Midwesterners come to expect huge hit and run thunderstorms, but others, especially the overseas visitors, were taken aback with the sudden ferocity of the Fast Friday storm. It hit fast and furious. The rain was loud, the wind fierce, and the visibility from the Media Center to the Golf Course was non-existent.
The storm was so ferocious that despite its winding down within twenty minutes of its start at 3:15pm, all track activities were concluded for the day. The Qualifying Draw will be done at 5pm in the Media Center.
The track cancellation was an especially unfortunate blow for Rookie CONOR DALY/A.J.Foyt Enterprises Honda, as he was literally all dressed up and no place to go. He was ready to go on track when the storm hit. He’d not been on track since Thursday’s big bad crash.
The two fastest drivers of the day, Andretti Autosport Chevrolet drivers, E.J.VISO and MARCO ANDRETTI, braved the elements to make an appearance in the Media Center.
Viso, whose time of 229.537, was the only driver to hit the 29’s. For this he received the F.E. Harding Fastest Lap Award – a $10,000 check. Andretti’s time was 228.754 mph.
Twenty-five drivers were faster Friday than CARLOS MUNOZ/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet’s Thursday fast lap of 225.163 mph.
For Friday’s session and overall, third through eight were Chevrolet drivers – Rookie CARLOS MUNIZ – Andretti Autosport, WILL POWER – Team Penske, J.R.HILDEBRAND – Panther Racing, ORIOL SERVIA – Panther DRR Racing, A.J.ALLMENDINGER – Team Penske and TOWNSEND BELL -Panther Racing.
The top Hondas for Friday and overall were DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing and TAKUMA SATO/A.J.Foyt Enterprises, running ninth and tenth.
Viso wasn’t sure if he could have hit 230 mph Friday “We went one step at a time.
Friday’s torrential rain was the same for everyone. We’ve put in over 10,000 miles, the rain always takes some of the rubber out, but Saturday will be a very fun day and I have good expectations.”
Andretti, on the other hand, was more confident that he could have hit 230mph if he had had the whole day. And, regarding the track conditions, “It rained pretty hard the other night and the track was OK the next day.”
For the Saturday morning (8-10am) practice, Andretti said “You don’t learn a lot. I’ll be in bed. I am not going out.” Viso wasn’t sure. “We planned on testing today and couldn’t, so we’ll see. We tested a number of pieces in the car, so it’s stronger now than when we started.”
With the prospect of another thunderstorm hitting Saturday afternoon, Andretti said “You don’t want to be conservative on your first qualifying run. It will be more challenging if it’s hot.”
Regarding the Fast Nine Qualifying, Viso said “It’s tough to make a call on that one, to be honest. We’d like to test a day, qualify and then race; but this is a unique race, with tradition and history. There is a little strategy involved, saving tires, saving miles, always add another factor. Now I’m really enjoying this tradition.”
Andretti said the Fast Nine was good for the fans, so to continue it or not, should be up to them.
Neither Andretti driver thought that while all five of the Andretti drivers would be running for Saturday’s Pole, it wouldn’t be a sure thing. When asked, aside from The Big Three teams, who might be under the radar for Saturday’s Pole Position, both drivers cited the strength shown by Servia, whom Viso said was doing a great job this year. Other names were Power, as well as Hildebrand. Andretti thought HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske Chevrolet – who was P11 Friday and overall – might have been holding back. Viso said JOSEF NEWGARDEN/Sara Fisher Hartman Racing Honda “has been up and down, but has been doing well here.”
Andretti spoke about how it felt to be on a team with the 2012 championship driver, RYAN HUNTER-REAY. “Yes, it affected us. I’m driving for a Championship team. I know where I had to improve, whether he won or not. I really worked on the details of what I was lacking. I wanted to be a more consistent driver.”
Next up for all the teams is the Qualifying Draw.