The last pre-qualifying practice before boost levels will increase for qualifying weekend was held today. During the six-hour session, all 35 teams again took to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Check out our practice recaps below, followed by the headlines from today’s fourth practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Session Four came and passed with one incident late in the afternoon interrupting the action. Dreyer and Reinbold Racing’s JR Hildebrand made contact with the wall in Turn 3, before sliding to a stop in Turn 4. Hildebrand, who was checked, cleared to drive and released from the infield care center, sustained right-rear damage to his No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet entry.
Aside from Hildebrand’s wall contact. the afternoon went by relatively calmly. As has been the case with the first two days of practice, there was a massive amount of shuffling on the speed charts. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal (226.047 MPH), who was 34th in yesterday’s session, placed Honda atop the leader chart at day’s end for the second straight day.
Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti (225.584 MPH) was third, with A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan (225.896 MPH) finishing the day second, the fastest Chevrolet. Aside from Rahal and Andretti, the lone other Honda in the Top 11 was Zachary Claman De Melo. The Dale Coyne Racing rookie posted the seventh-best lap of the day at 224.665 MPH.
With cars running in packs for much of the day, gauging outright speed from the overall time sheets alone can be difficult. Here is a look at the drivers who posted the best laps of the day without the assistance of a tow.
No-Tow Speeds for May 17 Fourth Practice
- Will Power, Chevrolet, 223.971 MPH
- Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 223.348 MPH
- Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 223.208 MPH
- Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 223.144 MPH
- Alexander Rossi, Honda, 222.979 MPH
- Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 222.964 MPH
Although today’s session was a busy one for the 35 teams and drivers competing, overall track activity was down slightly from yesterday. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves logged the most circuits today (109), and only Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach (106) and Rahal (102) joined him in passing the 100 laps completed mark on the day.
Kimball logged the fewest of any driver, completing 32 laps.
Parity has been a major element in play during the first two days of practice, and Thursday was no different. The top seven drivers on the speed chart at the end of practice all drove for different times and eight teams were represented in the Top ten.
Only Team Penske (Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves-6th and 8th) and Ed Carpenter Racing (Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot-4th and 9th) had multiple drivers in the top 10 of the final running order.
The element of parity also played out on-track in how little separation there was among the 35 cars competing. Rahal and 35th-place Zach Veach were separated by just .8480 seconds. In terms of no-tow speeds, Power and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Jay Howard were just .9344 seconds apart.
The lack of disparity between the front and back of the field will be worth keeping an eye on this weekend. Two cars will not be qualifying for the race and the margin between being in the field of 33 and going home may be just thousandths of a second.
Another item worth noting from today’s results is manufacturer in both tow-assisted and non-tow-assisted speeds. Chevrolet placed seven drivers in. the top ten of the overall running order, despite missing out on the top overall spot. In terms of speeds without the assist of the tow, each engine manufacturer placed five drivers in the top 10 in the speed charts.
With no engine manufacturer or team dominating the speed charts during the first three days of practice, it has been difficult to truly predict who will be among the favorites for not only pole, but for the win in the race next Sunday.
It has been tough to gauge which two drivers will not qualify for the race. All these factors, plus the threat of weather looming, will make tomorrow’s practice one of the most interesting “Fast Friday” practices in recent memory.
Tomorrow, teams will be back in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for day four of Indianapolis 500 practice. Teams will see an increase in boost to 140 kPa, which will be used for the practice and both qualification days on Saturday and Sunday.
Practice begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern and will run throughout the day until 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Fans can visit the track to watch practice with gates opening at 10:00 a.m. Those who would like to watch from home can catch a stream plus timing and scoring of the event at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for the latest from Indianapolis as we prepare for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
Images courtesy of Mike Harding/INDYCAR.