Conor Daly made use of a hellacious tailwind during Fast Friday running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to reach a top speed of 244.4mph heading into Turn 3 during the six-hour practice session.
The combination of high turbocharger boost settings to perform qualifying simulation runs ahead of pole weekend and extreme gusts of wind combined to fire his No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy into the corner at the end of the back straight at a speed that left the Hoosier thoroughly amazed.
“Every mile an hour feels like an extra mile an hour at that speed,” Daly told RACER, noting how that even above 230mph, a hike to 244 is readily noticeable. “The wind is obviously making it a crazy day. It’s insane speed. It didn’t really feel like I was going at that speed, but then when I turned into Turn 3, yes you do! It’s hard to describe. I mean, the track conditions are just unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Daly had a glimpse of what was coming before reaching 244.4mph as the shift lights were pegged and glowing on the steering wheel before turning in.
“Our job is just to stay flat, so you’re trying to turn in flat, but you’re doing such a massive amount of speed that the front tires can’t keep up with that speed and don’t want to take it,” he said. “So we’ve got to dial it in a little bit, but it feels awesome to do that speed. We’re just trying to put together those four laps, and right now it’s just really challenging.
“The way the wind is, and this track surface the way it is, with the sealer and the rain overnight washing away the rubber, it’s just something I’ve never driven on here. The nine times that I’ve been here… this is a first.”
Although it’s unofficial, the highest top speeds ever recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are believed to have been in the 251-252mph range, produced in 1994 with the Penske PC23 chassis powered by special 1000-plus horsepower V8 turbo engines. Safety, by comparison to today, was primeval.
“I think we were getting close to 250 down the straight,” Paul Tracy recalled. “And if you lost it, you were going for a long ride and you were generally going to go to sleep with a concussion hitting the pavement, concrete, with those kinds of speeds. Those cars back then had no head rest supports and safety cell around the driver’s head. Your head back then was hung out in the air and you had two straps on your shoulders hooked to your helmet. That was what kept your neck from snapping in half.”
Daly hopes to find more grip as the No. 20 Chevy goes into qualifying. Average speeds of 232-233mph could be seen in better conditions over the weekend.
“It just feels like you’re above the track rather than being in the track so it just feels like the tires are kind of sliding across the surface rather than gripping the road,” he said of the strange sensation he’s feeling. “Because I don’t ever remember time here where after it rains you can’t just go out and be flat immediately.”