INDIANAPOLIS – After a rainy start to Friday’s Carb Day festivities at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Kanaan set the fastest time in the final practice session before the 103rd Indianapolis 500.
Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, ran 40 laps in a 90-minute practice session with the 33 car and driver combinations turning a combined 1,755 laps.
A huge crowd turned out for the Carb Day activities at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which also included the Indy Lights Freedom 100 and the annual MotoGator Pit Stop Competition.
Afterwards, two of the 1970s most famous musical groups played at the annual concert – “Kool & The Gang” and “Foreigner.”
Kanaan’s fast lap in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for AJ Foyt was 225.517 mph. That was faster than rookie Santino Ferrucci’s fast lap at 225.486 mph after he ran 64 laps.
“A good day for us,” Kanaan said afterwards. “Obviously, conditions look like pretty similar to what we’re going to see on Sunday hopefully, so you know, it was a pretty easy day for us. I wasn’t really happy with my car on Monday, and I was extremely vocal about it, and I think my engineers heard me, so we made it better today.
“Today, now you know where you’re starting, so I was really working on my car, the level of downforce and grip that I wanted to have starting 16th. We worked in traffic a lot and trying to find the grip and scan to some of the items that we had on the list to be able to — once we put ourselves in the front during the race, to know what to do.”
Takuma Sato, the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500, was third at 225.468 mph in a Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Jordan King was fourth in another RLL Honda at 225.337 mph.
James Davison rounded out the top five at 225.314 mph in a Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Rookie Ben Hanley of England was the slowest of the full field that practiced on Friday, with a fast lap at 219.719 mph. The margin between the fastest to the slowest was 1.0531 seconds in time, but the difference between first and 32nd is only 0.6873 seconds.
“It’s the most competitive field I’ve ever seen in my 18 years here,” Kanaan said. “Qualifying was extremely hard, and it’s really tight. I think it’s going to be a difficult race. I do strongly believe that everybody, every single guy is starting this race, and girl, they think they can win this race, which is true.
“I’ve known the scenarios. I’ve known how to be patient and not to get desperate if you’re 10th halfway through the race and you think, oh, I’m not going to win this race,” Kanaan added. “This race really is going to start shaping up on the last pit stop, so let’s say last 35, 30 laps to go. So for me, the experience, it only helps me to keep understanding what’s going on with my car, so when I make that last stop, I will make the right decision on wings and stuff that we can choose so I’ll be in a position to win the race.”
Kanaan also had a very strong performance in last year’s Carb Day, but it didn’t equate into a good result in the race. He believes he has a better car for race conditions this year.
He also believes there will be more passing in this year’s race over last year.
“I think we do now, so pretty much it’s to have a consistent car in traffic and be able to stay behind people and be able to just – to pass some cars and stay up front all day,” Kanaan said. “That’s what we’re working on.
“I think we’ll see more passes than last year. I believe in the beginning you guys are probably going to think that there are not going to be enough, just everybody is judging each other,” Kanaan added. “The way that we’re running so close, there is no way you want to lead because you don’t want to burn fuel. And when that happens, it’s just like it’s a pain because nobody wants to pass anybody.”
That leads to a game of cat-and-mouse, according to Kanaan.
“It’s a waiting game,” he explained. “It’s actually some sort of annoying because you’re just there, you’re like, ‘I know I can pass him, but I don’t want to do this,’ and you’ll see it will start to shape up.
“I think the guys in front will be smart enough not to get in between themselves so you can open a gap, because again, with the fuel being so close, if you open a little bit of a gap, that gap that you open between let’s say the top 5 to the guys behind, you won’t be able to catch it. So, you’ll see a lot of people working together.
“I think there will be more passing than last year. The tires are better. We have more downforce. So, I believe it will be a better race.”