Castroneves tops practice, three last-chancers run

The last row contenders were the first group granted 30mins, but only three took advantage of the track’s availability – Simona De Silvestro of Paretta Autosport, Charlie Kimball of AJ Foyt Racing and RC Enerson of startup team Top Gun Racing.

In the end, De Silvestro turned 10 laps, her best being her second – a 228.998mph effort. That was a full 1mph ahead of Kimball who ran seven laps. Enerson completed 14 laps, his 10th being his best, but 1.6mph off De Silvestro.

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Meanwhile the shock driver in this group, 2018 Indy winner Will Power of Team Penske, and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam, stayed in the garage, unwilling to risk their cars on a track that is getting hotter, and perhaps wouldn’t have yielded representative speeds this morning.

Power told NBC: “We’re just trying to execute everything absolutely perfectly. Looking at videos, gears and shifting strategies. We looked at everything. All I can do is do my absolute best to do everything to get in.

“You can never underestimate this place. You never come in thinking it’s a given you’ll be fast. The field is more competitive than it’s ever been. The team worked as hard as I’ve ever seen them work for this race. We just have to execute and do the best job we can. 

“Believe me, we’re scratching our heads. I know how these guys prepare the car. I know how much effort went into this. I don’t know where the speed is. The car is handling well.

“Trimming out any more, you’ll fall off too much. I’m looking at the overall four laps. I’m within 30 pounds [of downforce] of what Scott [McLaughlin, teammate] ran yesterday.

“We’ve got the car we’ve got. We just have to execute everything we can the best we can. If it’s not good enough, that’s life. We just have to deal with it. I have to do my absolute best to get in the show. I don’t want the variability of someone doesn’t get a gust of wind and I do.

“Everyone is in the same boat. I can’t see anything that’ll make us faster right now. We’ll rub on it a little bit.

“Based on watching practice, I think we should be good. But I’m thinking last night. RC Enerson seems certainly far off, but Sage is about as fast as we are, Simona’s car can be faster than what we’ve got. If she executes she’ll be quickest. It could be between Charlie and myself. It could be tight. It’s not a given.” 

Following their session, three of the Fast Nine contenders took to the track, and it was four-time Indy polesitter, three-time Indy race-winner Castroneves who emerged top with a best speed of 230.509mph in the #06 MSR-Honda. He turned 12 laps overall.

The 2014 Indy winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, who shocked himself with his pace yesterday after being fairly “average” throughout the week, was just 0.1mph behind in the #28 Andretti Autosport car, and only turned in one four-lap run.

Inevitably the third driver to take advantage of this session was Alex Palou, following his Turn 2 crash yesterday. The Chip Ganassi Racing team worked hard overnight to rebuild his original car, and he turned 17 laps this morning, his best being a 230.282. The series (and Indy) sophomore also managed to take Turn 2 completely flat on his first flyer.

Last Chance Qualifying for the three final-row slots will be 75mins, and starts at 1.15pm. Each entry is guaranteed one attempt – average speed over four laps, as usual – and can make multiple attempts until time expires. If multiple attempts are made, a car’s previous run average is pulled and it’s the most recent speed that is eligible.

The Fast Nine shootout to determine pole position begins at 3.00pm, with its order based on Saturday times, slowest to fastest. Ergo: Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi-Honda), Hunter-Reay, Palou, Castroneves, Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet), Ed Carpenter (ECR-Chevy), Tony Kanaan (Ganassi), Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport-Honda) and finally three-time Indy 500 pole-winner Scott Dixon (Ganassi). Each car is granted just one four-lap run.

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