Dixon Owns Day 2 of Indy 500 Practice

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 20 2021

Scott Dixon topped the speed charts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Chris Owens photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

A pragmatic Scott Dixon drove Chip Ganassi Racing to the top of the speed chart during Wednesday’s open practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500, stealing the Day 2 headline from a pair of Ed Carpenter Racing teammates.

Dixon, the six-time/reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion, posted a best lap of 226.829 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway as track and air temperatures climbed compared to Tuesday’s Opening Day. The 2008 Indy 500 winner, Dixon led three CGR drivers in the top five.

“Yeah, it was definitely pretty interesting,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Honda. “I think as most will say, the big times don’t really mean much. You just kind of get a bit lucky and throw them up, but I think our cars definitely have good speed, all four in the top eight there, which is good to see.

“I’d rather be knocking out a lot of quick times at ease than being down on the bottom and scraping the barrel. I think our cars in the past have had decent speed in race-winning configurations, but it doesn’t really do you much good in the race. You need to be able to stay close, be able to move through the pack if you have any upsets or mistakes or if you even start a little further back at the initial start of the race. So yeah, it’s definitely all about making sure you can stay close.”

Dixon, a native of New Zealand, added he actually felt more comfortable Tuesday, when his best speed was 224.988 mph. Recall that Dixon won the season’s first oval race on Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked/1.5-mile layout in Fort Worth on May 1.

“Once it gets a bit hotter, I think everybody has a bit of washout, and it’s harder to stay closer,” Dixon said. “We’ll see with the race, but it looks right now like the race will be pretty cool, which will definitely make for a pretty robust race for people to watch. It’s going to be tight.”

Green flag for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is Sunday, May 30.

Meanwhile, Ed Carpenter Racing claimed the second and third spots on the speed chart. Conor Daly was second-fast at 226.372 mph in the No. 47 Chevrolet, while team-owner/oval specialist Ed Carpenter was third at 226.103 mph in the No. 20 Chevrolet.

“The speed charts don’t necessarily mean a ton,” said Carpenter, echoing Dixon’s remarks. “Those are more representative of just getting a bunch of cars in front of you with the right gap and putting up a time.

“I mean, it’s nice for the team, depending on the time sheets. But I think more importantly we’re all feeling pretty good and making progress with the cars. Soon we’ll find out what we have for speed, too.”

ECR is surging during the Month of May, as Rinus VeeKay of The Netherlands won the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road-course last Saturday.

“I think the team has done an incredible job, obviously,” Daly said. “Both of our cars were fast last weekend, which is great, and I think our cars have a lot of speed here, as well. I know my own journey with the team has probably been a little bit more difficult, but I think we’ve definitely rounded a nice corner for sure recently. I think they’ve done a lot for me personally because my style has required a little bit more work with this generation car.

“If the team is winning, that’s great. Know what I mean? I think it’s good for Ed, it’s good for all of our partners, it’s good for everyone involved. I would also like to have a trophy, though, too. I think that’s why we keep trying every day, we keep showing up and ready to do the job.”

Carpenter deadpanned: “We’ll get you a trophy.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five. Ericsson, a native of Sweden, was fourth at 226.007 mph in the No. 8 CGR Honda. Kanaan _ the 2013 Indy 500 winner, 2004 series champ and native of Brazil _ placed fifth at 225.774 mph in the No. 48 Honda.

“There are so many competitive cars out there, so, as always, it’s going to be a very tough race,” said Dixon, the current championship point leader. “Happy all the Ganassi cars are fast. Nice to see the No. 9 up top.”

The speed chart showed the unpredictable nature of this year’s field, which features nine 500 winners. Australian Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 champ who led practice Tuesday at 226.470 mph, was 15th Wednesday at 224.785 mph in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet.

As was the case Tuesday, all of Wednesday’s top speeds were the products of aerodynamic tows in heavy traffic, as 34 drivers combined to turn 3,326 laps during the six-hour session. Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 champ, was the fastest driver running alone, turning a top no-tow lap of 221.114 mph in the No. 27 Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.

“We had a good car yesterday from the get-go, but overnight we worked on trying to get the car a bit better in dirty air and in a big group, and that’s been a big improvement,” Ericsson said. “I feel like I can stay on the throttle in big groups, and that’s the key around here.”

RC Enerson completed Phase 2 and the speed requirement for Phase 3 of the Rookie Orientation Program in the No. 75 Top Gun Racing Chevrolet in a special session before the track opened for practice. However, Enerson did not participate in the open session.

Practice is scheduled to run from noon-6 p.m. (EDT) Thursday. It’s the last day before boost levels are elevated in the engine turbochargers for the “Fast Friday” practice and qualifying on Saturday and Sunday. The additional horsepower will raise speeds while establishing the field of 33 starters.

The traditional final practice _ two hours on Miller Lite Carb Day _ is booked for Friday, May 28.

Live Race Day coverage will be carried on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT), on Sunday, May 30, with the green flag set for 12:30 p.m.


Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, Canada focusing on health-and-safety measures, organizers representing the Honda Indy Toronto and IndyCar Series have jointly announced that this year’s event, originally set for July 9-11, will no longer be a part of the 2021 schedule.

“The NTT IndyCar Series race around Exhibition Place and Princes’ Gates is a hallmark of our summer schedule,” Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. president/CEO, said in a statement from Indianapolis. “To have that void for a second straight year is heartbreaking. We deeply miss our fans there and urge them to remain safe during these unprecedented times. INDYCAR looks forward to a high-powered return in 2022 and for years to come.”

The festival atmosphere on the Streets of Toronto has been a staple of INDYCAR since 1986. The list of champions includes legendary names including Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Michael Andretti, Alex Zanardi, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

INDYCAR is considering various scenarios for the remainder of the 2021 calendar as it relates to cancellation of the Toronto event.

The current mid-summer portion of the schedule will resume Sunday, Aug. 8, for the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville, with live coverage on NBC Sports Network.

That event is the first of three races on consecutive weekends, with the Nashville race followed by another historic NASCAR/INDYCAR weekend Saturday, Aug. 14, on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course followed by the oval at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., on Saturday, Aug. 21.

NTT IndyCar Series point standings: 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 176; 2, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 163; 3, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 148; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 146; 5, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 137; 6, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing, 135; 7, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 130; 8, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 123; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 118; 10, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 117.


Sunday, April 18 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, April 25 _Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport)

Saturday, May 1 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 1, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, May 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 2, Fort Worth (Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP)

Saturday, May 15 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing)

Sunday, May 30 _ The 105th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (NBC)

Saturday, June 12 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1, Detroit (NBC)

Sunday, June 13 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 2, Detroit (NBC)

Sunday, June 20 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (NBCSN)

Sunday, July 4 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (NBC)

Sunday, Aug. 8 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (NBCSN)

Saturday, Aug. 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (NBCSN)

Saturday, Aug. 21 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Madison, Ill. (NBCSN)

Sunday, Sept. 12 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 19 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 26 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (NBCSN)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 20 2021
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