Talk about Youth and Good Looks trumping. Rookie CARLOS MUNOZ/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet was the fastest IZOD IndyCar driver Thursday afternoon at the famed Brickyard, for the sixth day of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The youngest driver in the field took the top spot with nine minutes remaining in the six-hour session, turning a 225.163 mph. That also puts him as fastest overall for the six days of practice.
The young Colombian said “I knew it would be hard, so I took it step by step. I didn’t expect it to feel so good. Everyone will be quicker for qualifying.”
The last Rookie driver to win the Indy 500 pole position was TEO FABI in 1983, and prior to that it was WALT FAULKNER in 1950. In 1996 TONY STEWART started the race from the pole position, but he had qualified second fastest. Stewart’s Team Menard teammate, SCOTT BRAYTON, had earned the pole position, but was tragically killed in a crash during practice in the week between Pole weekend and Bump weekend – back when qualifying took two weekends. During the eleven row/three-abreast Parade Lap for the 80th Indy 500, Stewart maintained his P2 middle position, in honor of Brayton.
With thirty or thirty-three years being the gap between Rookie pole winners, could 2013 be the year for Munoz?
For most of Thursday afternoon, Munoz’s Andretti teammate, MARCO ANDRETTI, had been the fastest driver – for the day and the week. Then, with twenty minutes to go, a third Andretti driver, RYAN HUNTER-REAY, topped the charts – only to be bumped by Munoz.
Thursday’s Fast Five times were set within moments of the checkered flag. They were Munoz, RHR, Andretti, SCOTT DIXON/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske Racing Chevrolet.
The fastest of the three female drivers was SIMONA DE SILVESTRO/KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, in P22.
Munoz’s Andretti teammate, E.J. VISO, was sixth fastest, and accompanied his young sidekick to the post-session media conference. Viso, from Venezuela, is a well-known prankster, so Munoz said he was never sure what Viso was telling him was true or not. They speak the same language – Spanish, and Munoz said they talk a lot.
BUDDY LAZIER/Lazier Partners Chevrolet took to the track for the first time, late in the day, making it thirty-three cars on course Thursday.
The Fast Five for the week are Munoz, Andretti, Castroneves, RHR and Dixon. Four of the top five have run in the 225 mph range.
Starting with “Fast Friday”, the cars will have a boost level increase, from 130 kPa to 140kPa, which they will also have for Pole Day and Bump Day qualifying. The boost means an increase of approximately 40 hp to the engines. Chevrolets run a twin-turbo charged V6 engine, and Honda runs a single turbo-charged H113R.
The additional hp is short-lived. For Carb Day on Friday 24 May and for the Indy 500, the cars again run 130 kPa. WILL PHILLIPS, INDYCAR Vice president for technology, said “Lap speeds are expected to increase in qualifying.”
Thirty-three drivers were on course Thursday. Only a few cars ventured on track at a time. It’s all about engine management: making the Chevrolet and Honda engines last their allotted 2000 miles without any problems. By the last hour or two, there were fewer than five cars circulating the 2.5-mile oval track, and at one point, the track was green but silent.
The 2013 IndyCar rules call for five engines per car, which must last 2000 miles each. If a car fits a new engine before reaching 2000 miles on the prior engine, or fits a sixth or more engine in the car – considered ‘unapproved’, this generates a 10-grid position penalty. Unique to the Indy 500, any such penalties will be assessed for the next race, which is the first of the double-header races – at the Chevrolet Indy Duel in Detroit on Saturday 1 June 2013. Where the teams stand on their engines is considered newsworthy, and IndyCar will soon be releasing a status report.
Munoz has a new engine at Indy as this is his first Indycar start this season.
After five trouble-free days, the first driver to hit the wall was Rookie CONOR DALY/A.J.Foyt Enterprises Honda. At 2:19 pm, he swerved going into Turn One, and hit the exit SAFER barrier with the car’s right side. His car performed safely and spectacularly. Daly became almost completely airborne, going up on his right side enough to see the entire undercarriage. He came down hard once, flipped up again, not as much, and again down hard. All this time he was sliding down the track. There were two more minor upward flips before his final spin, facing counter-course in Turn Two. Daly climbed out, helped by the Holmatro Safety Crew. Daly, the second-youngest driver in the field, was checked and released from the IU Health Emergency Medical Center, being cleared to drive by INDYCAR director of medical services, DR. MICHAEL OLINGER. Daly, son of retired Irish race car driver, DEREK DALY, sports a (lucky) leprechaun on his helmet.
Despite the accident, Daly was twenty-eighth fastest of 33 for the day, and thirty-third overall of 43.
The ABC Supply Co Honda sustained heavy right side damage, so the Foyt crew went straight to work, beavering away with repairs.
Fast Friday’s scheduled practice begins at noon local time.