INDIANAPOLIS – Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden finished as the fastest driver of the two-day Indianapolis 500 open test on Friday as 32 car and driver combinations participated in the session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Newgarden’s fast speed was 226.819 mph in the No. 2 Chevrolet. He ran 130 laps on Friday.
“It was a pretty good day,” Newgarden said. “I was happy enough with the car. We still need some work for sure to get an additional read of where we are at. We are trying to assess with what we have when we get back here in May. I had some decent speed, which is nice to see, but that doesn’t really mean much in a test.
“We’ll see what we have in the month of May. It’s easier to follow. It’s still tough if you are further back, but I think they made the ability to follow better, but it’s always going to be tough if you are 10 cars back. There is more downforce in the car, but the balance shift is less.”
Two-time and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato jumped to the No. 2 position late in Friday’s final practice session with a lap at 226.396 mph in the No. 30 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was third at 226.123 mph in the No. 86 Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren SP.
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was fourth at 225.906 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda and Graham Rahal rounded out the top-five at 225.644 mph in the No. 15 Honda.
Conor Daly of Ed Carpenter Racing was sixth at 225.639 mph in the No. 47 Chevrolet.
Daly, however, complained that the current package makes it difficult to pass.
“I didn’t see any passing out there,” Daly said during the heat of the day on Friday afternoon with three hours left in the session. “I was able to pass some slower cars on the track, but I didn’t see any of the faster cars able to pass each other.”
On March 26, IndyCar tested the current push-to-pass system in an attempt to simulate the extra speed that would be created by the hybrid assist device that will be implemented in 2023.
According to some drivers in the series, the test was actually to see the viability of push-to-pass in the oval races this year to help create more passing.
“They need to do something, but I don’t think push-to-pass would necessarily be the right way to go,” Daly said. “I don’t know what should be done. Whether they need to put some more downforce on these cars or not.”
Passing did pick up in the final hour as teams started to run together in groups to see how the aerodynamic setups performed with packs of cars on the track. Among those working in groups included the five-car Team Penske contingent, which also includes Paretta Autosport and its driver Simona de Silvestro. Other teams that participated in group runs included the three-driver Arrow McLaren SP contingent and the seven-car Andretti Autosport group that includes Indianapolis 500 only driver Marco Andretti as well as the two Meyer Shank Racing drivers, Jack Harvey and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan could also group together for pack runs.
When final practice began at 5 p.m. Friday, Newgarden was the leader on the speed chart over Montoya. However, it was Rahal that had the fastest no tow speed, meaning his lap of 221.949 mph in the No. 15 Honda was not aided by the draft off another car. Team Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin entered final practice second on that list at 221.153 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet, followed by 100th Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi’s 220.889 mph.
Ed Carpenter had the fastest trap speed measured at the start/finish line of 236.637 mph in the No. 20 Chevrolet. Pato O’Ward was second at 235.876 mph at the start/finish line in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Earlier in the day, rookie drivers including Cody Ware and Pietro Fittipaldi passed the rookie orientation program and all drivers that needed to take the refresher course easily passed. Drivers in that group included the likes of Castroneves, Montoya and four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais. They all had to take refresher laps because they were not full-time drivers in last year’s NTT IndyCar Series.
The NTT IndyCar Series begins next Saturday with practice and qualifications for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, with racing scheduled for the following day.
The next time teams hit the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be the first practice session for the 105th Indianapolis 500 on Tuesday, May 18.
The 105th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 30.