Andrettis Have Indy 500 Pole In Their Sights

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 15 2020

Marco Andretti ripped off the fastest lap on Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Qualifying for this year’s 500 begins on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Marco Andretti says Honda Racing definitely has “brought it” _ plenty of speed _ to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.

That fact again was evident during “Fast Friday,” when Andretti recorded the fastest lap during three days of practice this week and the fastest single lap at IMS since 1996. Andretti toured the famed 2.5-mile oval in 38.5454-seconds/233.491 mph to lead a list of 23 drivers posting speeds of 230 mph or higher.

The uptick on the chart was due to turbocharger boost approved by sanctioning body INDYCAR, which added approximately 50 to 75 horsepower to the Honda and Chevrolet twin-turbocharged V-6 engines.

The added boost will remain in effect Saturday and Sunday during qualifying that will set the traditional 33-car field. Saturday’s first day of qualifying is scheduled from 11 a.m.-4:50 p.m. (EDT). The nine fastest cars from Saturday’s four-lap/10-mile runs will earn a berth in the Fast Nine Shootout scheduled for 1:15-2:15 p.m. on Sunday, which will determine the pole winner and starting grid for the first three rows of a race to be televised by NBC (1 p.m. EDT, green flag at 2:30 p.m.) on Aug. 23.

Andretti recorded the top “Fast Friday” speed since Arie Luyendyk ripped off the fastest practice lap in Indy 500 history at 239.260 mph on May 10, 1996 in his No. 5 Reynard/Ford Cosworth XB. 

Marco, grandson of 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti and son of team-owner Michael Andretti, has emerged as a bona fide pole contender/front row starter.

“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,” said Andretti, driver of the No. 98 Honda entered by Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajanian.

Open-wheel icon Mario Andretti won the 1969 race after qualifying second in the No. 2 Hawk/Ford fielded by Andy Granatelli. Mario earned poles at IMS in 1966, 1967 and 1987 during his run of 29 starts in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Michael Andretti’s best start during his star-crossed career at IMS was third in 1986. Mikey came out of retirement to race with Marco during his first Indy 500 in 2006, when Marco finished second to Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.0635-seconds after 200 laps. Michael Andretti, who logged 16 career Indy 500 starts, finished third in the 2006 race, which saw Marco secure Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors.

Marco said adding a first Indy 500 pole to an otherwise thin NTT IndyCar Series resume would be “awesome.”

“That’s what we’re gunning for,” Marco said. “I have to be able to play first. I got to get in the top nine with a bad draw (28th). That’s my next objective. From there, I know you’re looking at ultimate speed, but it’s going to come down to lap three and four I think even for the pole. That’s what we’ve been working on.

“We were actually really focused on getting laps alone. Somebody pulled out in front of us, so I figured I’d run with the tow, make Mario 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 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 has been one of the three fastest drivers during each of the three days of practice this week. All six Andretti Autosport drivers ended up in the top 15 Friday with Marco first, 2014 Indy 500 champ Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth, 2016 Indy 500 pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe seventh, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi ninth, Colton Herta 13th and Zach Veach 15th.

Conor Daly was second-fastest Friday at 232.337 mph in the No. 47 Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing. Series point-leader and 2008 Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon, fastest Thursday, was third at 232.290 mph in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Hunter-Reay was fourth at 232.124 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda _ best lap of the day without an aerodynamic tow under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s. Spencer Pigot rounded out the top five at 232.116 mph in the No. 45 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Citrone/Buhl Autosport.

Two-time Formula One World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso returned to the track after hitting the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4 on Thursday in his No. 66 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. The Spaniard, who failed to qualify last year after crashing in practice, was 25th fastest at 229.788 mph.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing trio of Graham Rahal, 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato and Pigot benefited most from the qualifying draw Friday evening. Rahal will be first in the qualifying line, followed by Sato in second.

NBC will air qualifying from 3-5 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. NBC’s streaming platform, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, will cover qualifying from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Track activity is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. with a one-hour pre-qualifying practice split into two 30-minute groups (live, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold).


A Torch Red 2020 Corvette Stingray coupe will serve as Official Pace Car for the 104th Indianapolis 500, continuing Chevrolet’s tradition of leading the field to the green flag. The Corvette will be driven by GM President Mark Reuss on Sunday, Aug. 23.

This marks the 17th time a Corvette has served as the Official Pace Car, starting in 1978, and the 31st time a Chevrolet has led the field dating to 1948 when a Fleetmaster Six convertible held the honor. No other brand or vehicle has served as the 500 Pace Car more often than Chevrolet and the Corvette, respectively.

The 2020 Corvette Stingray Pace Car is powered by an all-new mid-engine LT2 6.2L V-8 engine and features an eight-speed Dual Clutch transmission, Z51 performance package, Corvette accessory spoiler and ground effects package, Carbon Flash exterior accents and badge package, GT2 bucket seats and unique Indy 500 livery.

With 495 horsepower, the Stingray can accelerate from 0-60 in 2.9-seconds and is capable of 194 mph. It has been named MotorTrend Car of the Year for 2020.

Chevrolet has a storied history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chevrolet was founded in 1911, the year of the inaugural 500-mile race. Company co-founder Louis Chevrolet, along with brothers Arthur and Gaston, competed in early Indy 500s. Arthur competed in the 1911 race and Gaston won in 1920.

Nine drivers competing with Chevrolet engines have combined to win 11 Indy 500s, with Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi, Arie Luyendyk, Al Unser Jr., Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and reigning champion Simon Pagenaud wheeling into Victory Circle.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 15 2020
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