It was Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon INDYCAR Series racers, and excitement was in the air. The garages and Gasoline Alley were bustling with activity, with everyone anxious and/or eager to get on track with the extra added boost in the trimmed out race cars.
The fastest overall – and for most of the afternoon – was Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda with a lap of 233.116 mph. His No Tow time was 231.192 mph, which was second fastest in that category. The Frenchman was the only driver to break 233 mph. Bourdais and team received a $10,000 check from Harding Group for Fast Friday Fastest. Team Owner Dale Coyne played coy when asked just who got to spend that big check.
Second overall and first for No Tow time was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport, with a lap of 232.132 mph, the only driver to score a lap at 232 mph. He was a happy camper. “Fast Friday was definitely fast. We had a good run today – found somethings that worked and found some things that didn’t. It was definitely one of the most on-edge couple of days this whole year. It’s nice to be done with the day and we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can put this No. 28 DHL Honda at the front.”
Third was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda at 231.969 mph, and he was eighth in the No Tow class. His take on the day – “It was quite good day. Very productive, I must admit. Working quite seamlessly. So we share most of the data together.
“Obviously, oval speed is sometimes a little artificial. Some people get tow. But it was obviously good to see we all up there. Especially non-tow lap, which is a true speed.
“I’m pretty happy. It looks like I’m eighth quickest in no tow laps, I take it, concerning the conditions today. Where we are in terms of the car setup, I’m feeling better, actually enjoying the working all together with Andretti Autosport.
“Definitely this is the best situation or environment compared to past few years of my experience in Indy 500 close to the qualify. This is a good preparation. It’s nicely all coming together.”
The top Rookie was Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, in fourth position, at 231.827 mph. He was fifth in the No Tow queue at 230.966 mph, behind Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, whose NT time was 231.054 mph. But TK had no pack racing time, and he was clocked at eleventh overall for the day. He was pleased with the day. “We managed to fit another two (qualifying simulation) runs late in the day. We’re quite happy. It was another day of learning those extra speeds, and hopefully tomorrow we have a good (qualifying run).
“Tomorrow is about doing a good four laps, hopefully (qualify) in the first nine and wait for Sunday for the real final classification. Tomorrow is another day, but for me, it is another learning day. We’ll see what we can do, but there’s not much pressure for tomorrow.
Fifth and top Chevrolet was Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske, turning a 231.682 mph, but his NT time of 229.348 mph was only good for P20.
There were two separate accidents, in and around the Turns One and Two area, with both drivers able to get out of their own volition. They were each seen, checked and released from the Infield Care Center, cleared to drive; and neither driver knew exactly the cause: Spencer Pigot/No.11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet.
Pigot spun off hard into the SAFER wall in Turn One and bounced down the wall to Turn Two. “I’m not really sure what happened. I entered Turn 2. It had not been an issue for us all week. Before I knew it, I was backwards. We’ll have to go back and look and see what happened. I’m fine. The cars are really safe and it wasn’t that bad a hit. I don’t think the actual chassis is damaged, so we’ll go put some new parts on it and get back out tomorrow.”
Veach hit the SAFER wall hard side and rear in Turn One and then bounced again into the Turn Two wall. He was not happy. “Overall, I’m extremely disappointed that we had the accident so close to qualifying. We’d been making such progress all day for this to happen, I feel badly for the entire crew and A.J., of course. Still trying to figure out what happened. At this point I’m thinking maybe it was a gust of wind. The entry to the middle of the corner felt perfectly fine like the runs before and then extremely late in the corner, the car just turned really suddenly. So we need to have a good look at everything to see exactly what was the cause, but with where it happened and particularly how things were feeling then, it caught me out by surprise. I had no idea this was going to be the outcome when I turned into that corner because things felt quite well by that point. So we need to look over everything. I’m just extremely disappointed.”
Alonso turned the most laps for the day – 46. Two Penske drivers, JPM and Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet turned the fewest laps – 17 each. Pagenaud was 23rd overall for the day. The total number of laps for the day was 1040.
Overall for the five-day week – Rookie Alonso turned the most laps – 318. Running the fewest was Montoya at 151. Interestingly enough, Alonso was fourth overall for the week an Montoya was fifth. Not surprising, all 32 drivers who ran each day ran fastest on Friday. Lazier only ran one day and a iota, for a total of 31 laps. And Marco Andretti shows up on the time sheets twice, as he turned a few shake-down laps in Jack Harvey’s primary car – six to be precise.
Overall, there was more down time than track time – 3.13.28 hours to 2:45.31 hours, mostly due to weather concerns.
The Verizon INDYCAR teams all got their drivers out in force Friday, in a rush to get track time with the before the forecasted ‘storm’ landed at the Speedway. All 33 drivers got on course before the track shut down for threatened lightning at 1:29pm. The weather caution was the third of the session, there having been a brief one for ‘moisture’ early on, and one for the smoke trail following Jack Harvey into the pits in No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. When last seen Harvey’s crew and Honda technicians were huddled all over the car in the Andretti garages.
The most laps in the first portion were done by Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda with 32, netting him a fifth position at 231.969 mph. His No To Time was 230.966 mph. Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet got in five laps, for last place with a top speed of 214.942 mph.
The Doppler radar was quite colorful with reds, yellows and greens. Lightning was part of the forecast, so the grandstands were cleared and the big screens and PA announcements advised people “follow their own personal safety plan.’ It was much ado about nothing. Everyone scurried and sped back to garages, cover and dry places. It rained lightly. The temperatures was 74 degrees F with supposedly a 6mph wind, but the flags were hanging limply, barely protesting any breezes. Then the track maintenance vehicles began their parade laps to dry out the track. Fans were let back into the grandstand
Friday Indianapolis Motor Speedway got to show off how many weather scenarios they could produce in one day. They did sunny and warm, cloudy, heavy overcast, light rain, threatening lightning, repeat as necessary, etc.
The weather Caution started at 1:29pm and lasted until 4:05pm.
The Team Penske beavered away Thursday afternoon and evening, and again Friday morning to repair the crash damage to Newgarden’s Chevrolet. The team sought and received permission to remove and have INDYCAR unseal the engine, and send the unsealed engine back to Detroit for repair. INDYCAR seals all engines. The repairs were completed and the engine was flown back to the track by 8am Friday. INDYCAR was there for the uncrating, ensured what was requested was done, and re-sealed the engine, giving permission to put it back in Newgarden’s car.
Newgarden got out for 11 laps before the “storm” hit. He turned a 227.069 mph for 26th overall. After the track went green, Newgarden turned more laps and moved up to 24th position, with a time of 228.624 mph. His No Tow aka unaided time, same as Tow Time, was good for 22nd overall.
Immediately after Fast Friday, the driver/team representatives drew numbers for starting order for their primary and back-up cars in Saturday Qualifying. The son of Team Owner, Robert Juncos drew the No.1 starting slot for the backup car of Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet. The first primary car will be Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Her number was drawn by Owner Coyne. During her Friday run, she surpassed the 230 mph mark, the first woman to do so at IMS.
Meanwhile, back in the Media Center, long-time IMS Volunteer and former staffer, Julie Cordes, put her calligraphy skills to work making the 33 Qualifying Run signs for the big board.
Sorry for the delay, but Connectivity Conundrums Continue to Confound.