Andretti ripped off a lap of 220.963 mph in his RC Cola Dallara/Chevy during Thursday’s open test — nine mph quicker than Emerson Fittipaldi’s mark of 211.715 set in 1989 — around the tricky tri-oval during seven hours of practice on a track that hasn’t hosted Indy cars in 24 years.
“I think this just became my favorite race track,” said the third generation driver. “I think IndyCar did a great job with the aero package and Firestone with its tire choice.
“I think it’s going to be a helluva show because you’ll have guys on opposite ends of the downforce level.”
Concern was raised a week before when teams testing here blistered right-side tires but there were no problems as 24 cars turned 1,908 laps on a gorgeous afternoon.
“They’re a little harder compound and everything was fine, no issues,” said Ed Carpenter, fourth fastest in the Fuzzy’s Dallara/Chevy at 218.778 mph.
Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who is trying to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown, looked up to the challenge as he logged the second best speed of 219.802 mph in the Sunoco Turbo Dallara/Chevrolet.
“It took me a few laps to get the hang of this place because it’s pretty tricky but I like the layout a lot,” said Kanaan. “Turn 1 will be the key for qualifying but Turn 3 will be more important in the race and if you can stay flat through there it gives you a good chance to pass on that long straightaway.
“I think we’ll have a good car for the race, that’s what counts.”
Point leader Helio Castroneves was third fastest at 219.123 mph in the Hitachi Dallara/Chevy, followed by Carpenter and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
As has been the trend, Chevrolet-powered cars led the way as Scott Dixon was the quickest Honda at 218.221 mph.
“I think there’s going to be plenty of passing, I just hope it’s not Chevys passing Hondas,” said the two-time IndyCar champion with a chuckle.