By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — The final day of practice before qualifications for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 featured increased turbocharger boost pressure, wall contact and an Andretti on top of the speed chart.
Marco Andretti’s No. 98 Andretti Autosport Honda turned a fastest lap of 231.802 mph around the 2.5-mile oval. Robert Wickens was second in his No. 6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda with a lap of 231.732 mph, but both of those laps were assisted with a tow off of cars in front of them and both drivers acknowledged that.
“The car is close in race trim, I don’t know how much better we can get it,” said Andretti. “But (qualifying) trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the Top Nine to be honest. And I think it’s going to take us to nail it to get it in, as with probably five or six other guys, we’re going to be right there with them, and I think it’s going to be all about a third and fourth lap, and we’re just going to have to nail it and do everything right to get it in.”
Wickens added: “I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here. I mean, Fast Friday is for qualifying and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me, and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am. Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re okay by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for tomorrow.”
The first major wall contact of the month came at just before 2:45 p.m. as James Davison’s No. 33 Chevrolet did a half spin coming through Turn 2 and hit the wall with the left side of the car. Davison was checked and released from the infield care center and cleared to drive.
“The structure held up pretty well, the crash actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be when I got back here so we were fortunate on that end,” said one of Davison’s entrants, Brian Belardi.
On the unassisted lap chart, Team Penske occupied the top three positions. Will Power was fastest by himself with a fastest lap of 229.780 mph ahead of Josef Newgarden’s 228.994 mph and Simon Pagenaud’s 228.857 mph lap.
Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 starts at 11:oo a.m. ET, weather permitting.