With a respectful gentleman’s agreement appearing to prevail over Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the BorgWarner turbos got boosted to 1.5-bar, IndyCar teams were able to set representative simulations of four-lap qualifying runs for the 107th running of the Indy 500.
With under 20 minutes to go in Fast Friday practice, it was two-time winner Takuma Sato who laid down a spectacular four-lap average. Unlike his effort at the start of the day’s session, which saw him produce a 234mph opening lap and then flirt a hair’s breadth away from the Turn 2 exit wall on lap two, the No. 11 Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda stayed under control the whole time and produced a four-lap average of 233.413mph.
That left Sato 0.3mph clear of defending race-winner and teammate Marcus Ericsson, although a late attempt by Scott Dixon to join them at the top of the table ended on his third lap and he came back to the pits.
Team Penske gave further evidence that, after three poor years at the Speedway, they are back in the game seeking their 19th triumph. Josef Newgarden at 233.086mph and 2018 winner Will Power at 233.070mph occupied third and fourth spots on the four-lap averages, despite their fastest single laps being only sixth and 12th respectively.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay delivered the fifth best 4-lap average (232.898) ahead of the Andretti Autosport pair of Colton Herta – another late improver – and Kyle Kirkwood.
Agustin Canapino of Juncos Hollinger Racing was the fastest rookie, with a very impressive 15th-fastest four-lap average, while, as RACER reported earlier, the team is busy swapping chassis for teammate Callum Ilott after the British sophomore endured continued struggles with his original mount.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing quartet of Katherine Legge, Christian Lundgaard, Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey are between P28 and P32 on the four-lap average rankings, the latter’s efforts not aided by an apparent blown engine in the dying minutes of the session. RC Enerson of Abel Motorsports propped up the field, but even his average was over 230mph.
The order in which everyone will make their first qualifying runs Saturday will be decided by Friday evening’s draw. There will be practice sessions Saturday morning, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. local (Eastern) time, then qualifying will commence at 11:00 a.m., weather permitting. By the end of Saturday when the gun goes off, grid positions 13-30 will be locked in place, as will the 12 contestants for Sunday’s battle for pole, and the four participants for the last row of the grid.