Story and photo by Patrick Reynolds
INDIANAPOLIS- Tony Kanaan, driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, was quickest during Friday’s final practice session for the Indianapolis 500 with an average lap speed of 227.791. He qualified tenth for Sunday’s race.
This was the first time during the month of racing and practice, that teams experienced hot temperatures- which are expected for the 500’s race day.
“This is the closest we’re going to get as far as weather,” said Kanaan.
“It’s concerning, but there’s not a lot to think (about),” Kanaan said. “Nobody, nobody, none of us run (during practice this month) in that type of heat. If it’s going to be 90 (degrees) … we haven’t had a single day here this month that we ran (in similar weather conditions).
“We’re going to have to do a lot more work (during Sunday’s 500). I remember in 2013 when I won, I hadn’t made a single change in that car in a single pit stop. I think every stop we will be making a change,” said Kanaan.
“At the end (of practice) the temperature started to get hotter and it was a completely different car and we haven’t done anything (set up changes). If you haven’t figured it out by today, you’re in trouble,” Kanaan said.
The one-hour practice was clean of on-track incidents and no crashes with only one yellow flag period for a track surface inspection.
Preparing for her final race, Danica Patrick’s car suffered an electrical problem with her throttle. The Ed Carpenter Racing crew addressed the Engine Control Unit as diagnosis in the garage area and she returned to the track with less than ten minutes left in the final hour.
Patrick got the car up to race speed in the remaining time and practiced pit stops with her crew as they changed four tires, refueled, and replaced the nose cone in preparation for Sunday race situations. She stated the throttle problem was even worse when she returned to the track, leaving the team with work to do in preparation for the 500.
Her speed was eighth quickest with 223.653 in the field of 33.
Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, Sebastian Bourdais, and Charlie Kimball completed the top-five fastest drivers. Chevy, Honda, Honda, Honda, and Chevy were the manufacturer engine distribution.
Robert Wickens, running for the first time since a Monday practice crash, was 27th quick. He will start 18th in the 500
Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was not happy with the speed or feel of his car and was 14th fastest.
Thirtieth qualifier Graham Rahal completed the most laps during the session with 51.
Kanaan feels confident heading into the 500 and relayed that to his pit crew.
“The work is done,” Kanaan said to his Foyt Team. ”Clean it. I think you guys need to rest. You guys did a great job in here. That’s it.”
“Sunday will be go time.”
Over the years, the Indy Lights race is one of the most competitive out of the several events in the Indianapolis area over the Memorial Day weekend. This year held true to form.
Colton Herta won the Freedom 100 with a pass for the win as the last lap began. Herta then edged out Pato O’Ward at the finish line.
Santi Urrutia took the lead with a lap-and-a-half to go then Herta retook the lead down the frontstretch while O’Ward made the three-wide move to the outside.
Herta held off O’Ward’s furious charge to the finish of a race that featured multiple position swaps and 20 official lead changes over the 40-lap distance.
“In the beginning the tires were cold and it was quite easy to follow,” said Herta. “I learned quite early on that if you’re third or fourth back, it going to be tough to overtake, especially if the first two can just go right by each other and block you and give you the dirty air.”
“I didn’t even know it was the white flag until I pulled out (to pass). I passed him (Urritia) on the last lap and held it,” Herta said. “We knew all the cars in contention would be dodging and weaving and battling for the win. It was all about positioning and being at the right place at the right time.”
The constant passing got Herta’s attention.
“Once the track got up to temp and the tires got hot, it was a little bit more hair raising because you could see the guy in your mirror… you could see him slowly drifting up… and just kind of waiting for the contact. Everybody minded their Ps and Qs and it was all good,” Herta said.
“I expected more (passing) right from the beginning of practice. AER (Advanced Engine Research- Indy Lights engine supplier) changed their torque mounts in our cars so we had different torque levels especially in the upper range of like 7,000- 7,500 RPM. That was really making it more of a pack race. I expected there to be a lot of overtakes.”
With his Indianapolis wins after sweeping both series races during the road course Grand Prix weekend, Herta is eager and excited to move up to Indycars.
“I feel like I got a little bit of a taste and now I want to go win the 500 next year.”
Will that happen?
“If I can help it, yes,” said Herta.
Pit Stop Competition
Scott Dixon spoiled James Hinchcliffe’s Cinderella story by defeating the popular Canadian during the Pit Stop competition.
Hinchcliffe did not qualify for the Indy 500 and the fan favorite was hoping to reward the large crowd with a consolation win on Friday.
Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing had other ideas.
Dixon’s team beat Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports crew in the ladder-elimination system with a final time of 11.943 to 12.495 in the four-tire change. Dixon overcame Hinchcliffe two stops to one in the best-of-three contest. All three pit stops were won from the left-side lane with concrete over the right side asphalt lane.
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Speedway Report live on Facebook Mondays 7:30 pm ET/ 4:30 pm PT and uploaded on http://speedwayreport.wpengine.com/ . Follow on Twitter @SpeedwayPat.