By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward set the fastest pace at 225.355 mph to top Friday’s Carb Day practice for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The 21-year-old ran 84 laps as he’ll look to shine at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, not only aiming for Rookie of the Year honors, but perhaps also the famed Borg-Warner Trophy.
“I think it’s just been really important to try and get the best car under us for race day,” said O’Ward. I think traffic running is going to be key. It’s going to be my first 500. From just feeling out practice and everything, it’s so important to have a car that’s able to follow closely and be able to get runs on people, ultimately move forward instead of moving backwards.
“I think today was a good step forward. Yeah, we’re just going to have to kind of go with our gut and hope this works like it did today in a race day on Sunday.”
Behind O’Ward are three former Indy 500 champions led by Scott Dixon at 224.646 mph. The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion said there was a period of time his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda struggled with front grip, pondering if his other Chip Ganassi Racing teammates (Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist) had similar issues.
Nevertheless, Dixon felt good about his car, especially how fast it goes under traffic.
“It pulls up wicked fast which is great. Hopefully that’s true during the race but it definitely looks like there’s so good and not so great cars out there. Hopefully, we’re on the right end on the grid.
Followed by 2016 winner Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), who quietly continues hitting his stride this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 2017 winner and third place starter Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) was fourth fastest and rounding out the top-five was O’Ward’s teammate Oliver Askew.
Defending series champion Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) was seventh quickest, citing his No. 1 Shell V-Power NiTRO+ Chevy being pretty good.
“You don’t want to ever feel too confident, but I feel cautiously optimistic. I think our Shell car has been fast in traffic and it felt really fast today,” said Newgarden. “I feel enthusiastic and I think Team Chevy got us on a good package for the race. So I feel confident of what they’re bringing to the table.
“Carb Day is one of those days where if you really need it, you use it all up. If you don’t feel like you need it as much, you don’t want to use the car up. I think we’re more on the second part of that, but I’m optimistic and I think we have a good shot.”
Once again, rookie Alex Palou (Dale Coyne Racing w/ Team Goh) had another solid practice session where he ended up 10th fastest to cap off a rather dominant two-hour Carb Day by the young guns.
Several notable drivers were on the bottom 10, which included two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso (23rd), 2018 Indy 500 champion Will Power (24th) and Sunday’s Indy 500 pole sitter Marco Andretti (28th).
Marco (Andretti Autosport w/ Marco Andretti and Curb-Agajanian) said his goal was to put himself in the most uncomfortable circumstances possible to assure he’s fully ready to fight for an Indy 500 win and bring a family victory for the first time since grandfather Mario did it in 1969.
“I know there’s going to be a state of adversity at some point in the 500 miles,” said Marco, who ran 70 laps Friday. “That’s what I put myself into today and it was just as uncomfortable as we thought it was going to be.
“My engineers would be pretty mad if I repeated it, but we went through a lot of things that we almost thought we didn’t like, but needed to confirm. I’d rather learn that today than on Sunday.”
No incidents took place on the final day of practice with only a caution coming out for track inspection.
Live coverage of the 104th Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBC, with the race commencing at 2:30 p.m.