INDIANAPOLIS — official release — Jim Haines photo — Ed Carpenter turned the fastest practice lap since 2003 as rain-shortened “Fast Friday” preparations for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Carpenter’s lap of 230.522 mph, turned less than 15 minutes into the abbreviated “Fast Friday” session set the tone for a run at a 230 mph four-lap average speed in the May 17-18 qualifications. The last driver to top 230 mph in a practice session was Scott Dixon, who recorded a lap at more than 233 mph in the pre-Pole Day session in 2003.
“The car is definitely up to speed this year,” Carpenter said. “When it comes to predicting the pole, I think a lot of it will be figuring out what the weather is. If it warms up enough and the air gets a little thinner, certainly I think 230s are realistic, even up to 232 and 233.”
The session was halted after 19 minutes because of rain. The first round of qualifications will take place from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. (ET), with the 33 starting positions, including the Verizon P1 Award, determined May 18.
Four different teams were represented in the top five, seven entries posted a lap speed above 229 mph, and 10 more bettered the month’s previous best of 227.166 mph set a day earlier by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet.
Castroneves was second fast (229.843 mph) in the session. Marco Andretti was third (229.419) in the No. 25 Snapple Honda for Andretti Autosport, while Carpenter’s teammate, JR Hildebrand, was fourth (229.384) in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet and Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing was fifth (229.276).
“Honda has been doing a fantastic job on the road and street-courses so far this year. I don’t really know where we stack up,” Andretti admitted following practice. “This is like the first year of my career. It’s a big unknown for me and I think it’s the limited run. I don’t know if we’re going to be ready for pole or just trying to get into the top 9 or not. I don’t know.”
Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award last May with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car with a top speed of 229.347 mph on Lap 1. It was the best four-lap average since 2006 when Sam Hornish Jr. won the pole with a four-lap average of 228.985 mph.
Qualifying begins tomorrow at 11 am Eastern time and runs until 5:50 pm as 33 drivers will look to seal themselves into the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500.