SPEEDWAY, Ind. – If Chevrolet teams had the advantage in the week of practice and qualifications for the 97th Indianapolis 500, then credit Honda with an impressive resurgence on Carb Day.
It was the final practice session before Sunday’s Indy 500 and Simon Pagenaud’s Dallara/Honda was the fastest of the 33 drivers that practiced for one hour on Friday. It was the first of three events on Carb Day that was followed by a thrilling Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race won by Peter Dempsey of Ireland in a 4-wide finish at the checkered flag.
The .0026 of a second margin of victory was the smallest in an oval race in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. It was the second-closest finish in Firestone Indy Lights Series history. The closest was .0005 of a second on Sept. 9, 2007 at Chicagoland Speedway when Logan Gomez edged Alex Lloyd.
That was followed by the IZOD Pit Stop Competition, which ironically saw the two drivers that are attempting to win the Indy 500 for the fourth time in their careers advance to the finals – Helio Castroneves of Team Penske and Dario Franchitti of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Castroneves won the final, which gave Team Penske its 14th time it, has won the Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition and the sixth with Castroneves in the cockpit.
For the large gathering of fans that came out on a sun-splashed Carb Day it wrapped up with a concert from Poison.
Honda was attempting to find an antidote to its performance woes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the first week when it was shut out of the Fast Nine during last Saturday’s Indy 500 Pole Day. On Friday, Honda had two drivers in the top five, three in the top six, four in the top seven, five in the top eight and six in the top 10.
Pagenaud was the fastest with a lap at 225.827 miles per hour in a Dallara/Honda.
“The car is really good in race trim,” Pagenaud said after the one-hour practice when he ran 41 laps. “We are really happy with the way it used up the tires, the way it goes through its stints. Honda has done a lot of work before qualifying and after qualifying, and Honda’s racing mentality is to go racing and that’s exactly what they’re doing. They provided us with an engine that is clearly a lot better, so it’s a good sign for the race. The car is up there.
“It’s good for HP (Hewlett Packard, his sponsor), and it’s good for Honda. I’m really happy for my guys. For them, it’s great to go into a race with such a positive note. The goal was obviously to do an out and in just to check that everything was running normally. Then afterward everyone pretty much practiced pit stops, get the guys up to speed, stretching them a little bit. And then it was good for us to get our marks. When you are going 230 mph and all of a sudden you have to go into pit lane, it’s actually difficult when you put it into pit lane with the car that speed, so it’s important to get into a routine for Sunday.”
Andretti Autosport driver E.J. Viso was second in a Dallara/Chevrolet at 225.304 mph followed by teammate and 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 225.053 mph in a Dallara/Chevrolet.