The second day of practice for the Indianapolis 500 threw plenty of variables at the 32 drivers who turned laps on Thursday.
Rolling out at the 11 a.m., most drivers took turns drafting in cooler conditions – and in some cases, experimented with qualifying simulations despite running standard boost levels. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato held the best lap for most of the day (225.693mph) in his No. 30 Honda, and it stood for all but 15 minutes of the 6.5 hours of running as ambient temperatures continued to rise and teams piled on downforce to compensate for the thinner air.
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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon used an end-of-day draft to knock Sato from the overall lead (226.102mph) in the No. 9 Honda. Sato managed to remain second, and like Dixon, Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti was another late exception who went quickly in the hotter, slower conditions.
He shot to third overall (225.249mph) with the No. 98 Honda in a tow during the final hour of practice. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly was an early pacesetter, going fourth (225.106mph) in his No. 47 Chevy. He was followed by two drivers who leapt towards the front as Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Palou took fifth with the No. 55 Honda (224.971mph) and Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta (224.648mph) claimed sixth in the No. 88 Honda.
“Today, we made some minor changes and tried to figure out some different balances,” Dixon said. “We’re also focusing on how the car feels. The No. 8 car had some changes yesterday that (teammate Marcus Ericsson) liked and we tried them, but I’m on the fence. We’re just running through those variations and trying to run in as much traffic as possible and get the car as comfortable as possible for the race. It’s good to have three cars to learn from, but it’s also about trying to learn what each driver feels differently.
“Everyone can be picky in certain areas or have attention to detail on something the other driver doesn’t really care about. What Marcus feels might not equate to something that I like. All of the information is fantastic and that is what we’re trying to feed off and get a pattern going of what somebody likes and we know the conversion. We’re really just working hard on race setup. We’ve had a lot of options to work through and we also wanted to run some of the things the other two cars have tried. We also worked on finding traffic today to see how the car would respond.”
Sato liked what he felt ahead of tomorrow’s switch to high turbocharger boost as teams prepare for this weekend’s qualifying sessions.
“I think I’m pretty happy going into Fast Friday tomorrow,” Sato said. “If you can have a good (chassis) balance, you can trim (downforce). But highly unlikely you can trim all the way down. Now we’ll go the same, or faster than last year into Turn 1. It’s going to be challenging.”
On the no-tow list, which only counts laps turned without the benefit of drafting, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey was fastest in the No. 60 Honda (222.123mph), followed by Herta (221.895mph) and his Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay (221.777mph) in the No. 28 Honda, giving Andretti and MSR’s Andretti-affiliated entries a 1-2-3 with no assistance.
With drivers trying all manner of downforce options in race simulation running, one driver was caught out as Arrow McLaren SP’s Fernando Alonso crashed the No. 66 Chevy. The Spaniard was uninjured and the team should have no issues repairing the car for the open of Friday morning’s practice.
DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley, the 33rd driver in the field, was set to run on his own at the conclusion of practice in the No. 81 Chevy to satisfy his refresher laps needed to gain clearance for taking part in practice and qualifying.