SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Mother nature has not been kind to those temporarily living at 16th and Georgetown.
For Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Indianapolis 500 qualifying this weekend, drivers dealt all day long with 20 mph sustained winds with some gusts reaching north of 30 mph. This made the handling of their cars unpredictable as they tried to get a feel for their pace and setup for qualifying.
“Today was tough,” said Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP. “I think what made it the hardest was from one end of the track to the other end the balance shift was really big. I’d probably say because of the wind. The track temp didn’t help either.”
The wind coupled with the sunny day and an extra 90 horsepower in boost in their engines made for some challenging conditions.
The drivers who were able to overcome the condition late in the day were the drivers of the Dale Coyne stable. Takuma Sato, who has been fast all week, was fastest again for a single lap around IMS at 232.789 mph. His rookie teammate, David Malukas, was the second-fastest among drivers who were able to complete a four-lap simulated qualifying run.
“We started off the day great, right off the bat,” Malukas said. “Then we just needed time to work on the car to make it last the whole four laps. Those last two runs I did the car felt very good, very safe.”
Malukas’ top four-lap average was 230.287, only bested by the wily veteran Tony Kanaan who clocked a 230.517 mph average as time wound down for the day.
Sato and Malukas are confident, even with the weather conditions expected to change for qualifying on Saturday.
“It’s still going to be gusty wind, but I think it’s cooling down the temperature will help for the consistency,” Sato said. “My 51-car still needs to work on laps three and four.”
Other notable happenings from Fast Friday included all three Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan cars lacking pace and barely turning any laps. Jimmie Johnson continued to hone his oval racing chops by completing a four-lap average of 229.094.
Johnson turned that average in after just hours earlier brushing the wall in Turn 2 forcing the team to make repairs.
With his overall consistency already looking strong, Malukas finds himself in a unique position of having a shot to secure the pole position of the Indianapolis 500, which could make him the first rookie to start on pole since Tao Fabi did it back in 1983.
“Overall (the day) was good, but I don’t think I would be in the position I am without Takuma,” Malukas said. “He gave me tips before I went out and I experienced every single one every time I went out.”
With rain expected, and maybe some severe weather, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has decided to start qualifying an hour earlier than planned. After two short practice sessions starting at 9:00 a.m., qualifying to lock in rows 10-33, as well as decide who will take part in the Fast 12 on Sunday, will begin at 11:00 a.m. instead of the previously scheduled Noon start.
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