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Dixon Reels Off 233 at Indy 500 Practice

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 21 2021

Scott Dixon was seriously fast in Indy 500 practice on Friday. (File photo courtesy of INDCAR)

Credit 2020 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Pato O’Ward with coining a phrase that so aptly describes a perfectly balanced car around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Introducing the ‘‘window of happy.” As defined at the close of practice Friday evening by Pato and perhaps a Funk and Wagnalls dictionary, the “window of having a good car and having a car that’s undrivable in four laps…is really small.”

In the case of Scott Dixon, the “window” was small but warp-speed fast. Dixon seriously raised the speed limit on “Fast Friday” by turning the fastest lap of the week _ 233.302 mph _ during the final full day of practice before qualifying Weekend for the 105th Indianapolis 500.

“Interesting day. Happy with the speed of the car,” said Dixon, the six-time/reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion from Chip Ganassi Racing. “Looks like there’s a lot of strong cars out there. Looks like Honda is doing a superb job again. Definitely proud to be powered by Honda.”

Friday marked the second day this week that Dixon topped the chart. The 2008 Indy 500 champion from New Zealand, Dixon posted a speed of 226.829 mph Wednesday in the No. 9 Honda.

“The team was really fast,” said Dixon, who also gained the advantage of drawing first in Saturday’s qualifying order. “I think any time one of the Ganassi cars went out, they improved and improved in a big way.

“It was really tough out there. Just really tough to get a clear track. I know it’s difficult. I know everybody wants to try to get a (qualifying simulation) run. I think you’re trying to find that limit, right? I think we only had one full lap, which was my first one. All the rest we had to trash just because people coming out of the pits or whatever.”

Qualifying is scheduled from noon-5:50 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, with positions 1-30 secured (noon-6 p.m., Peacock; 2-3 p.m., NBC; 3-6 p.m., NBC Sports Network). On Sunday, the Fast Nine Shootout will determine the  pole and order of the first three rows.

Last Chance Qualifying will determine which three of the five remaining cars will complete the starting field for the May 30 race.

Friday was the first day of practice with elevated boost levels for the Chevrolet and Honda V-6 engine turbochargers, which continues through Saturday and Sunday for qualifying. The additional boost added between 80 and 90 horsepower and increased speeds 8 mph from Thursday.

Dixon’s top lap came with benefit of an aerodynamic tow, an advantage drivers will not experience during single-car qualifying this weekend. Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 champion, was the fastest “no-tow” driver, marking him as another favorite to claim P1 on Sunday.

Rossi’s best “no-tow” lap Friday was 231.598 mph in the No. 27 Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.
A qualifying run consists of four-laps/10-miles around the 2.5-mile oval. “You’re obviously going to want to try to get it done early before the track temp comes up,” Rossi said. “With that said, we saw this guy to my right (Dixon) last year doing some pretty good stuff in the heat.

“It’s so close now, wind gusts, upshifts, I mean, it’s crazy the minutia of detail that makes a difference around here. You can’t afford to have anything not really fall your way.”

Like Dixon, Rossi said he also got caught up in some on-track gamesmanship from unnamed rival teams. “Yeah, I mean, I only had one, maybe two _ I think just one four-lap run because people kept jumping out or whatever,” Rossi said. “I heard Scott mention it, but Honda brought some juice this month, which is pretty cool.”

All the top five overall speeds Friday were recorded in a tow from traffic. Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta was second at 232.784 mph in the No. 26 Honda. Meanwhile, native Brazilian and 2013 Indy winner Tony Kanaan _ fastest Thursday _ was third at 232.690 mph in the No. 48 Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

CGR’s Marcus Ericsson, of Sweden, was fourth at 232.531 mph in the No. 8 Ganassi Racing Honda. CGR’s Alex Palou, of Spain, helped Honda-powered drivers sweep the top five spots on the speed chart, clocking in fifth at 232.155 mph in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Rossi has been among the fastest “no-tow” drivers each day this week, so his perch atop that list was expected. Other drivers to watch this weekend based upon their speeds without aerodynamic help include Graham Rahal, second on the “no-tow” list at 231.518 mph in the No. 15 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and O’Ward, third among the “no-tows” at 231.510 mph in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

O’Ward and Rossi also were fast in traffic Friday. O’Ward’s best lap in the draft was 232.034 mph, good for sixth overall. Rossi’s top tow lap was 231.863 mph, seventh overall.

“I mean, I think we can all look at the chart and see who is more dominant,” said O’Ward, addressing a question about Honda’s horsepower display during practice. “My Chevy has been good to me so far. I think we’ve been doing a good job with what we have. Obviously the goal is going to be getting to the Fast Nine.

“I think everybody’s going to try to make their race car as fast as they can. It’s going to be a big factor to win the race. It’s so important to start up front. But ultimately you can qualify in the first three, something happens in a pit stop, you’re going to be stuck in 20th. If you don’t have a good race car, you’re screwed. I think that’s probably the priority, is to have the best race car you can.

“I will sleep at peace (Friday night). I ended happy with my car, ready for qualifying.”

A one-hour pre-qualifying practice, with the field separated into two 30-minute groups, will take place from 9:30-10:30 a.m. (EDT, Peacock). Live Race Day coverage will be carried on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 30, with the green flag set for 12:30 p.m.

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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.

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REVISED 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

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 Friday, May 21 2021
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