Before the wind-whipped precipitation, before the spectator exodus of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just past 3 p.m. (ET), IZOD IndyCar Series drivers were putting on a speed show on the 2.5-mile oval in preparation for Pole Day qualifications.
E.J. Viso's quest for a 230 mph lap fell just short -- 229.537 mph -- and the rainstorm curtailed another attempt to crest the lap speed marker in the Chevrolet-powered No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA CITGO car. Viso, who posted the fastest practice lap since 2003, was presented the $10,000 F.E. Harding "Fastest Lap" Award.
Click it: Day 7 practice results || Combined practice results
“I think the car we have evolved from the team from last year has been really heading in the right direction," Viso said. "We have been testing a number of pieces in the car and I think we have a stronger car than what we began with. It’s all about finding as much mechanical grip as possible and then when it comes time to trim it you should be in a good position if you did your homework.”
On-track activity for the remainder of the six-hour session was canceled at 3:43 p.m. Still, there's two hours of track time available (8-10 a.m.) preceding the 11 a.m. (ET) start of the first segment of qualifications. The weather forecast is for partly sunny skies and a high temperature of 80 degrees for May 18 and sunny with a high of 84 degrees for Bump Day May 19.
Twenty-four positions will be filled until 4 p.m., when the top nine entries that posted the best four-lap average speed returning at 4:30 for a 90-minute shootout to determine the Verizon P1 Award and set the first three rows for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 26.
Thirty-two drivers logged 707 laps in the session without incident. Rookie Conor Daly, whose No. 41 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing made contact with the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 1 on May 16, was the lone driver entered not to get on the track.
Viso's Andretti Autosport teammates, Marco Andretti (228.754 mph) and rookie Carlos Munoz (228.520), were next in line on the speed chart. Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car was fourth (228.401) and JR Hildebrand (227.529) was fifth in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car.
"I think we would have been over 230 if we had a full day," said Andretti, driving the No. 25 RC Cola car. "As a team I think we're quite comfortable with our speeds, but obviously tomorrow is another day and it's just going to come down to having a good balance."
Munoz, driving the No. 26 Unistraw car, is among the pole contenders despite his first-year status. The last rookie to earn the pole for the 500 Mile Race was Teo Fabi in 1983.
“I think we have a strong car going into qualifying. I'm really excited going into my first qualifying run for the Indy 500; it's a dream come true,” he said. “Ever since I was small, I wanted to be in this race. I remember watching (Juan Pablo) Montoya win the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. This is a special race for me; I'm going to give everything I have tomorrow."