Dreyer & Reinbold Racing‘s Sage Karam has finished the penultimate day of 2018 Indianapolis 500 practice as the fastest driver on the time-sheets. The #24 Chevrolet driver set the benchmark early and remained on top for the rest of the session, but times were not the concern as the drivers and the teams of the Verizon IndyCar Series focused on race setups for their cars.
With the qualifying weekend out of the way, the boost on the cars was turned down ready for the second to last practice session ahead of the Indy 500. This meant that the average lap speeds would be much lower than we saw on Saturday and Sunday. The entire focus of the session was race-simulations and setup work. Drivers ran in close packs for the entirety of the session as they tried to improve how their cars ran in the dirty air of those ahead of them on track.
What made the session even busier was the shortened track time. The session was scheduled to be just three and a half hours long, half the length of the practice sessions held last week. What’s more, today’s running was reduced even more due to a rain delay at the beginning of the session, followed by numerous track inspections throughout. This meant that actual track time was reduced to just under three hours.
When the track finally opened for business, Karam very quickly hit the top of the time-sheets. He would set a lap of 226.461-mph – with the help of the slipstream of cars ahead of him – a lap that would not be matched for the rest of the day. Karam also completed seventy-one laps of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with his team deciding to end the day earlier than most after deciding that they had learned all that they were going to learn.
Veteran Tony Kanaan jumped up to second in the closing five minutes of the day. He would not be able to join Karam in the 226-mph range, setting a 225.123-mph average in the #14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Enterprises. Andretti Autosport‘s Ryan Hunter-Reay was just behind in third place.
Charlie Kimball ran seventy-nine laps en-route to the fourth fastest time in the #23 Carlin Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi was fifth place as he began heavily working on his race setup, hoping to carve through the field when he starts from thirty-second place on Sunday.
The driver who completed the most laps during the session was Team Penske‘s Will Power, closely followed by team-mate Helio Castroneves. The pair were sixth and seventh fastest, completing 120 and 119 laps respectively. Having now completed over half a race distance worth of laps in conditions that will be close to what they experience in the race, both Will and Helio will be hoping to use the experience to their advantage on Sunday.
Marco Andretti and rookie Zachary Claman De Melo were eighth and ninth fastest, with Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon completing the top ten.
Further back, seventeenth placed Graham Rahal ran 115 laps in his #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. After an absence of speed throughout the month so far, he will be hoping that what he learned in today’s practice session will set him back on the right track for race day.
Matheus Leist was sidelined for much of the day’s running after his A.J. Foyt Enterprises team discovered an electrical fault on his #4 Chevrolet. After spending almost the entire session working on the car, the mechanics managed to get the rookie out on track for the final half hour of running; with the team determined to give Leist some more running in a pack of cars under his belt before Sunday. He would finish the day eighteenth, but with only nineteen laps completed.
Leist was not the driver with the least amount of laps completed, however. That sad stat went to fellow rookie Robert Wickens. The #6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver was on just his third lap when he tagged the wall on the exit of turn two with the right-rear of his car. He managed to gather the car up to progress further down the back straight, only for an unconfirmed part of the right-rear to suddenly fail and pitch him hard into the wall.
The two impacts with the wall heavily damaged the Chevrolet, but thankfully Wickens was unhurt and climbed from the car with no injuries. It has been a tough few days for the SPM team, with James Hinchcliffe‘s shock failure to qualify for the race and now today’s crash for Wickens, but the team tweeted after the incident that they were “resilient” and would not give up.
Just one day of practice remains before the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. The teams and drivers will have to wait until “Carb Day” on Friday for their next on-track action, with the race taking place just two days later on Sunday, May 27.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 – Practice seven – Top twelve results:
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Full time-sheets for the penultimate day of Indy 500 practice can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5326/2018-05-21/indycar-results-p8.pdf