Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves used the final minutes of “Fast Friday” to demonstrate he still knows how to get around the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway rectangle.
The 3-time Indianapolis 500 champion posted the fastest lap of the month, 228.6 MPH as we head into pole qualifying Saturday and bump day Sunday to set the 33 car starting grid.
Castroneves will be trying to win the top starting position for the 5th time in his career and a record three times in a row.
Montreal’s Alex Tagliani has been fast since day one at the Brickyard. Tag was 2nd on the speed sheets in Friday practice, 228.3 MPH.
The driver of the # 77 Bowers &Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry said, “I think we did pretty well today. The car seems to be pretty quick. Against our competition, we’re right there. We’re in the top cars. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be a lot tighter than I was expecting. There are a lot of good cars. I’ve seen some amazing speed from Dario Franchitti. Scott Dixon, and obviously the Penske cars are really strong as well. So, if we make it in the ‘Fast Nine’ again, it would be an amazing accomplishment because I think the field is a lot tighter this year than we’ve seen it in the past. “
Toronto rookie James Hinchcliffe is showing good velocity in his freshman trip at Indy. Hinch was 16th fastest on Friday in his # 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing, 226.8 MPH.
“I think the Sprott team made a lot of good gains today. When we first went out, the temperatures were obviously a lot hotter than they had been in all the running we had done. As a result of that, the car was quite lively this morning. We had a couple of runs where we had a very loose race car, but that’s all part of the Indy education and learning curve, having some proper loose runs and learning how to deal with those. And at the end, there we went out around 4 o’clock and made a couple of new tire runs still not in full qualifying trim and set some very competitive times in very clean air. We’re very happy with the gains we made. We’re now just looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. I’m looking forward to making that first attempt.”
Fellow Torontonian Paul Tracy, at the buttons of the # 23 WIX Filters/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing machine struggled to find speed, 23rd from the top, 225.9 MPH, after a small scrape with the wall. PT is OK with it.
“Overall, I think we are in pretty good shape in terms of speed by ourselves. We struggled a little bit with the rear of the car at the beginning of the day. We changed the setup on the car and went back out, and it was much better. We worked on the car a little bit and made some changes to try to improve the balance of the car and put a sticker set of Firestone tires on at about three o’clock in the afternoon and ran a 225.996 mph, which was pretty good by ourselves. We came back after that to check things over and take a look at it. We went back out with a race setup on and I had a very, very small brush with the wall, and we’ve just decided to look at it over night and we will go at it tomorrow to see where we are at. In terms of speed by ourselves, I think we are OK. We’re not great, but we are definitely anywhere from 10th- to about 16th-quickest by ourselves.”
Teams will have one more practice session beginning at 8 a.m. ET Saturday morning before qualifying begins at 11 a.m. ET. The top 24 starters for the May 29 Indianapolis 500 will be locked in on Saturday. The top nine qualifiers will battle it out for the prestigious pole position between 4:30-6 pm ET as the starting order for the first three rows will be determined for the 95th running of The Greatest spectacle in Racing.