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Pato O'Ward

Source: Penske Entertainment / other

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It was the eve of Fast Friday as drivers who will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in a little over 48 hours continue to get acclimated to what they have in their machines.

The problem this week though has been that drivers have not had that much time to do the latter so many teams had to make up for lost time given Tuesday’svirtual rain out and Wednesday’s abbreviated practice due to rain.

So, the question heading into the day was whether or not to start working on qualifying setup for the weekend. Normally this would not be much of a question since qualifying preparation typically takes place on Fast Friday with the extra boost of horsepower.

However, given the theme for the week, the forecast for Friday looks bleak as showers and thunderstorms could hinder any chances of getting decent qualifying simulations (qual sims) in. For Pato O’Ward, who was fastest overall on Thursday at 228.861 mph, it was the best of both worlds as they dialed in his car.

“We did race runs. We did qualifying runs,” he said. “Obviously (today’s qual sims) doesn’t necessarily translate perfectly to when the boosts come up just because the speed is so different. But I mean, tomorrow if it does rain out, at least we got a bit of a feeling of what the car is tending to want to do on a bit more trim level.”

Chip Ganassi drivers, like Alex Palou, did not do any qualifying practice and focused strictly on setting up their race trim.

“We didn’t do any qualifying simulation this year or the previous year,” Palou said. “I’ve never done it without the boost. No, it’s not concerning. It didn’t change our plans today.”

Palou was 3rd fastest overall for the day.

For qualifying what you want to watch are the “non-tow speeds”, which were led by Colton Herta of Andretti Global. Though unable to put together a full four-lap average run without the help of an aerodynamic tow, Herta did turn the fastest lap without the aid of another car in front at 224.182 mph. 

The driver who had the fastest four-lap qual sim without any tow at all was Helio Castroneves. He turned a qualifying run with an average of 223.382 mph. Graham Rahal was also among the top non-tow speeds with one lap at 222.669, which is indicative of a lot more pace than the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan cars had last year.

Among those who struggled to find pace today were the AJ Foyt and Dale Coyne cars. Santino Ferrucci in particular was way off the mark in qual sims. Nolan Siegel took several qualifying practice runs and slowly got faster, but still lacks a lot of pace.

The day also saw the month’s first major crashes. Linus Lundqvist only got about two hours of practice in before slamming into the outside wall of Turn 2. The collision knocked him out of practice for the rest of the day but caused only moderate damage to the car which Ganassi expects to be repaired by tomorrow.

The same cannot be said for Marcus Ericsson, who entered Turn 4 rather low at the apex and touched the concrete apron. This caused him to lose all grip in the rear and swung him up the race track and hard into the wall. He came to rest at the entrance to pit road after hitting the inside retaining wall and the pit road attenuator.

Both drivers would walk away unharmed.

The damage to Ericsson’s car was so severe, however, that his team will have to bring out the backup car. You can expect to see a lot of track time for Ericsson tomorrow, weather permitting, as they dial in the backup for qualifying.

Practice will resume for Fast Friday at Noon EDT and drivers will be given extra boost which will see speeds north of 235 mph in traffic.