin. Behind Andretti, it was CGR’s Alex Palou and Jimmie Johnson, and after Rosenqvist, CGR’s Marcus Ericsson closed the top 10 as the 2021 Indy 500 polesitters wedged all five of their entries into the sharp end of the field.
If there was one team to make a statement of intent on Thursday, it was the Indy-only Dreyer & Reinbold Racing duo of Santino Ferrucci in 12th and Sage Karam in 13th with their Chevy-powered cars. At the opposite end, there were a few surprises as AMSP’s Pato O’Ward (21st), Andretti’s Alexander Rossi (23rd) and Colton Herta (28th), Graham Rahal (24th) and Ed Carpenter (30th) were farther back than expected.
Rossi says there’s no reason to place a heavy emphasis on who was or wasn’t fast due to the comparatively cool conditions that are unlikely to be felt in May.
“The day got off to a damp start, but we did 138 laps in about three hours,” he said. “I think the team worked well together. We got through a lot of things. This test is a little strange. You’re trying to run through your speedway car for the first time in the year but also get through some test items. Ultimately, the track and the conditions will be different when we come back here next month. It was a good exercise for everyone to get in the rhythm around here again. It’s all a lot of fun to drive here. We’ll go away and see what learned, but when we come back in May, it’s going to basically be starting from scratch.”
Other than drivers that had slight glancing blows, which included Andretti Autosport’s Devlin DeFrancesco who skipped off the Turn 2 barrier late in the day, no significant damage was recorded.