Friday was hot and bothered. The temperatures at Indianapolis Motor Speedway reached 78 F ambient, with track temps as high as 107 F, with wind of 5mph. Earlier the wind had increased, but then slowed. The Indy 500 drivers went faster Friday, as they were given 30 more horsepower for the day. The session was stopped for two hours mid-afternoon for “lightning in the area.” The protocol dictates that the half-hour clock starts every time there is a lightning strike within ten miles. There are apps which can show/indicate just how far the strikes are from IMS. The clock counts down, and if another strike hits within ten miles, (such as the 4.2-mile strike which occurred after the clock was nearly wound down), the clock starts over. People were advised of the situation via the PA and many exited the metal grandstands; and then they were advised when the warning had lifted. By then the track temperatures ramped up to 117F.
Conor Daly/No.25 United States Air Force Andretti Autosport Honda ended up fastest overall Friday afternoon after The Fast and Furious Final Fifteen. A late-session caution for track inspection after tires were cut brought everyone to the pits. Once activity resumed, a mob of drivers went out for one last chance to better times. That’s when Daly ran 231.704 mph on Lap 54 of his 57, and pipped his Andretti teammate, who had been leading most of the day. Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda had held the top slot at 230.851 mph, set on his second of 26 laps. The four drivers behind him varied a bit, but not so much. It was most mostly were the same drivers … until the last half hour, when it got fast, furious and frantic. Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was the first to break into the top five, jumping into second place, and then joined by another Andretti driver – Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.DHL Honda. At one point, all three of the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets were in the top five, and two of them took turns having the fastest No Tow time.
Daly attended a post-session Media Conference. He was so excited he was trying to do an Instagram story, and Marco kept calling him, so Daly put him on Facetime to join the conference. Daly said “I’m just super thankful to be here, honestly. It’s incredible to be a part of this team. Obviously super successful here. The U.S. Air Force, that’s the group that made it happen for me, and that’s awesome. We’ve just been working away at it. It’s certainly interesting tomorrow to see what’s going to happen. I think no-tow wise, everyone is closer than we expected really manufacturer wise. I think there’s a little bit of a difference there for sure, but the Honda guys are working super hard, and I’ve been super happy with my group and our engine and our car. We’re just step by step, one change at a time, trying to make this thing go as fast as possible, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow, obviously.”
During the conference, Daly got the news that he was first out of the box Saturday for Qualifying. The order draw took place during the conference. There are 68 cars, including all the T/backup cars.
Left to Right: Conor Daly No.25 Honda; Crew Chief Paul ‘Ziggy’ Harcus & Team Owner Micheal Andretti; and Conor Daly No.25 Honda.
At the end of the day, the top five overall were Daly, Andretti, Sato, Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Sixth through tenth were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, and Ed Jones/No.63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet. The top Rookie was Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in nineteenth place.
Left to Right: Mario Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti; Takuma Sato No.30 Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 Honda.
The top drivers with No Tow speeds were Jones, Carpenter, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, 2018 Indy 500 Winner-Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, and Pagenaud. Sixth through tenth were: Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Andretti, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Newgarden, and Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.
Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda has been playing chicken with the wall this week, narrowly missing it by micro-measurements. He finally grazed it Friday afternoon with about an hour plus left in the session. He kept going and pitted, finishing 22nd, with a best lap of 229.449 on Lap 8 of his 41.
Sage Karam’s No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet got a workout Friday. Both DRR drivers had a go in it, with JR Hildebrand shaking it down for for five laps. Karam ending up thirteenth overall at 229.932 mph on his last of 43 laps.
Not surprising that every drive, save one, turned his/her fastest times Friday. The one exception was Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, who only turned one lap.
Kaiser hit the Turn Three wall and performed an aerobatic spin and flip, similar to that of yesterday’s crash by Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. Kaiser was unhurt and cleared to drive. His car was not, and after assessment, the team decided to rebuild its backup car, the one Kaiser drove at COTA earlier this year. It is a painted, not wrapped car. After being checked out in the Medical Center, he said “I’m fine. I’m grateful for the technology and safety that’s built into these cars – that was a big hit; I felt it.” He was 26th overall at the time of the accident. The car gouged the track, which needed quick fix. No doubt a more lasting repair will be done overnight.
