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Turbo Boost Sends Cars To ‘Warp Speed’ At Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2018

Marco Andretti sweeps through Turn 4 at Indy en route to a 231-mph lap on Friday. (INDYCAR photo by Walt Kuhn)

Additional turbocharger boost sent practice speeds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the 230 mph barrier _ aka warp speed _ during Fast Friday, the eve of two days of qualifications for the 102nd edition of the Indianapolis 500.

Third-generation driver Marco Andretti topped the chart for the second time this week with a lap of 00:38.8262-seconds/231.802 mph around the 2.5-mile oval in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda. That circuit _ Marco’s 10th of 31 during the session _ earned the Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian driver a $10,000 check from Harding Group for turning the hottest Fast Friday lap.

“I’m just focused on trying to be quickest every time out, and I’ll smile when I’m quickest every time out,” said Andretti, the son of team-owner Michael Andretti and grandson of 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti. “We’ve been feeling good actually, pretty good in traffic, which obviously the tow time shows that, and the car is close in race trim. I don’t know how much better we can get it. But qual trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the top nine to be honest.

“And I think it’s going to take us to nail it to get it in, as with probably five or six other guys, we’re going to be right there with them. I think it’s going to be all about a third and fourth lap, and we’re just going to have to nail it and do everything right to get it in. Hopefully we can.”

Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indy 500 champion and team-owner Bobby Rahal, was fastest of 35 drivers on Thursday with an early lap of 226.047 mph in his No. 15  Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. On Wednesday, Andretti took Honda to the top of the speed chart with a lap of 227.053 mph.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud set the pace for the Chevrolet camp in Tuesday’s opening practices with a best lap of 225.787 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet.

“Obviously, it‘s very important to win the race, but the month is a rollercoaster,” said Andretti, who finished second to Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. as an Indy 500 rookie in 2006. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 13 years here, you just have to be prepared for the rollercoaster. You look at Graham, he’s No. 1 yesterday, he’s struggling today. I could be struggling tomorrow. That’s the way it works.

“We just need to maximize every time out there, take it corner by corner and hopefully make the right decision at the right time. This place, it always helps to catch the circumstances right, as well. Not only in qualifying but over the course of the 500 miles, it (the Speedway) picks the winner, right? We seem to have enough speed to play, so we just need the rest to work out.”

Robert Wickens, a Verizon IndyCar Series rookie, was second-fastest with a lap of 231.732 mph in the No. 6 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. And team-owner/driver Ed Carpenter was third on the sheet at 231.066 mph in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

“I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here,” Wickens said. “Fast Friday is for qualifying (simulation runs) and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am.

“Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re OK by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for tomorrow.”

Sanctioning body INDYCAR’s rules for qualifying permit an increase in engine turbocharger boost of 100 millibars, equating to about 50 added horsepower. With the same boost level a year ago, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and four-time series champion, claimed the Verizon P1 Award for pole with a four-lap/10-mile average speed of 232.793 mph.

The added turbo boost will be in effect through the two days of qualifications. While the top lap speeds Friday also benefited from the aerodynamic tow of cars running ahead, the all-important no-tow list saw a jump in speeds as well. That list was led by Team Penske’s fulltime, three-driver lineup.

Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, topped the no-tow chart at 229.780 mph in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Josef Newgarden, the reigning series champ and point-leader after five of 17 races this season, was second on the no-tow list at 228.994 mph in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, was third among no-tow lappers at 228.857 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I think the No. 12 Verizon Chevy is definitely in a good window,” said Power, third all-time with 51 career Indy car poles, but none in the Indy 500. “I think, obviously, we’re fast. I know there’s a lot of guys up there. I think it’s going to be very tight tomorrow.”

The fourth Team Penske driver at the Indy 500, three-time winner Helio Castroneves, was 12th on the overall speed chart (229.122 mph) and 11th on the no-tow list (227.895 mph) in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Danica Patrick, competing in the final race of her gender-breaking motorsports career, was 20th on the overall list but seventh in no-tow laps (228.284 mph) in the No. 13 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.

“The car was really good on the first run,” said Patrick, the 2005 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. “We did a step of trim and it was a little bit loose the second run, but still pretty good and definitely fast. We just decided to, as they say, make a couple tweaks and put a cover on it and go out tomorrow.”

With 35 drivers entered, bumping into the field of 33 could come into play for the first time for Indy 500 qualifications since 2011. Dale Coyne Racing rookie Zachary Claman De Melo is expected to be the first qualifier on Saturday following the traditional blind draw for positions held after the completion of Friday’s practice. Patrick would be 15th to qualify and Power 30th.

Saturday’s qualifying will determine the 33 cars that will start the race _ but not the grid order. The fastest nine on Saturday will be locked into Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout to decide the pole and grid positions for the first three rows. The 10th- through 33rd-fastest qualifiers on Saturday will make another four-lap/10-mile run on Sunday to determine those starting positions.

The lone incident in Friday’s practice occurred when James Davison spun exiting Turn 2 and made hard left-side contact with the SAFER Barrier in his No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s Chevrolet. Davison was uninjured, but the Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi entry sustained significant damage that will need to be repaired overnight if he hopes to qualify on Saturday.

Davison wasn’t certain what led to the crash. “I guess I became one of the drivers to slam the wall at Indianapolis, so I joined the club today,” the 31-year-old Australian said. “Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we had to try some things. We’re 32nd quickest, right on the bubble and we are not going to go faster just standing there and looking at it, so no regrets there.

“We’ll regroup, see what we can pull out of the bag tomorrow and give it everything again.”

Pre-qualifying practice is scheduled from 8-9:30 a.m. (EDT) Saturday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.comyoutube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying will air from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on WatchESPN, with the final two hours broadcast on ABC-TV from 4-6 p.m.

