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Indy 500 practice notebook: Fast Friday/Saturday Morning

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Credit: Justin Walsh/Penske Entertainment

The first week of Indy 500 practice is in the books, and that means qualifying is here. All cars received an extra 100 horsepower boost on Friday in order to prepare for the first day of qualifying. Some handled it better than others, with the Chevrolet teams finding themselves with more speed than those running Honda engines.

Last year’s race winner Josef Newgarden proved fastest over a four-lap qualifying simulation, going an average of 234.260 miles per hour in his mid-day run. That would’ve put him on pole over Alex Palou’s record-setting speed in qualifying last year. Despite his speed, Newgarden is still unsure of what that says for his chances this weekend and the next:

Qualifying is still one thing. It shows general car speed. But you can’t ever get ahead of yourself here. That’s been my experience the last 12 years running at this place that stuff surprises you. There’s so many good quality teams and drivers that I just don’t think you can ever feel too confident and comfortable.

His Team Penske teammates weren’t too far behind. Scott McLaughlin posted a lap at 234.102, which was good enough for fourth, with Will Power trailing behind in sixth. Overall, cars with Chevy engines proved themselves faster than the Honda cars by a decent margin.

Chip Ganassi spoke on Honda’s shortcomings on Saturday morning, saying “We used to be the best Honda. We’re not even that right now.Marcus Armstrong posted CGR’s fastest no-tow lap at 231.954 mph, which placed him 23rd on the speed charts. Saturday’s morning session saw mostly Hondas out on track, with many trying to make last-second improvements before qualifying, including all five Ganassi cars.

Credit: James Black/Penske Entertainment

Kyle Larson improved from his first few days of practice, running 34 total laps on Friday and posting the second-fastest lap of the day at 234.271 mph. The current NASCAR points leader said he felt a lot more comfortable on track, even with the boost:

It didn’t feel way different, so I was happy about that. I think our car balance was in a comfortable spot, too, that allowed me to be a little bit calmer in the car, where I think if I would have went out there and felt on the limit of the rear tires, then yeah, I would have felt like I probably going way faster.

Dale Coyne Racing rookie Nolan Siegel hit the Turn 2 wall hard just over an hour into the day, violently flipping over on the roof of his No. 18 and skidding along the backstretch before coming to a halt. While Siegel was uninjured, his team will have to go to a backup car. However, that backup car isn’t set up for ovals. It was last used a week ago on the Indianapolis road course, when it was driven by Jack Harvey. Siegel finished 32nd out of 34 on the speed charts on Friday.

2023 polesitter Alex Palou went out for a run during the mid-afternoon, but before he could log a lap at speed, a puff of smoke from the engine ended his run, forcing an engine change on the No. 10 Honda. His team completed the change, and the reigning series champion ended up posting the 24th-fastest time of the day at 232.135 mph.

With Fast Friday in the books, teams will have a seven-hour window starting at 11 on Saturday. to make a four-lap qualifying attempt. Once all 34 drivers have made an attempt, teams can attempt once more, with an additional “priority” lane opening up, given the team withdraws its previous qualifying speed. This will determine starting positions 13-30 for Sunday’s race. Spots 1-12 and 31-33 will be determined on Sunday.

Peacock will have coverage of qualifying starting at 11.

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Born and raised in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Gabe joined the TCF team in 2023 to cover the IndyCar Series. He currently studies Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University. You can follow him on Twitter @gabe_perrin.
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