O’Ward Leads Field On Carb Day At Indianapolis

Patricio O'Ward in the Arrow Mclaren SP Chevrolet #5. © [Kenneth Midgett/ Spacesuit Media]

Patricio O’Ward in the Arrow Mclaren SP Chevrolet #5. © [Kenneth Midgett/ Spacesuit Media]

by John Wiedemann

21 year old NTT IndyCar Series driver Pato O’Ward made a statement for the young drivers and Chevrolet, setting the quickest lap in Friday’s Carb Day final practice for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The ‘500’ rookie didn’t make the field for last year’s running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he should be heading into Sunday’s with high confidence after today’s run. O’Ward will start this year’s Indianapolis 500 race in the middle of the pack on the outside of the fifth row.

“I think we are ready for the challenge ahead,” said O’Ward. “It was a very positive day in terms of how we were feeling in traffic, passing cars, and playing around in five-, 10-, and 15-car trains. I think it is going to be very interesting to see how the cars will behave on Sunday in 10-15 degree hotter temps. I think we are ready, and we ended the day very happy with how everything fell and felt. So, we are looking forward to Race Day and going forward.”

Three former Indianapolis 500 winners were next on the top of the speed chart with Scott Dixon second, Alexander Rossi third and Takuma Sato fourth. Completing the rookie bookend of the top five was O’Ward’s Arrow Mclaren SP teammate, Oliver Askew.

“We had to go through our front wings today just to make sure they’re all close in case we need one in the race,” said Dixon. “We lost some front grip, and we’re trying to see if the teammates had the same situation. Apart from that, the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda felt really good and really fast. It pulls up wicked fast. Hopefully that’s true when it comes to the race. It definitely looks like there are some good cars out there and some not so good cars, so hopefully we’re on the right end of the grid. I think there has always been, especially these last few years, an underlying tone of ‘it’s hard to pass,’ which it was in that camp last year. This year’s been a lot easier for us. I think a lot of credit goes out to HPD and Honda. We’re proud to be powered by them. They have done a lot to help that, but also I think we’ve made a lot of changes on the team and the car and that’s helped that, as well. It’s good to see.”

“It was a pretty good day. We got through everything we wanted to, and I think we are in a decent place with the car,” said Rossi. “This place is tricky -the track conditions change from day to day. I think from where we ended Sunday afternoon to today, we kept a pretty similar car, so if we can do there here in 48 hours, I think we will be pretty happy.“

After Honda dominated qualifying, O’Ward put his race-trim Chevrolet on top with Askew and Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (7th quick) making it three Chevy drivers in the top ten.

In the two hour practice session, three drivers turned over 100 laps which is half the distance of Sunday’s race length. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson turned the most, running 105 laps and placing eighth on the speed chart. Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe ran 103 laps and placed 12th. Ben Hanley ran 104 laps.

“I think it was a really good last practice session,” said Ericsson. “We focused on trying to be in traffic all the time and for me to get the best feeling in the car going into the race. I felt like we made some good improvements throughout the session. We really pushed on and tried to do as many laps as possible. I think we did two full-tank stints, so that’s really good for Sunday to know how the car behaves. Overall, I’m really happy, and the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda is feeling good. We’re ready to go racing.”

Polesitter Marco Andretti was 28th on the chart while the team worked on race day strategies.

“Today we found a few things we didn’t like in the car, which is good and bad because we found it out before Sunday,” explained Andretti. “We ticked a lot of boxes on a semi-difficult day, but I think we are still in a good position for the race on Sunday.“

Last year’s Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud placed 14th on the speed chart and will start Sunday’s race on the inside of row 9 next to F1 star Fernando Alonso. Alonso was 23rd quickest in today’s practice.

“It was the last opportunity to test the last few items we had on our list,” said Alonso. “Some of them were OK, and some of them we will not be keeping for the race. Now we have a more or less clear idea of what we want. Sunday is a completely different thing, and it’s supposed to be a bit hotter, so we will try to adapt to the conditions. There’s nothing more to test on the table, so it’s race time.”

AJ Foyt Racing driver Tony Kanaan was 19th on the speed chart and will start what could be his final Indianapolis 500 from the inside of row 8.

Live coverage of the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge will start at 1 p.m. (ET) on NBC and the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network.

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