Sunday’s qualifying is available from 2:30-4 p.m. on WatchESPN and then from 4-6 p.m., also on ABC.

The 102nd Indianapolis 500 will air live beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 27, on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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INDYCAR’s new Dallara universal aero kit is the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Louis Schwitzer Award. Four men instrumental in the design and development of the universal kit were cited Friday at IMS. Tino Belli, INDYCAR’s director of aerodynamic development who spearheaded the program, was honored along with Andrea Toso and Antonio Montanari of Dallara, INDYCAR’s chassis and aero kit manufacturer, and Chris Beatty, whose conceptual aero kit designs were significant every step of the development process.

The Schwitzer award is presented by BorgWarner and the Indiana Section of the Society of Automotive Engineers. It includes a $10,000 prize, as well as having recipients’ names added to a trophy listing all winners dating to the first presentation in 1967.

The Schwitzer Award recognizes individuals for innovation and engineering excellence in racing technology associated with the Indianapolis 500. It memorializes Louis Schwitzer, winner of the first auto race at IMS in 1909 and designer of the “Marmon Yellow Jacket” engine that powered the Marmon Wasp to victory at the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

“This award is for engineers, provided by engineers, so it’s just in the technical environment,” Toso said. “I see this award as a right example to reward engineers. The engineers are the unsung heroes of our society. They are under a lot of pressure to comply with a lot of requirements _ technical, stylish, performance, crash safety and such. Really, they are on the front stage like we are today.”

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Connecticut teen-ager Santino Ferrucci, arguably America’s most promising Formula One prospect, will get a taste of the Verizon IndyCar Series next month.

Dale Coyne Racing announced Friday that Ferrucci, a 19-year-old from Woodbury, Conn., will drive the team’s No. 19 Paysafe Honda in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear from June 1-3 on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. Ferrucci currently is driving in the FIA F2 Championship and serving as a reserve and test driver for Haas F1 Team, the organization owned by American industrialist Gene Haas.

The opening in Indy car occurred when DCR shuffled its driver schedule in the wake of Pietro Fittipaldi being injured in a sports car crash on May 4, knocking the grandson of two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi out of the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 at IMS this month. Teammate Zachary Claman De Melo is filling in for Fittipaldi at Indianapolis, with Ferrucci getting the nod for the Detroit doubleheader race weekend.

“It came together quickly,” Coyne said. “His agent contacted us and said there was an interest in maybe doing an INDYCAR race or two this year. It kind of fit together all at the right time because we were trying to decide who was going to be the driver here (at Indianapolis) and how are we going to move around and make that work logistically, financially, all the things that had to happen.”

While he never has driven an Indy car, Ferrucci is confident his European experience will carry him around the 2.35-mile/13-turn layout outside Motown.

“Coming from F2 into INDYCAR, I’d say my race craft is going to be OK,” Ferrucci said. “Racing in Europe is very hard, just as it is in INDYCAR. I just look forward to being on a street course. I have to bring my mouth guard to Detroit, as I’ve been told it’s very bumpy.”  

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Combined practice results Friday for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time/speed, best lap and total laps completed:

  1. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 00:38.8262-seconds/231.802 mph, 10-31
  2. (6) Robert Wickens-(R), Honda, 00:38.8379/231.732, 2-35
  3. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 00:38.9499/231.066, 6-37
  4. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, 00:39.0884/230.247, 11-40
  5. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 00:39.1679/229.780, 13-32
  6. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 00:39.1747/229.740, 14-40
  7. (14) Tony Kanaan-(C), Chevrolet, 00:39.2157/229.500, 5-24
  8. (4) Matheus Leist-(R), Chevrolet, 00:39.2388/229.365, 13-32
  9. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 00:39.2545/229.273, 17-47
  10. (27) Alexander Rossi -(C), Honda, 00:39.2611/229.235, 5-58
  11. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 00:39.2782/229.135, 15-42
  12. (3) Helio Castroneves-(C), Chevrolet, 00:39.2804/229.122, 15-42
  13. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 00:39.2895/229.069, 5-15
  14. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 00:39.3024/228.994, 12-30
  15. (32) Kyle Kaiser-(R), Chevrolet, 00:39.3237/228.870, 8-62
  16. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 00:39.3259/228.857, 3-44
  17. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 00:39.3621/228.646, 7-50
  18. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 00:39.3831/228.524, 10-24
  19. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, 00:39.4106/228.365, 16-25
  20. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 00:39.4245/228.284, 10-13
  21. (9) Scott Dixon-(C), Honda, 00:39.4334/228.233, 4-13
  22. (29) Carlos Munoz, Hona, 00:39.4688/228.028, 12-38
  23. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(C), Honda, 00:39.4929/227.889, 11-42
  24. (30) Takuma Sato-(C), Honda, 00:39.5115/227.782, 10-44
  25. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 00:39.5257/227.700, 16-33
  26. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 00:39.5442/227.593, 15-43
  27. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo-(R), Honda, 00:39.5926/227.315, 4-11
  28. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 00:39.5928/227.314, 2-34
  29. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 00:39.6019/227.262, 25-41
  30. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 00:39.6053/227.242, 46-49
  31. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 00:39.6082/227.226, 44-45
  32. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 00:39.6321/227.089, 14-34
  33. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 00:39.6806/226.811, 11-54
  34. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, 00:39.6991/226.705, 24-37
  35. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 00:39.7157/226.611, 8-19

Friday’s Total Laps _ 1,260

(C) _ Past Indy 500 champion; (R) _ Rookie of the Year candidate

Note _ All teams competing with Dallara IR-12 universal aero chassis with either Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines on Firestone Firehawk tires.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2018
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