Sato leads Thursday Indy 500 practice

Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Sato leads Thursday Indy 500 practice

IndyCar

Sato leads Thursday Indy 500 practice

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Thursday was a repeat of Tuesday’s practice session for the Indianapolis 500, as Scott Dixon sat atop the speed chart for most of the day for Chip Ganassi Racing before Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Takuma Sato motored ahead to take the best lap of the day in the closing minutes of the six-hour run.

Using the benefit of a tow as nearly half the field spent the final hour on track, Sato recorded a 227.519mph lap in the No. 51 Honda to go P1, but on the no-tow report (NTR), he was ranked P29. Where most drivers spent the middle of the session to make qualifying simulation runs, Sato and the DCR team chose to work on race running, which explained the big tow speed.

For Dixon and the No. 9 Honda, the day was spent covering both needs as his best lap of 227.335mph was good enough for P2 and was nicely matched by running P11 on the NTR. DCR with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas was P3 after following Sato’s lead by focusing on race running. His No. 18 Honda achieved a best of 226.868mph and went P21 on the NTR.

“It was a very productive day,” Sato said. “Two cars in the top three. More importantly, we’re getting happy with the cars in traffic. We made huge progress.”

For the second straight day of Indy 500 practice, the Ganassi team was strong.

“Interesting day,” Dixon said. “Lots of running for everybody. For us, race running for the majority. Pretty happy in some situations. Generally, I think all of us at Ganassi had a pretty smooth day.”

A.J. Foyt Racing’s JR Hildebrand was P4 at 226.846mph as a result of a great tow; his No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy was P30 on the NTR. Dixon’s Ganassi teammate Jimmie Johnson was P5 in the No. 48 Honda with a 226.409mph that was aided by a draft as the rookie was ranked P23 on the NTR.

The top six was completed by Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who ended his day of running a bit early. His No. 5 Chevy produced a best lap of 226.048mph with a tow that left him P27 on the NTR.

Of the remaining teams and drivers, Andretti Autosport has yet to flex its muscles; Marco Andretti was best among the five-car squad in P15, but Alexander Rossi went to P4 on the NTR, which offered some promise after the 2016 Indy 500 winner turned the second-fewest laps of all drivers on Thursday.

Similarly, Team Penske didn’t make much of an attempt to put up big speeds in a tow as its fastest driver was Scott McLaughlin in P17, but the team’s focus was abundantly clear as Will Power was P1 on the NTR, followed by Josef Newgarden in P4 and McLaughlin in P4. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Penske drivers ahead of the curve once high boost is engaged on Fast Friday and qualifying runs dominate the on-track activity.

The overcast day started off hot, humid and windy, and saw some of the cloud cover and temperatures decrease as time went on. No crashes or dramatic moments were experiences, barring a caution for another fox who ran across the track and a few harrowing laps turned in by Romain Grosjean who found his final run — a qualifying simulation — lead to a few close calls with the Turn 2 exit wall.

RESULTS

UP NEXT: Fast Friday practice, 12-6 p.m.

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