Big names top speed charts in final practice for Indy 500

Will Power leads Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon during practice for the Indianapolis 500. All three placed in the top 10 in final practice.

Phillip Abbott

INDIANAPOLIS – There are a lot of traditions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis 500 pole winner Scott Dixon continued his by having one of the fastest speeds for Friday’s final practice session for the 99th Indianapolis 500.

Dixon was the second fastest with a lap at 228.585 miles per hour in a Chevrolet – faster than any of his four qualification laps from last Sunday. The only driver faster was defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who ran a lap at 229.020 miles per hour in the Team Penske Verizon Chevrolet.

“I think it’s been different reasons at different times,” Dixon said of his propensity to find speed on what is known as Carb Day. “I think with the Honda, that one year was definitely a shock for a lot of people. I think this month we’ve generally been pretty fast. The car’s had a lot of speed in it. You haven’t had to wait for the perfect tow. You can tag onto something and it’s going to put up big numbers.

“It doesn’t mean a whole lot just because of the style of racing now unfortunately with the draft being so big. It’s not like you’re going to pull away or anything like that. I think everybody on the team has done a good job. The car seems to be pretty fast. It’s better to have the speed in hand than not have it at all. That’s a good positive.”

Both drivers are quite confident heading into Sunday’s Indy 500, crediting a massive “tow” for their fast laps.

“It’s just a big draft,” Power explained. “It’s more about how you can get through traffic than anything. You know, we’ll see on Sunday. The further back you get in a train, the harder it is. There are quite a few good cars out there that are going to make their way to the front. I think our plan is just to try to stay up there all day.

“I think at that point you’re pretty set on what you’re going to run. You’re just kind of doing little tweaks here and there, pit stop practice, practicing coming into the pit off four. It’s just those types of things, getting in the groove for the race.”

Power ran 46 laps in the one-hour practice session and Dixon ran 44. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves ran the most laps in the one-hour practice session with 52.

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There were 1,195 laps run by all 33 drivers in the starting line in the one hour of practice. There were no incidents, so all 33 cars are ready to go for Sunday’s big race.

Power believes the winner of the race can come anywhere on the grid “because you can’t get away.

“In the old car, you could get away, so track position was really important,” Power continued. “Now you sit half throttle on the straights. Last year, no one would pass me. Leading felt like one of the biggest mistakes of the race because you had to pit earlier and you get shuffled back.

“That’s the game until Lap 150, literally one stop to go, you’re going to be playing that game. It’s a real pity because it used to be about car speed and driving well. If you get a good car, you can actually do a good job and pull away in the old days. Now you’re a sitting duck if you’re leading basically.”

Although the Chevrolet Aero Kit appears to have the advantage in competition during the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Power believes the Honda cars are a little difficult to run behind and find speed.

“The Hondas are difficult to draft, very clean through the air,” Power said. “I think they find the same with us. It’s just different airflow off the car, so it doesn’t draft as well. You have to draft your own manufacturer.

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“It will be interesting. Honda, they turn up on race day some days when you think they’ve struggled all month with a really fast car and engine. You just kind of expect them not to be here. Justin Wilson is as quick as Honda. I think they’ll be up there battling.”

Power is the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion; Dixon is a three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner. Another big name was third fastest – 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who also won the 2004 IndyCar title. Kanaan’s fast lap was 228.490 mph in a Chevrolet.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was fourth at 228.458 mph in a Chevy and Honda’s fastest driver was fifth-place Takuma Sato’s 228.242 mph.

USAC driver Bryan Clauson was the slowest of the 33 with a fast lap at 222.098 mph.

Although three of the biggest names in the sport were up front on Friday, Dixon warned there are many others to consider on Sunday.

“I think there’s a lot more than us, that’s for sure,” Dixon said. “I think obviously Team Target and Penske do a fabulous job with all the entries they have. With the group of our cars, we’re definitely at the point end of the field, which is good to see for the group of us.

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“But it’s warm-up. It depends a lot on the tow that you get. People are lifting, all that kind of jazz anyway. Take what you want out of it, but I think we accomplished what we needed to with the few basic setup changes, wings, things like that. The car felt comfortable.

“It’s just another day of waiting, or another two days of waiting. I’m read to definitely get this thing kicked off.”

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Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.