Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t as busy on track for the Verizon IndyCar drivers as perhaps had been expected. Happy Hour was only sparsely utilized. The weather was cloudy all day, never getting warmer than 75 degrees F or 81 degrees F on the track. There was one caution at 4:17pm for 18 minutes for sprinkles which came and went quite rapidly. The wind was light, but the humidity was high – almost double from Thursday.
Fast Friday is the day IndyCar allows 50 more hp to the drivers, and Friday drivers topped the 230 mph mark for the first time this week. They all turned their fastest times of the week Friday.
Marco Andretti/No.98 United Concrete Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest Friday driver and for the week. He topped the charts for most of the day as his time was set in the morning. He wasn’t on track much of the afternoon. His top speed was 231.802 mph, but his No-Tow speed was only 227.817 mph – 12th fastest. He earned $10,000 from the Harding Group for the top Friday lap.
Andretti said “We’ve been feeling good actually, pretty good in traffic, which obviously the tow time shows that, and the car is close in race trim. I don’t know how much better we can get it. But qual trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the Top Nine to be honest. And I think it’s going to take us to nail it to get it in, as with probably five or six other guys, we’re going to be right there with them, and I think it’s going to be all about a third and fourth lap, and we’re just going to have to nail it and do everything right to get it in. Hopefully we can.”
Andretti, who often appears serious, had a nice smile when he came to the Media Center, and was asked if he had to kind of cheer up his father this week, who seemed to be a little concerned about how the car would react in qualifying and the race. Marco said “No, that’s not my job. I’m just focused on trying to be quickest every time out, and I’ll smile when I’m quickest every time out.”
Second was Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, who was the top Rookie.He said “Well, first off, I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here. I mean, Fast Friday is for qualifying and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me, and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am. Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re okay by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for tomorrow.”
Third through fifth fastest were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc RLL Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power was the top driver with No-Tow, and he set his lap earlier in the day – 229.780 mph. Second through fifth fastest with No-Tow were Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet; Carpenter, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Wickens was the Top Rookie in the group, placing tenth. All the top five set their fastest NT laps early on.
Andretti was the fastest for the week. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda turned the most laps for the week – 343. The fewest laps were run by Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – 150.
Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps Friday at 62, while Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the fewest – 11.
Happy Hour was lonely. The last quarter hour no cars were on track while the clock ticked down, and there weren’t that many cars before.
The Qualifying Draw was held immediately after Happy Hour, with noted motorsports broadcaster, Bob Jenkins, conducting the drawing. With all the T (backup) Cars included, there were 70 draws. The first non-T car/driver will be Rookie Claman de Melo. The last qualifying spot was drawn by Carpenter.
Saturday when Qualifying starts, the times will be posted on a big board at the front of the Media Center, near the Interview Area. Getting all prepared for this has taken Calligrapher Julie Cordes the past three days getting the signs ready. This year’s signs have more detail options including space for logos, and indications of past Indy 500 Winners with year.
This is the third year for Cordes making and organizing the visual Qualification process. She was ‘drafted’ by Bill York. She hails from Indianapolis, and is between gigs with her full-time job as organizer of PGA Tours. Cordes enjoys this job and will be here during the weekend. Then she’s done and can enjoy the race atmosphere before she goes back to work.
The track was never busy much of the day, with only a few going out at a time. There were some times when it was empty. What was busy was Gasoline Alley, with teams working on their race cars, trimming and dialing. Then the cars would be off to Tech and then back to the garage or to the Pit Lane.
The drivers had time to make public appearances with sponsors around various track venues, hang out near their garages and meet the public.
The drama of the day was provided by James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet. He lost it on the low groove and drifted up and banged the wall rear and front, causing signifiant damage including gearbox. It probably can be repaired overnight, but it will be a thrash. Davison is OK. He had turned 37 laps for the day and was 34th overall, and 35th with No-Tow. Earlier he had whizzed to the Pit Lane on his electric skate board.
Friday was also #500FashionFridays. It’s a city-wide initiative and fans are encouraged to show their race fervor at the track, and around town, at work and such by wearing black and white/checkered flag attire. Maybe it was the weather, but at the track I didn’t see much of that going on.
Saturday’s activities start early, with 8am practice for the VICS drivers, and qualifying starts at 11am. The weather forecast isn’t cheery – showers 8-11am turning to scattered thunderstorms the rest of the afternoon. However, on the bright side – the forecast hasn’t always been right so far.