In the only practice session for this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 – two races of 250 laps each – the rookies and first-time entrants in an IndyCar at the 1.25-mile oval got half an hour in which O’Ward turned 13 laps to set a 177.072mph lap to head Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh’s Alex Palou.
“We put a lot of very valuable work in that session,” O’Ward said. “We did everything we wanted to do to prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying and race. There’s so many little things that go into it that make a perfect race, so we want to make the best out of it.
“This Arrow McLaren SP crew gave us some really strong cars to roll out with, and I think it was just fine tuning from there. I ended the day really happy, and I think we will be ready for qualifying tomorrow.”
His top effort put the 2018 Indy Lights champion more than 0.5mph clear of Power who turned more laps than anyone except Palou.
“We ran a lot and did some pretty long runs there to understand the car,” said Power. “We didn’t have to change much because the Verizon Chevrolet was pretty good out of the box. I think we are pretty good, but I also ran a lot by myself. So, I’m not really sure where we are at in a pack. But overall, I’m happy with what we had today.”
Dixon made a late surge up to P3 in the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda to unseat Conor Daly who is back in the Carlin-Chevy this weekend, trying to emulate the short-oval performance we saw from this combo in Iowa, where he took his and Carlin’s first IndyCar pole.
“I think we’re in a really good place with the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet for the races this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. We went out and did our qual sim pretty early in the session, and then the track just continued to get quicker as practice went on. We knew that was going to be the case, but we wanted to make sure we worked through everything we needed to with only one practice session.
“The tire seems to be a little different and it’s creating a different feel, but obviously we’re still quick, which is nice. It feels really good to roll off the truck again with a quick car, and so far it’s really just been an incredible effort by the Carlin team. I love this track so much, and with how strong we were here last year and how the car felt today, I’m feeling really good about where we are.”
Now two-time Indy 500 champion and defending WWTR winner Takuma Sato slotted in fifth for Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda while Jack Harvey of Meyer Shank Racing was sixth.
Palou held on to finish seventh fifth after going past the 100-lap barrier, but the Coyne team will be relying a lot on his feedback since teammate Santino Ferrucci – who led much of last year’s race here – suffered a mechanical fault and was towed back to the garage.
Qualifying begins at 11am local (Central) time tomorrow and will be run as per Iowa. Each car gets a two-lap run, everyone’s first lap deciding the grid for Saturday’s race, the second deciding the grid for Sunday’s round.