Team Owner Ricardo Juncos said “We are very grateful that our driver Kyle (Kaiser) was not injured and safely walked away from the massive hit he experienced today at IMS. As everyone knows this has been a very intense month for our NTT IndyCar Series program. Despite off track set backs, that has not stopped this team from going out and performing during practice this week. We have been up to the Top-5 in no tow speeds and have consistently improved our times each day. Now we are faced with the challenge of getting our back-up car on track and set for qualifying tomorrow, but I am completely confident in this amazing group we have here at Juncos Racing to make it happen. This group will not stop working until we get our #32 back on track. We want to thank all of the teams who are willing to help out with parts, Chevrolet, and the fans who have stopped by to express their well wishes. We will be working hard all day and night.”
Nearly all the NTT IndyCar Series teams have offered help and parts, said a team spokesperson. “That’s what is so nice about the IndyCar family.”
Another rebuilt car which is painted, not wrapped, is the No.66 McLaren Chevrolet for Fernando Alonso. The team admitted the paint was still wet when they bolted on parts this morning. Alonso was one of the first cars on course Friday morning, after missing all day Thursday while the team built/rebuilt its backup car. Alonso was 24th overall, with 77 laps, with his fastest speed of 228.328 mph on his last lap. He was 30th for No Tow, at 226.869 mph. He turned the second most laps of any driver, right behind Rookie Ben Hanley/No.81 10 Star Dragon Speed Chevrolet, who ran 81 laps. He finished last.
Left to Right: Fernando Alonso; Gil de Ferran; and Fernando Alonso.
Alonso attended the post-session conference, along with McLaren Sporting Director, Gil de Ferran. Alonso made light of having so many tires at his disposal. “Yeah, it was frustrating”, not being able to get out at all on Thursday. But yeah, nothing we could do at that point; yeah, having that extra time to check everything and to be ready. It was frustrating, but at the same time, as I said before, we saved a lot of tires that we were able to set up the car today maybe in a more — in a better way.
“It was a positive day for us (Friday), and we were able to put the car on track and try different directions on the setup and learn a little bit about the track and the day. Obviously, the boost was up today, so the speeds were higher, and it was more a qually (qualifying) preparation than race setups. But we had a lot of new tires from the last couple of days. So, we were able to do a lot of runs, and hopefully, that information will give us tomorrow a little bit of confidence into qualifying.”
De Ferran said ” I think certainly yesterday, as you said, was a difficult day for everyone. Like I said earlier, we’re a new crew. We respect this place a lot. So we wanted to make sure that we put the car together the best way possible. Obviously that took longer than we expected, and I guess having been here before, I’m very aware — I was very aware of the importance of being out on the racetrack, both from Fernando’s perspective and for the development of the car. We had a few guys in the crew that have done Indy car before. Dallara was very helpful throughout. But still, there’s a lot of things that we had to learn, and we’re still learning. Certainly not being a team that does this full-time, we’re in a very steep learning curve despite all the support that we’ve been getting from many different places.”
De Ferran was non-committal about plans going forward, such as what would happen to the IndyCar. “We haven’t made that decision yet.”
This year’s Double Duty will be performed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The retired NASCAR driver and current NBC Sports motorsports analyst will drive the 2019 Grand Sport Official Pace Car for the start of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. He will drive the Pace Car and then be in the booth for the television broadcast, being aired by NBC for the first time. Earnhardt has practice on the track, as a Cup driver in the Brickyard 400 and last year as Pace Car for said race. It will be his first time in the booth for an Indycar race. Corvette has been the Indy 500 Pace Car fifteen times, more than any other brand or vehicle.
103rd INDIANAPOLIS 500 presented by Gainbridge Qualifying Order