Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are few things that make people happier than hearing those words. This year, nobody was certain what to expect from the cars or the weather. There was once again a high risk of rain showers in the area, and unlike yesterday, we didn’t get lucky. Around 3 PM, a round of thunderstorms hit the Speedway area, which ended up ending the day early.
After waking up to sunny skies and arriving at the Speedway around 8:30, I made my way through Gasoline Alley as I normally do. I was then made aware that Buddy Lazier was going to go through a refresher course at 9 AM. I followed the team down to their pit box at the end of pit road to see what kind of numbers he could put up.
Buddy took to the track right at 9:00 and immediately found his pace. He was actually going too fast for the refresher course, and he was told to back it down. After completing the first phase, he came back to pit lane where his team made some adjustments. He only had until 9:30, and was only able to do a few laps of “free practice” at whatever speed he wanted. His last two laps were unofficially 218 and 219 mph, without any boost.
The intensity was picking up in the garage area, as teams know rain would probably find its way to the track at some point today. Everyone was eager to make adjustments on their qualifying setups, and to see what kind of speeds they could reach with the extra boost that they were provided with. As practice got underway, the speeds began to climb.
Within the first hour, we saw speeds at 225, 226, 227, and 228 mph. Just after 1 PM, EJ Viso turned a lap at 229.537 mph, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Those were tow laps, but nobody seemed to mind. We knew then that the 230 mph lap was coming soon, and that it would likely be an Andretti Autosport car pulling it off. They have clearly been the fastest team all month long, and had the top three spots of the day, and all five cars in the top ten.
It was a late night for the crew over at AJ Foyt Racing. Kevin Lee reported that the team stayed until midnight last night fixing his primary car, then began working on it again around 6:00 this morning. They had planned on getting the car out around 3:00 or so, but never made it because of the rain that slammed the Speedway.
After lightning and numerous storm warning announcements, the final yellow flag came out at 3:10 for rain. The storm hit hard, blowing sideways rain for quite some time. Viso’s lap of 229.537 mph was the fastest of the day, with only two Honda-powered cars (Dario Franchitti & Takuma Sato) in the top 14. Three drivers were in the 228 mph range, while six cars surpassed 227 mph on the day. It was announced at 3:45 that all on-track activity was finished for the day. The Pole Day Qualifications Draw was being moved up to 5 PM.
Despite Fast Friday ending early, tomorrow’s forecast for Pole Day looks much brighter. There is a small chance of rain later in the day, with a high of 80 degrees predicted. Bump Day looks even better. The forecast for Sunday should be 82 degrees and sunny.
There will be three practice sessions tomorrow morning before qualifying begins. One group will practice from 8 to 8:30, then the other group from 8:30 to 9. From 9 to 10 there will be a full hour of practice for all cars. Qualifying for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 AM and runs until 4:30. That is when the Firestone Fast Nine will take the top nine fastest cars and let them battle it out for the Verizon P1 Pole Award.