The stage is set for Indianapolis 500 time trials but Fast Friday only provided a snapshot of those expected to contend for pole this weekend.
As has become customary in recent years, the turboboosters were turned up to match the power levels during qualifications, and teams exclusively worked in qualifying trim as there is nothing to be learned about race day under these configurations.
To wit, Scott Dixon was once again quickest overall on the charts with a 233.302 mph lap, but that’s not the number that mattered the most as it was aided by an aerodynamic tow ahead of his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
The six-time champion still expressed confidence in the entire organization.
“I think honestly, all four of our cars look very strong,” Dixon said. “The good thing for us is we have a lot of good data to look at tonight. You know, we’re slightly different (with the No. 9’s setup) to the other three cars. But you know, Ericsson, Kanaan, and Palou look very strong. Palou’s last run was stout, man.”
Instead, it was Alexander Rossi who was quickest on the no tow chart with a 231.598 mph lap and he followed that up with a second lap in that same range before picking up a tow from Josef Newgarden ahead of him.
Rossi then lifted off the throttle, as once again, there is nothing to be learned or gained while in an aerodynamic draft.
Here were the fastest overall no tow laps on Friday:
1. Alexander Rossi, 231.598
2. Takuma Sato, 231.379
3. Colton Herta, 231.348
4. Scott Dixon, 231.292
5. Marcus Ericsson, 231.226
6. Alex Palou, 231.208
7. Pato O’Ward, 230.946
8. Santino Ferrucci, 230.924
9. Ed Carpenter, 230.901
10. Graham Rahal, 230.875
Perhaps the most compelling of the 10 fastest drivers is the one that spent the previous evening in a hospital and injured his left ankle, Santino Ferrucci, who needed his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew to work overtime to completely restore the crash damaged No. 45 Honda.
Rossi, too, is a fascinating story as the 2019 championship runner-up has suffered a dismal start to his NTT IndyCar season and is in desperate need of positive momentum. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner is 14th in the standings but could put himself back in the mix over the next nine days.
Noticeably absent from the top-10 in no-tow times was Team Penske, who was headlined by Josef Newgarden in 17th in that classification. Will Power was remarkably 32nd in the no tow.
The Fast Nine Pole Shootout takes place on Sunday but Saturday will determine the teams eligible to run for the pole. The nine fastest four lap averages will lock in no worse than a ninth-place starting spot, but will have one attempt to determine starting positions 1-9.
Meanwhile, the drivers who record the five slowest four-lap averages will also be locked into a shootout — but not one anyone wants to be part of in the Last Row Shootout.
That takes place on Sunday with the two slowest teams in that session failing to make the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Based on Friday, and arguably all week, RC Enerson of Top Gun Racing and Charlie Kimball of AJ Foyt Racing have their work cut out to avoid watching the race from elsewhere, but they aren’t the only drivers in the danger zone.
Max Chilton of Carlin, Sage Karam of DRR and Dalton Kellett of Foyt all looked vulnerable on Friday.
There were also some surprise names overall at the bottom of the no tow charts:
31. Sebastien Bourdais, 229.425 mph
32. Will Power 229.163 mph
33. Max Chilton 229.086 mph
34. Charlie Kimball 226.743 mph
35. RC Enerson 226.054 mph
But as was apparent in 2018 and 2019 when James Hinchcliffe and Fernandon Alonso missed the cut respectively, anything can happen when you fall into the Last Row Shootout.
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