Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud surged to the top of the speed chart in the waning moments of the one-hour final practice session for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race with a best lap of 225.827 mph.
Up and down pit lane, Honda Performance Development engineers and engine support personnel were privately celebrating.
With Chevrolet’s 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine sweeping the first three rows for the 200-lap race May 26, Honda’s top performer in qualifications May 18-19 was Alex Tagliani in 11th in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car. In this one-hour session on the 2.5-mile oval, Honda-powered cars occupied six of the 10 spots.
Click it: Final practice results || Combined practice results
In a similar scenario last May in the first season of the chassis-engine package, Honda drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon finished 1-2 in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
"The car is really good in race trim,” said Pagenaud, who will start 21st in his second Indianapolis 500. “Honda has done a lot of work before qualifying and after qualifying and Honda's racing mentality is to go racing and that's exactly what they're doing. They provided us with an engine that is clearly a lot better so it's a good sign for the race.
“The car is up there. It's good for HP, and it's good for Honda. I'm really happy for my guys. For them it's great to go into a race with such a positive note.
"The goal was obviously to do an out and in just to check that everything was running normally. Then afterwards everyone pretty much practiced pit stops, get the guys up to speed, stretching them a little bit. And then it was good for us to get our marks. When you are going 230 mph and all of a sudden you have to go into pit lane it's actually difficult when you put it into pit lane with the car that speed, so it's important to get into a routine for Sunday."
Thirty-three drivers logged 1,305 laps, with Sebastien Bourdais recording the most at 52. Pole sitter Ed Carpenter posted 18 laps in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car with a best of 223.771 mph to place 17th overall.
“We were going to run 20 to 25 laps today. The car felt good so we did a couple of pit stops and parked the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet after 18 laps,” Carpenter said. “It would have been fun to go out and play longer but it isn’t necessary. The smart thing to do is just put the car away and prepare for Sunday.”
Andretti Autosport teammates E.J Viso (225.304 mph) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (225.053) were second and third, respectively. Dixon (224.870) was fourth and Bourdais (224.848) finished fifth.
Ana Beatriz brought out a yellow flag when she was caught out by a slow-moving Carlos Munoz while trying to enter the pits and ran into the back of the Andretti Autosport car, receiving enough damage to the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing car to keep her in pit lane for the remainder of the one-hour session (31 total laps).