The statement was made repeatedly over the past three days: Marco Andretti is a threat to capture the Indianapolis 500 pole this weekend.
The suddenly 33-year-old third-generation driver is no longer the fresh-faced prodigy that nearly won the 2006 Greatest Spectacle in Racing but he has looked every bit the part through three days of practice this week.
Andretti paced the final practice session before this weekend’s time trials with a top lap of 38.5454 seconds at 233.491 mph in the No. 98 Herta Andretti Honda. It was the fastest practice lap recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Arie Luyendyk recorded a 239.260 mph lap on May 10, 1996.
With the turboboosters turned up from 1.3-bar to 1.5-bar in advance of the weekend, Andretti was the quickest of 23 drivers who posted top speeds in excess of 230 mph.
Andretti conceded he had was aided by a slight draft ahead of him but is confident that he will have a shot to break into the Fast Nine on Saturday and compete for a pole on Sunday.
“Yeah, it was a good day,” Andretti said. “We were actually really focused on getting laps alone. Somebody actually pulled out in front of us, so I figured I’d run with the tow, make Mario (Andretti) happy.
“Other than that, I think we had a pretty solid four-lap run. That’s what I care about for tomorrow. I’m a little bummed because we just drew 28th out of 33. The temps are not going to be ideal for my run. Hopefully we’re fast enough to get in the top nine. That’s the only goal for tomorrow. Then go for the pole on Sunday.”
Andretti recorded the eighth quickest four lap average on Friday as well:
1. Ryan HunterReay 231.263
2. Marcus Ericsson 231.233
3. Graham Rahal 231.057
4. Scott Dixon 230.840
5. James Hinchcliffe 230.823
6. Will Power 230.201
7. Takuma Sato 230.057
8. Marco Andretti 230.057
9. Colton Herta 230.014
10. Rinus Veekay 229.935
Will Power finished the afternoon 21st on the overall charts and eighth on the four lap average and the 2018 race winner and 2014 NTT INDYCAR Series champion isn’t confident that he will be amongst those competing for the pole this weekend.
“I don’t think we have that ultimate speed of some of the Honda cars,” Power said. “We have a consistent car. Yeah, it wasn’t massive changes, nothing that would change the speed of the car. If anything, we did things that would slow it down as far as adding some more downforce.
“It’s just going to be real interesting tomorrow when everyone is in the same condition with no cars on track, no tow, to see where we truly do stack up. My feeling is that we’ll be lucky to get in the top nine. That’s how I feel. I think there’s just a lot of fast cars out there right now. I think the only thing on our side is maybe we can hold a lap time longer. That’s the saving grace.”
To Power’s point, the Hondas and especially those affiliated with Andretti look like the cars to beat to get inside the top-nine. All six Andretti Autosport drivers posted top-15 laps times. Chip Ganassi Racing Honda drivers Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon posted top four-lap average speeds. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda drivers Graham Rahal, Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato were prominent on both speed charts.
“Our roll-off cars were good,” Andretti said. “Honda brought it this year. We were kind of holding our breaths, hoping Chevy didn’t have that extra turn up. Maybe they are for tomorrow, we’ll see.
“Yeah, I mean, basically we would have to screw it up right now to hopefully not be in the top nine, even with a bad draw. That’s the goal.”
Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso returned to the track today after his collision with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4 on Thursday in his ARROW McLaren SP No. 66 Chevrolet. He was 25th fastest overall with a 229.788 mph.
Qualifications begin with a 11 a.m.-4:50 p.m. session on Saturday. The nine fastest four lap averages will advance into Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout from 1:15-2:15 p.m. on Sunday. That session will determine the pole and the first nine starting positions for next Sunday’s race.
NBC will air the final two hours of qualifications with everything prior airing on the NBC Sports INDYCAR Gold Pass streaming platform.
The quickest single lap speeds can be found below.
1.Marco Andretti 233.491 Honda Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian
2. Conor Daly 232.337 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay 232.124 Honda Andretti Autosport
4. Spencer Pigot 232.116 Honda RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport
5. Scott Dixon 232.028 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
6. James Hinchcliffe 231.967 HondaAndretti Autosport
7. Alexander Rossi 231.859Honda Andretti Autosport
8. Marcus Ericsson 231.763Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
9. Jack Harvey 231.600 Honda Meyer Shank Racing
10. Zach Veach 231.190 Honda Andretti Autosport
11. Colton Herta 231.090 Honda Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport
12. Takuma Sato 230.637 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
13. Pato O’Ward 230.581 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
14. Alex Palou 230.469 Honda Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh
15. Felix Rosenqvist 230.432 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
16. Graham Rahal 230.412 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
17. Simon Pagenaud 230.189 Chevy Team Penske
18. Santino Ferrucci 230.154 Honda Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
19. Rinus VeeKay 230.129 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
20. Oliver Askew 230.055 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
21. Will Power 229.650 Chevy Team Penske
22. Ed Carpenter 229.563 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
23. Tony Kanaan 229.462 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
24. Josef Newgarden 229.205Chevy Team Penske
25. Dalton Kellett 228.581 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
26. Helio Castroneves 228.423 ChevyTeam Penske
27. JR Hildebrand 228.275 Chevy Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
28. Sage Karam 228.187 Chevy Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
29. Fernando Alonso 228.092Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
30. Charlie Kimball 227.480Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
31. Max Chilton 227.233 Chevy Carlin
32. James Davison 225.394 Honda Dale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware Racing/Byrd/Belardi
33. Ben Hanley 218.96 Chevy DragonSpeed USA
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