By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Rain may have put a damper at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday morning. 156 minutes later, the fans got to see the 33-car field partake on Carb Day for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Even if it was a cold one on a high 50-degree afternoon, there was plenty of action.
The delayed two-hour session came to a close 10 minutes shy of completion due to rain. When it was over, the cold was felt all over IMS.
That’s because Scott Dixon was fastest at 228.323 mph and only needed 47 laps. Once bringing his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda to pit road with 47 minutes left, they called it a day. Safe to say Dixon’s car felt “pretty good.”
“The speed feels pretty good. It comes pretty easy,” Dixon immediately after getting out of his car. “We just wanted to make sure we got through the mixtures that we needed to. We did a lot of it last Sunday after qualifying. We don’t have too much more to go through, but I don’t want to keep chancing it.
“It’s getting pretty racy out there with some of the different cars. You’re just opening yourself up for mistake before you get to the race. Happy with the car and hopefully it’s that fast for the race.”
With cooler conditions and Carb Day under their belt, Dixon added the race will be full-on. More so if the sun arrives on race day with temperatures being in the high 60s.
“Will see once we get some sun on the track on the weekend,” Dixon commented.
“Tire deg, there’s really not much of it. You can still see some cars struggling a bit, but the fast ones are definitely quick. You can pass them on the front straight and pass right back on the back straight.
“It’s going to be a very mentally tough race. You’re going to be pretty drained after this one.”
Second fastest was Simon Pagenaud, who was over one mile an hour slower than Dixon. Other than the tremendous deficit, Chevrolet came out to play, especially Pagenaud’s teammates from Team Penske.
Rookie Scott McLaughlin told NBCSN that it was a fun Carb Day after going seventh fastest.
“It’s feeling awesome right now. We can make some moves. Every time we’ve been in the car, we started at the back and moved near the front in some way. I’m really happy where we’re at. Most confident I’ve felt all week.”
Colton Herta wound up 28th quickest (223.670 mph) with oversteer being the word early on. He admitted that it was the weight jacker which caused some oversteer, but it didn’t faze him whatsoever.
In fact, when Herta finished his session under 15 minutes early, the confidence was bright as day.
“It’s phenomenal. I’m really happy with it at the moment,” said Herta. “Our car is extremely fast and I feel extremely confident out there.”
“The racing is amazing. I hope it stays this cold for the race because it was a lot of fun. You can run the bottom of the race track which you can’t do around here. Interesting day. We found a little bit of speed and balance. I think we have a great race car this Sunday.”
Further down the order was Rinus VeeKay, who was 31st (223.068 mph). The no-tow speed however, was quickest at 219.557 and ran 36 laps Friday.
“No concerns for me. We were just running at the front of the pack. Not being towed around. I think I was fast in the no-tow,” said VeeKay. “Our car feels fast and we’re just focusing on having a quick car that handles well in traffic. It really was, so we packed up early and put in the barn. It’s feeling great.
“I feel very good moving around. Quite easy to stay flat behind someone which is important to get around and not be attacked from behind. I think we have a very strong car. Our team has worked hard and we can battle for the win with this car.”
Perhaps the one guy who wasn’t happy by any means was Alexander Rossi. Not only he missed the opening five minutes for fuel spillage, he was 33rd for a majority of the session.
Towards the end, Rossi got the No. 27 NAPA Honda dial-in better and ended up 13th fastest at 225.324 mph. He felt much better about the second half of the session compared to the first.
“We got our fuel issues out of the way early. Huge hats off to the team. It’s the worst car I’ve ever had for the first 45 minutes,” Rossi admitted after running 51 laps. “We’ve made some adjustments and brought it back to life. It was crazy. That was a big team effort because the first hour, I was scared.”
Next time the 33 competitors hit the 2.5-mile circuit, it’ll be the 105th Indianapolis 500. Just two days away to see how the 200-lap odyssey unfold.