INDIANAPOLIS – Hot and very windy conditions made “Fast Friday” at the 106th Indianapolis 500 a frightening experience.
Wind gusts exceeding 30 miles an hour made it very difficult for the 33 cars on the track to find a clean lap and make a four-lap simulated qualification run around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver Takuma Sato was the fastest driver for the third day in a row with a fast lap at 232.789 miles per hour in the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda. Alexander Rossi, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, was the second fastest at 231.883 mph in the No. 27 Honda for Andretti Autosport.
But those aren’t the important times to consider heading into a sketchy first day of qualifications on Saturday that could be impacted by rain.
What’s important are the four-lap averages because the starting lineup is determined by the 10-mile, four-lap runs around the 2.5-mile oval.
On that list, it was 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan on top with a four-lap average of 230.517 miles per hour in the No. 1 American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I’ve seen days like this, but I’ve chose not to drive on days like this, but today we had no option, so that was tricky,” Kanaan said. “Chris Simmons (CGR Director of Performance who is filling in as Kanaan’s engineer while Andy Brown recovers from illness) had to twist my arm to do more runs than I planned to do, but it was worth it. We helped the team. We found a couple of things that we were trying to achieve for Saturday.
“The goal for Saturday is to be in the top 12. We’re in the top seven on speed and fastest on four-lap average, so we’re good.”
He was followed by IndyCar rookie driver David Malukas, who had four laps at 230.286 mph in the No. 18 Honda. Sage Karam was third at 230.114 mph in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet followed by Pato O’Ward’s four laps at 230.111 mph in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Takuma Sato’s 239.680 mph an hour in the 229.680 mph in the No. 51 Honda and Indy 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson’s 229.093 mph in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda.
Earlier in practice, Johnson smacked into the Turn 2 wall with his rear tire but kept the car under control. It had to be repaired in the Chip Ganassi Racing garage but returned later in the day to run the impressive qualification simulation.
On the single-lap speeds, O’Ward was third at 231.798 mph, Marcus Ericsson was fourth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing at 231.782 mph and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner and six-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon at 231.530 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Dixon spent much of Friday in the Gasoline Alley garages waiting for the conditions to settle in order to make a run within the final hour of practice.
“For me, I wanted to run at the start of the day because the conditions are more ideal,” Dixon said. “Waiting until now, the winds have picked up and track temps were through the roof. Plus, thinking about it never helps.
“I’ve been in some pretty bad days here. This car is pretty big and heavy, so it gets affected a little bit more than some of the earlier days when we had some crazy weather conditions. The gusts of wind were crazy, but once I did my flying lap, I didn’t really run at speed. I lifted in all four corners, so I wasn’t really pushing it.
“Tomorrow morning’s practice will be very busy. With the weather tomorrow and the starting time, everybody should get a pretty fair first run. Last year we were pretty lucky to get an early draw. Plain and simple, you’ve got to be fast.”
Because of the threat of rain, IndyCar officials to revise Saturday’s qualification schedule for the 106th Indianapolis 500.
With the potential of rain in the afternoon for the first day of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying, it has been moved up to 11 a.m. (ET) Saturday, May 21 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Qualifying will run until its previously scheduled end time of 5:50 p.m., weather permitting, with starting spots 13 through 33 locked in for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
The morning practice session also will be moved up, with group one on the 2.5-mile oval from 8:30-9 a.m. and group two from 9-9:30 a.m.
Peacock Premium will provide live coverage of both practice groups and the entire qualifying session, with the INDYCAR Radio Network also offering coverage. Public gates at IMS will open at their previously scheduled time of 8 a.m.
The revised schedule:
8 a.m. – IMS Gates Open
8:30-9 a.m. – Practice Group 1
9-9:30 a.m. – Practice Group 2
11 a.m. – PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying begins