Fast Friday is next for the competitors in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, which means additional turbocharged boost in preparation for the weekend’s Armed Forces Qualifying will increase speeds due to an estimated 90 extra horsepower.
Even with speeds already approaching 228 mph, the drivers say the increase is impactful.
“Oh, yeah, it’s big – it’s a big, big change,” reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou said Thursday. “You get used to running at 220 mph on your own and suddenly you’re running 230. It only sounds like 10 mph, but it’s really big when you are going that fast.
“It’s the way the car accelerates -- it’s insane -- and I think everybody is going to be mind-blown tomorrow.”
The driver of the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing said he was surprised by the boost as a race rookie in 2020, and it surprised him last year.
“And it’s going to surprise me tomorrow again,” he said.
Three-time “500” starter Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian) said it doesn’t take much of a jump in speed for the driver to feel the difference.
“At speed, even 2 mph into a corner is a lot sketchier, and you can definitely feel it,” he said. “When you add whatever it is – 10 mph? – it’s quite a big difference.”
Takuma Sato (No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) had the fastest lap of Thursday’s six-hour practice, a speed of 227.519 mph. So, with the horsepower infusion, 235 mph is not out of the question.
From a lap-time standpoint, the boost will create a gain of about 1.3 seconds in a 2.5-mile lap. Sato’s lap was 39.5572 seconds. Expect Friday to see several cars in the 38-second bracket.
The rookies know it’s something they must prepare for, and Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda of Andretti Autosport) said he will lean on his teammates and his engineer, Olivier Boisson, for guidance, especially after dealing with understeer in Thursday’s practice.
“Every small understeer becomes a bigger understeer, every small snap becomes a bigger snap, every small slide becomes a bigger slide,” he said. “Every problem becomes bigger.
“I think we’re looking at higher temperatures (Friday), as well, and wind, which makes it even more tricky.”
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and “500” rookie Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) said he’s going to have to have “an interesting conversation with my right foot,” a big switch from how NASCAR drivers lift off the throttle approaching Turn 1 here.
Higher speeds on the Friday before qualifying dates to the 1950s, but it is believed to have received its name in 1996.
Herta’s GMR Grand Prix Save ‘Long’ and ‘Lucky’
Herta had one of the signature moments of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season during last weekend’s GMR Grand Prix at IMS when his car slid sideways through a wet Turn 8 of the road course in a battle for the lead.
Herta said Thursday that the replay of the opposite-lock steering gave him an idea of how wild the ride was on slick Firestone Firehawk tires.
“I didn’t realize it was that long and that big,” he said. “When you’re in the car, everything happens so fast.”
Grosjean said his Andretti Autosport teammate was “very lucky” to emerge with the car’s nose pointed forward. From there, Herta applied the power and within two corners passed Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) for the lead.
“Physically, you can explain it because the front wheel touched the dry part (of the track) before the rear wheels, but he wasn’t in control anymore, I can tell you,” Grosjean said.” If he tells you he was, he’s lying.”
Foyt Honored Again by BorgWarner
A.J. Foyt, the first four-time “500” winner, received another honor Wednesday night at his Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway.
The legendary driver and team owner was presented a miniature BorgWarner Trophy, officially known as the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy but commonly known as a Baby Borg, for his 65 years competing in this race as a driver and owner. Each side of the base honored one of his record-setting four “500” victories.
Baby Borgs are a 19-inch version of the iconic 110-pound sterling silver trophy that carries the names and likeness of all winning drivers. Baby Borgs were not presented in Foyt’s driving career -- the first winning driver to receive one was Rick Mears in 1988 – but several of the previous living winners have one.
Previously, Foyt only had one as a car owner as Kenny Brack won for AJ Foyt Racing in 1999. That trophy, which was first created in 1988, is known as the Championship Team Owner’s Trophy.
Odds And Ends
- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) ran the most laps Thursday with 153. Second was Dalton Kellett (No. 4 K-Line/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) with 137. Sage Karam (No. 24 AES Indiana DRR Chevrolet) ran the fewest with 31.
- Johnson said the biggest lesson he learned Thursday was that IMS remains temperamental. “Having a good setup on Tuesday doesn’t mean you’ve got a good setup on Thursday,” he said.
- AJ Foyt Racing had two cars in the top 11 on Thursday, with JR Hildebrand (No. 11 Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet) fourth and Kellett 11th.
- Ed Carpenter (No. 33 Alzamend Neuro Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing) predicted that wind will be Friday’s primary subject. Gusts are predicted in excess of 30 mph.
- The aeroscreens on these NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars are standard, although the one on Santino Ferrucci’s No. 23 Palermo’s DRR Chevrolet is darker. Ferrucci said he asked Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to tint his aeroscreen as his eyes are sensitive to light. Ferrucci used a tinted aeroscreen in last year’s race, as well.
- PeopleReady, which has been awarding NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners $10,000 in 2022, is increasing its “500” award to $20,000. The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge offers $1 million to the series driver, his team and their chosen charities for a win on all three types of circuits in 2022 (ovals, street circuits and road courses).
- Practice resumes Friday at noon with a six-hour session, with live coverage on Peacock Premium.