By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Marco Andretti put down a flying lap of 233.491 mph to pace ‘Fast Friday’ practice for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 33-year-old from Nazareth, Pennsylvania enjoyed the extra 80 horsepower boost provided to teams for the day’s practice, which will also be used for this weekend’s round of qualifying to set the field of 33. The addition of the boost, along with cooler track conditions and the aid of a tow propelled the No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda to the fastest single-lap speed since May 10, 1996, when Arie Luyendyk hit the fastest lap in Indy 500 history during practice at 239.260 mph. While practice times are considered unofficial, Luyendyk went on to set the official single-lap record (237.498 mph) and four-lap record (236.986 mph) later that same month.
“Yeah, it was a good day,” said Andretti, who finished runner-up as a rookie in the 2006 edition of the Indy 500. “We were actually really focused on getting laps alone. Somebody actually pulled out in front of us, so I figured I’d run with the tow, make Mario (Andretti) happy.
“Other than that I think we had a pretty solid four-lap run. That’s what I care about for tomorrow. I’m a little bummed because we just drew 28th out of 33. The temps are not going to be ideal for my run. Hopefully we’re fast enough to get in the top nine. That’s the only goal for tomorrow. Then go for the pole on Sunday.”
The No. 47 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet of Conor Daly finished second on the day at 232.337 mph. Additionally, he was the only Chevrolet in the top 10. Five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who paced yesterday’s practice, ended the day third overall (232.290 mph) in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) and Spencer Pigot (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Citrone/Buhl Autosport) rounded out the rest of the top five. In addition to a strong solo lap outing, Hunter-Reay also held the best mock qualifying run, with a four-lap average of 231.263 mph.
“It’s been two different tracks today – this morning and this afternoon,” said Hunter-Reay, winner of the 2014 Indy 500. “This morning, we were pretty dialed in. This afternoon, it’s been pretty difficult I think for everybody. We came out late and it was tough to get a clear lap, tough not to get in dirty air. I thought we had pretty good balance on that last one, we just lost a little bit of speed. So, it’s anybody’s guess right now. Car this morning was hooked up, though.
The rest of the top 10 for single-lap runs was led by rookie Alex Palou (Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh) in sixth, followed by James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), Takuma Sato (RLL Racing), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) and Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing).
After crashing out of the final hour of practice on Thursday, two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso returned to run 52 laps on Friday, but finished 25th in the No. 66 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet with a speed of 229.788 mph.
Notably, the simulated four-lap qualifying runs saw Ericsson end up second-fastest, followed by Grahal Rahal (RLL Racing), Dixon and Hinchcliffe. Team Penske’s Will Power was sixth, with Sato, Andretti, Herta and rookie Rinus VeeKay (ECR) completing the rest of the top 10.