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Takuma Sota was fastest during Carb Day practice. (Al Steinberg photo)

Dress Rehearsal Done, Indy 500 Ahead

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s time to roll the 33 cars that will start Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500 into the garages in Gasoline Alley, lower the door and polish them up for the biggest race in the world Sunday at noon (ET).

The final two-hour practice session before the race, the centerpiece of Carb Day on Friday, was completed at 1 p.m. (ET) and all 33 cars and drivers made laps during the final practice.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato of Japan was the fastest driver with a top speed of 227.855 mph in the No. 11 Deloitte Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. He ran 86 laps in the session which saw all 33 cars turn a total of 2,355 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing was second at 227.285 mph. He ran 83 laps in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Team Penske’s Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner and two-time IndyCar champion, was third at 226.953 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He ran 82 laps.

This year’s pole winner, Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing, was fourth at 226.945 mph in the No. 10 American Legion Honda. The 2021 IndyCar Series champion ran 83 laps. Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti Autosport rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 226.872 mph in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda. Kirkwood ran 57 laps.

Rinus VeeKay, who will start Sunday’s race in the middle of row one, was the 33rd fastest on Carb Day at 222.166 mph in the No. 21 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.

There were a few yellow flags for leaking fluids from the cars, but no crashes in the session.

“It felt good out there,” Andretti Autosport driver Colton Herta said after running 76 laps in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. “It’s a little bit different weather conditions than Monday and probably a little bit different weather conditions than what we’ll see Sunday, so we have to take that into effect.

“But for right now was fairly happy with the car. I think we can make some minor tweaks to it to make it a little bit better, but I think we’re right on the ball with it so far.”

Friday was a fairly perfect day with cloudless skies, bright sunshine and the temperature at 66 degrees.

“I think you might want it a little bit hotter to make the tire wear a little bit better, make a difference between cars,” Herta explained. “That might open up some opportunities for other guys. I think you do want it a little bit hotter.”

The drivers got dicey during the session, with many of them preparing the race setup on their cars to be properly prepared for the 200-lap, 500-mile race on Sunday. There were even a few lockups on cars entering pit road as they try to practice pit road entry with a speed limit.

“I feel like guys get a little crazy on today,” Herta said. “I think because they start to give a little bit less, and they run it more like what the race is like, so they’re running you deeper into the corner, and if they don’t want you to go down the inside, they’ll make sure that you can’t go there.

“The biggest thing is guys just running deeper into the corners, where before you see every day of the month before this everyone is kind of lifting off and being nice. I think it’s your last kind of check to kind of see what you can get away with going into the race, so guys are a little bit less friendly.”

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden ran 89 laps and was ninth fastest on Friday at 225.565 mph in the No. 2 Shell Chevrolet.

“We just tried to sort of practice the race, literally,” Newgarden said. “It seems self-explanatory, but I think everyone approaches this last session differently. We just try to do a dress rehearsal from our end and really get into the rhythm of what we’re going to do on Sunday, and I feel good about our car.

“I think the Shell car is quick. I think it feels comfortable. We got it really good at the end there. We’ve just got to be solid on race day as always. There can be no mistakes here, good execution.

“That’s what it’s going to take.”

Track activity for the 33 cars in the Indianapolis 500 is over until race day. Saturday is the full field autograph session and the public driver’s meeting in the morning, followed by the annual Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis. For the next two nights, the drivers will be making sponsor appearances and attending corporate dinners as they prepare for the biggest race of the year.

“It’s just always jam-packed today,” Newgarden said. “Tomorrow is very jam-packed. But I will say one of the greatest things about driving for Team Penske is they don’t request anything from us on race day morning, which is lovely. I just think it’s fantastic. We get everything out of the way on Saturday. It’s a busy day, but then we can wake up for race day and be free and clear, just get ready for the race.

“That’s our only commitment. Not a big deal from my end. It’s great to be here with Shell.

“It’s fun to drive the Shell car because of what they’re doing. This is a big year for the series. Obviously, we’re touting it Powering Progress, and the whole field is powered by Shell. We’re all running sustainable fuel, and with IndyCar and its positioning on sustainability with Firestone and everyone else, I think Shell is doing a tremendous job, so it’s fun to be carrying that flag on race day.”