INDIANAPOLIS – It was Flash Flood Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as heavy rain in the morning followed by even more rain in the afternoon made Fast Friday a rather quick affair.
It was fast only in the fact it lasted just 18 minutes. James Hinchcliffe was the first to take the track at 2:50 p.m. and Ed Carpenter clocked off a lap at 230.522 miles per hour in a Dallara/Chevrolet at 3:08 p.m. Just as Carpenter completed that lap it began to rain and the caution light came on.
The session would not continue as even more rain and colder temperatures soaked the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway creating an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty regarding this week’s new format where the 33-car field will be determined on Saturday but the order of the grid will be determined in three rounds of qualifications on Sunday. The fastest nine drivers will advance to the “Fast Nine” round of qualifications on Sunday with the Pole winner determined between 1-3 p.m. Eastern Time.
IndyCar officials cranked up the boost from 130 kPa to 140 kPa for Fast Friday practice in an effort to let the speeds soar over 230 miles per hour. The change in pressured adds about 40-horsepower boost to the engines produced by Chevrolet and Honda.
That extra boost will be allowed for this weekend’s pole qualifications but the boost level will return to 130 kPa for the final practice on Coors Light Carb Day on Friday, May 23 and the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.
“The car is definitely up-to-speed this year,” Carpenter said. “When it comes to predicting the pole what the pole is going to be, I think a lot of it will be figuring out what the weather is. That 230 (mph) I did today, I don’t think that would happen on a clean track. But if it warms up enough and the air gets a little thinner, certainly I think 230s are realistic, even up to 232 and 233.”
Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was second at 229.843 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet and Marco Andretti was third fastest at 229.419 mph in a Dallara/Honda.
Because Fast Friday turned into Flash Flood Friday, the most laps turned in the session was Scott Dixon and Carlos Munoz with 11 laps apiece.
“I think we have plenty more in the car but that pretty much sums up everybody’s day,” Andretti said. “The beginning of the week we wanted some rain but be careful what you wish for because now we don’t have a lot of laps. It would have been nice to get a full qualifying run. I think it’s a bit of a guessing game for tomorrow.
“This is one of the few years where I have no idea where we are going to qualify. Normally you know if you are going to play or not. I have no idea if I’m going to be on pole or 15th tomorrow. I guess that makes it fun.”
Andretti believes there are so many strong teams and drivers on the qualifying line this weekend and with so few laps run the past few days, it creates an air of uncertainty.