SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It was a day solely dedicated to qualifying practice for drivers hoping to make the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Each driver was given about 20-30 extra horses under their engine cowlings with speeds easily eclipsing 230 miles per hour. That threshold seems to be the benchmark to make the show as the slowest car among the Top 33 was Graham Rahal, turning a best lap at 230.669.
It would be Takuma Sato and Marcus Ericsson who would finish the day atop the speed chart when it comes to 4-lap average practice runs, both of whom have been consistently the quickest all week long.
“It’s good to be fast,” Sato said. “To be honest, my first run today I was observing my teammates go first to see the conditions. When I saw it across the line first I think it was fast, maybe too fast. It was a good experience though, because we got it corrected. We got the balance in over four laps.”
Conditions were pretty ideal for solid qualifying practice, sans the wind which whipped out of the south and west all day long. As time wound down on the day, clouds thicker with expected rain moving in and track temperatures cooled.
Once the day hit Happy Hour, the speeds cranked up even more starting with Josef Newgarden who uncorked a 4-lap run averaging 233.086 mph. That after he had struggled in the days prior to find decent speed.
He sat atop the leaderboard for all of three minutes as Marcus Ericsson went out and did one better at 233.113 mph, only to be outdone by his teammate Sato immediately after at 233.413 mph.
Sato ended the day with some of the fastest individual qualifying practice laps of all-time. His fastest of the day at 234.753 was the fastest practice lap turned since Arie Luyendyk in 1996.
“This is the tightest I’ve ever seen it,” said Josef Newgarden about the fast speeds at the top of the speed chart. “It’s going to be stressful for everyone.”
The day was not without some drama as Junco-Hollinger Racing was forced to withdraw Callum Ilott’s primary car after finding an issue with the chassis of the #77 car. They will be spending the whole night and most of the day tomorrow getting a new chassis ready.
They will likely miss qualifying tomorrow and may have to gamble on only attempting to make the race in Last Chance Qualifying on Sunday.
Practice is expected to take place tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. before qualifying starts, however many drivers, including Sato, say they will opt to keep the car in the garage and wait until qualifying begins to take to the track.
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