Rain cut short the sixth day of Indianapolis 500 practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and more of the wet stuff may be in store for today’s “Fast Friday” session — the final practice before Saturday’s run for the pole.
Tony Kanaan of Andretti Autosport utilized a tow to put up the fastest lap of the afternoon at 226.775 m.p.h. in the No. 11 7-Eleven machine. With an iffy forecast on tap, the Brazilian and his team chose to work on a qualifying set-up for Pole Day.
”I think everybody knows how we pulled those speeds up,” said Kanaan. ”Everybody has been doing it all week. The car felt good, and although it was in the draft, you have to have a good car to get those kinds of speeds. We worked on qualifying today along with a lot of people. It’s going to be very interesting on Saturday if it rains tomorrow.
“It’s a very tight field. I’m happy, and we’re working in the right direction.”
However, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion also said that, in his eyes, the battle for the pole will be solely determined between Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
“Unless somebody finds something between now and Saturday, I think we’re going to see that they’re going to play between themselves,” he said.
Paul Tracy logged the second-fastest lap of the day at 226.322 m.p.h. in the No. 15 GEICO/KV Racing Technology car. The former Champ Car World Series champion had to sit out much of Wednesday’s practice in order to save his team’s alloted amount of tires. Going into the half-month of May, part-time drivers such as Tracy had seven less sets of tires than full-time drivers. But shortly after Wednesday’s session, the IRL announced that part-time programs could buy up to seven extra sets of Firestones — which made PT more than a little bit annoyed.
But despite his agitation over the tire issue, he was still pleased with Thursday’s run.
“I had a great day today,” said Tracy. ”Tony [Kanaan] gave me a big tow today and gave me a quick lap. It feels good to be back in the paddock and part of something. It’s frustrating to sit out.”
Hideki Mutoh had another great practice session in the No. 06 Newman/Haas entry. After going fourth-fastest on Wednesday, the Japanese driver was third-best on Thursday with a lap at 226.230 m.p.h. But while Mutoh’s pace is solid, it also seems there still some work to do before Saturday.
“We had good speed for qualifying, but balance-wise I struggled,” he said. ”We need to work on a better setup for Pole Day. It was very windy, and sometimes, the wind wasn’t very consistent. It was changing directions and sometimes, stronger than others. It was very inconsistent, so it was hard to keep the same line, especially after we trimmed the car a little. It was tough to attack consistently for four laps.”
Marco Andretti, a definite contender for the “Fast Nine” pole shootout, was fourth-quickest in the No. 26 Venom Energy/Andretti Autosport car by putting up a lap at 226.108 m.p.h. Dan Wheldon of Panther Racing also continued his solid practice efforts by going P5 (226.106 m.p.h.) in the No. 4 National Guard special.
Quotes and materials from league press releases were used in the making of this article.