Andretti Autosport‘s Conor Daly took the fastest lap of the day in fast Friday practice for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. The American, only taking part in this race in this season of the NTT IndyCar Series, took the fastest lap right at the end of the session, benefitting from cooling track conditions and a slipstream from a car ahead.
Daly’s fastest lap in his #25 Honda would be a staggering 231.704-mph, with the speeds higher than the last few days on account of the increased boost for today’s session; replicating the levels that the drivers will have in qualifying this weekend. Daly said earlier in the day that he wanted to go as fast as possible to make a statement, as he continues to hope for a good result in next weekend’s race to put himself back in the shop window for a full-time IndyCar drive.
Daly’s lap in the last ten minutes of the day would displace team-mate Marco Andretti, who held the fastest time for pretty much the entire day. He was the first driver to reach the 230-mph mark in the morning, setting a 230.851-mph lap. He would hold on to set the second-fastest time of the day, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato just behind in third with a lap of 230.755-mph.
For the fourth day of practice out of four, it was a strong showing from the trio of Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets. With the two days of qualifying beginning tomorrow, much of the focus was on single-car runs. With thirty-six cars lapping the circuit, clean air was at a premium, but Ed Jones was able to get in a clean lap to top the no-tow leaderboard. His clean lap was a stunning 230.106-mph run, with other drivers in the field, including Tony Kanaan, stating that Jones’ lap was really fast.
What’s more, Jones’ no-tow lap was enough to put him tenth on the board by the end of the day. He was also backed up team-mate and team boss Ed Carpenter, who was just behind him on the no-tow list with a lap of 229.879-mph.
In third place on the no-tow list was the #27 Andretti Honda of Alexander Rossi. He set a best-unassisted lap of 229.878-mph, but perhaps more importantly, he was consistent across four-lap qualifying simulations; with his laps not dropping off as the run went on. Consistency is key in qualifying at Indianapolis. You can have a mega opening lap, but if you drop off over the course of the run, you won’t be in the fast-nine shoot-out for pole position.
A number of other drivers also showed great speed over the course of the day, albeit some with the assistance of a slipstream. Notably, inside the top ten by the end of the day was Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball, who jumped up into eighth place in the final hour of the day. He finished the day a couple of places behind Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had a scary moment earlier on when a rear-suspension mishap almost saw him slap the wall between turns one and two.
It was an inconspicuous day for the early pace-setters this week, Team Penske. Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner, Simon Pagenaud continued to lead the way, perhaps showing a renewed confidence following his win last Saturday. He took the seventh fastest-time, with team-mate Josef Newgarden a couple of places further back in ninth-place. Will Power took eleventh place in his #12 Chevrolet, with the final car of Helio Castroneves much further back in eighteenth; having sampled his team-mate’s front wings during the session.
Strong runs also came from the likes of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing‘s Sage Karam, despite an odd moment during the day where the team elected to put his team-mate, J.R. Hildebrand, behind the wheel of Karam’s #24 car to check everything was running okay; perhaps suggesting that Karam was not confident in the car. He soon rectified this, however, running a 229.932-mph lap to take the thirteenth best time of the day.
Two rookies also had relatively strong days. Santino Ferrucci showed decent speed in the #19 Dale Coyne Racing car, with his lap of 229.577-mph putting him nineteenth at the end of the day, just ahead of twentieth-placed Marcus Ericsson; who is quietly getting on well in his build-up to the race.
After three days of limited or no running, Fernando Alonso finally had a solid day in the #66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet. The team spent much of the day building Alonso back up to speed following his crash on Wednesday, but the car ran without issue for much of the day, jumping up to twenty-fourth in the final minutes of the day with a best lap of 229.328-mph. The team still need to find some speed with no tow before qualifying tomorrow, however, if they want to avoid being in the bottom six that will fight it out for the final three spots on the grid on Sunday.
It was a similar day of recovery for both Felix Rosenqvist and Patricio O’Ward following their crashes earlier in the week. Felix would take the thirtieth-fastest time of the day, with O’Ward further back in thirty-fourth after switching over to the back-up Carlin Chevrolet; which was previously one of Max Chilton‘s road course cars.
Sadly, Juncos Racing‘s Kyle Kaiser became the fourth driver to crash in the month of May so far. The American got loose in turn three early on in the day and smacked the outside wall side-on. The car would briefly lift up into the air and tip upside-down, but the car would thankfully avoid fully rolling over and would come to rest back on its wheels.
Understandably, given the speed, the #32 Juncos Chevrolet was destroyed in the accident. With the team running on a shoestring budget and with no sponsors so far this month, the crash was the last thing they needed. The team bought in their mechanics from their IMSA and Indy Pro 2000 teams to help prepare their spare car for qualifying tomorrow, but the crash could seriously impact their hopes to make the field; a great shame, given the pace they showed earlier in the week.
Heading into tomorrow, the drivers will have one final practice session before qualifying begins. After the day is done, positions ten through to thirty will be locked-in, with the fastest-nine running again on Sunday for pole position. The slowest six will battle it out for the final three spots on the grid, with the slowest three being eliminated from the field and forced to watch the race from the sidelines.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 – Practice four top twelve results:
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Full results of practice can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5562/2019-05-17/indycar-results-p4.pdf