Scott Dixon raised the speed limit on “Fast Friday” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, turning the fastest lap of the week – 233.302 mph – in the final full day of practice before Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend for the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
It was the second day this week that six-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Dixon topped the speed charts, as he also was fastest Wednesday in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
“The team was really fast,” said Dixon, who also gained the advantage of drawing first in the qualifying order. “I think any time one of the Ganassi cars went out, they improved and improved in a big way.
“It was really tough out there today. Just really tough to get a clear track. I know it’s difficult. I know everybody wants to try to get a (qualifying simulation) run.”
Qualifying takes place from noon-5:50 p.m. (ET) Saturday, with positions 1-30 secured (noon-6 p.m., Peacock; 2-3 p.m., NBC; 3-6 p.m., NBCSN). On Sunday, the Fast Nine Shootout will determine the NTT P1 Award for pole and the order of the first three rows, and Last Chance Qualifying will determine which three of the five remaining cars will complete the starting field for the May 30 race.
Today was the first day of the event with elevated boost levels in the engine turbochargers, which continues through Saturday and Sunday for Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying. The additional boost added between 80 and 90 horsepower and increased speeds 8 mph from Thursday.
2008 Indy 500 winner Dixon’s top lap came with the benefit of an aerodynamic tow, which drivers won’t get in single-car qualifying this weekend. 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi was the fastest driver running alone on the 2.5-mile oval, marking him as a favorite to win the NTT P1 Award for pole Sunday. Rossi’s best no-tow lap today was 231.598 mph in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.
“I only I think (I got) just one four-lap (qualifying simulation) run because people kept jumping out or whatever,” Rossi said. “It’s always interesting on days like this when you have an unfriendly wind in Turn 2. For whatever reason, Turn 2 is hard. I don’t know if the air is different over there.”
All the top five overall speeds today came in a tow from traffic. Colton Herta was second at 232.784 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, while 2013 Indy winner Tony Kanaan – fastest Thursday – was third at 232.690 in the No. 48 The American Legion Honda.
Marcus Ericsson was fourth at 232.531 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Alex Palou helped Honda-powered drivers sweep the top five spots on the speed chart, clocking in fifth at 232.155 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Rossi has been among the fastest no-tow drivers each day this week, so his perch atop that list today came as little surprise. Other drivers to watch this weekend based on their speeds without aerodynamic help include Graham Rahal, second today on the no-tow list at 231.518 in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, and Pato O’Ward, third among the no-tows at 231.510 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
O’Ward and Rossi also were fast in traffic today. O’Ward’s best lap in the draft was 232.034, good for sixth overall. Rossi’s top tow lap was 231.863, seventh overall.
“There’s always surprises,” Rossi said when asked to predict qualifying. “I think this year has proved that correctly across all the races, right? How many races have we had, four or five? Five races, five winners. I think that’s a testament to the series, the level of all these teams and guys. The guy that’s going to be on pole is really anyone’s guess.”
A one-hour pre-qualifying practice, with the field separated into two 30-minute groups will take place from 9:30-10:30 a.m. (Peacock)