Photo: Brian Spurlock/ASP, Inc.

Kanaan Tops Final Indy 500 Practice as Herta, Malukas Take Hard Hits

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

INDIANAPOLIS – Chip Ganassi Racing flexed its muscles again during Friday’s final practice for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 as Tony Kanaan topped the board, but a pair of incidents during the 90-minute session would overshadow the continued success from the Ganassi stable.

Kanaan’s Honda set the fast time of 227.114 mph around the 2.5-mile track, just ahead of teammate Marcus Ericsson at 227.004 mph.

“It’s not important at all,” Kanaan said of being fastest on Friday. “We had a good car all month. We didn’t go out and let’s be fastest on Carb Day. It doesn’t count, doesn’t mean anything. It’s a consequence of a good car that we had all month. You look at teammates, they’re all there.

“Glad it’s been working out for us. After this interview, it doesn’t matter anymore. We’re all going for the race on Sunday.”

Takuma Sato broke up the Ganassi party up front by putting up the third fastest time, just ahead of polesitter Scott Dixon in fourth. Sage Karam would round out the top-five in his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.

2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power was sixth on the final practice rundown, followed by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who put in another solid run in seventh. The remainder of the top-10 went to Pato O’Ward, Marco Andretti, and Felix Rosenqvist.

The first yellow flag of the session came when David Malukas and Santino Ferrucci tangled, leaving Malukas to get the bad end of the deal. As Malukas was making a pass on Ferrucci heading into Turn 1, contact between the two would cut down the right rear tire on Malukas’ car, which in turn caused his No. 18 Honda to spin into the outside wall.

The heavy damage as a result of the impact will make for a long 48 hours for his Dale Coyne Racing with HMD team as they work to get his car back in racing shape for Sunday.

“I’m all OK,” Malukas said afterwards. “That was a big hit. Probably one of the biggest hits I’ve felt and I came out with just a small bruise.

“For some reason, he turned back down. I just held my line going straight and him hitting me there, my tire went flat. Can’t really do much with a flat tire going at that speed.

“Two laps previously, I made that same exact move on [Dalton] Kellett and we both went through there cleanly. I mean, it was a little on the late side, but those late moves are going to be there for the race. I’m not sure if he didn’t have a spotter or something, but if you hear somebody say inside, inside, I definitely wouldn’t be turning in. I don’t think there was anything wrong on my end.”

Ferrucci was able to escape the encounter unscathed, but he would be penalized by IndyCar for avoidable contact, forcing him to end his practice session 20 minutes early.

“I’m glad that he is OK, first of all. That was a big hit,” said Ferrucci. “He was coming. I knew he was coming. I could hear the spotter. It was a really late pass coming down to the line, I just came out to turn in because we were past the turn-in point for me. I just checked up and thought I timed it really well, but clearly, I didn’t. That’s my mistake. It is what it is.”

After the session continued on, the second and most eye-opening incident of the day came when Colton Herta went airborne after an impact with the Turn 1 wall.

Battling a loose car late in the session, Herta’s car started to lose traction heading into the turn and after Herta attempted to correct the skid, his car made a bee-line for the outside wall, where it would lift the front end of his his No. 26 Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda up in the air and then physics did the rest.  

Once the car got air underneath it, it took went airborne, flipped the car on its lid, and after landing upside-down, skidded down the track before eventually coming to rest.

Herta immediately radioed to his team that he was OK after his wild ride and mere seconds later the AMR Safety Team was on the scene to right the inverted Honda and extract him from the cockpit.

Following a check-out in the Infield Care Center, Herta seemed no worse for wear, explaining that he would be good to go when Sunday rolls around.

“A little bit of sadness for that race car,” Herta said. “It sucks. It seemed like it was OK. We were really loose that whole session. I think I was just going a little bit too fast for that corner. Wiggled and the air got underneath it. But yeah, I’m all good. I’m fine.

“Hopefully we can get it repaired…it does look like a big shunt there in the side. If we need to take the team car out, we will and we’ll run that one tomorrow.

“Thankful for a lot of things. I guess the Aeroscreen is part of that, but more so the AMR safety crew and the durability of the sidepods and all the side structure of the cars because that was a big hit from the side. And yeah, for the safety crews, they were very fast to flip me back over.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.