INDIANAPOLIS – 11,691 practice laps have been turned on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval this month. That’s a lot. When Sunday’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network) is 200 laps in length, we have completed almost 59 races over eight combined practice sessions.
But, the laps turned on Carb Day will be more beneficial for the 33 NTT IndyCar Series drivers that will take part in this weekend’s race more so than any of those 11,691 circulated around IMS over the past 10 days.
See, Monday’s two-hour practice session would have normally been the best indicator on who will be good or not for Sunday’s Indy 500. Unfortunately though, the conditions weren’t ripe for data.
Helio Castroneves practices at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
Monday’s high was in the mid 60’s with overcast skies. Sunday’s forecast is for temperatures to be 20 degrees warmer with a chance of sunny skies. Those are polar opposite conditions.
That’s why Monday’s practice wasn’t a good point of reference to use to see who will be strong this weekend or not.
“It was really good, honestly,” said Conor Daly after Monday’s practice. “I feel really good in traffic. The car is solid. Obviously, these conditions are probably not going to be what it’s like on race day, so we have to be a little careful with how we look at it, but I’m super happy with the car – we just have to keep fine-tuning it. It felt really, really good fighting with some of the top guys out there up front.”
Friday’s conditions though, well those are more ideal for race setups for this weekend. The temperature on Friday is supposed to be similar to Sunday. The practice time is also pretty close to racing conditions with the session running from 11 a.m. ET until 12:30 p.m. ET.
That has drivers ready to run a lot on Friday with the 90 minute session on Carb Day being a good indicator for the race.
“It was a pretty clean day,” current Indy Car points leader Josef Newgarden said on Monday. “We experimented with the last couple of changes for the week, trying to get an idea for Carb Day. Carb Day will be more representative of how the race is going to play out, as it was a little cold today. So today, it was just feeling out the car, doing some stops and understanding what we need to do for the race. On Carb Day, we will get a better balance for the car and better understand the changes. I’m excited.”
His teammates agree.
“We got three full-tank runs in today,’ defending ‘500 champion Will Power said on Monday. “We need to work on the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet because I don’t think we are as good as we can be. I was struggling in traffic ,for sure. But we’ve got some time to think it over and decide on some changes, and Carb Day will give us a better indication because the weather will be more realistic to race day.”
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves is searching for No. 4 on Sunday. If he can do so, he will tie Rick Mears, AJ Foyt and Al Unser for most wins in Indy 500 history. The popular Brazilian driver also feels like Carb Day will give them time to run through more setup changes for data.
“We feel like for Carb Day, we might try a little bit more, but I’m ready to go.”
It’s not just Team Penske. 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan thinks it will be busy on track for Carb Day too.
“It’s going to be a lot hotter on Carb Day and race day, so I think Carb Day is going to be more representative,” said the other popular Brazilian in the field.”
Carb Day sounds like it will be a very productive day on the track for the teams. See, they all liked how their cars felt on Monday due to the cooler condidtions which was expected. But, that all changes on Friday. Whoever is happy when practice ends on Friday, those are the ones to watch for Sunday’s race. Trust me when I say not all are going to be speaking happy tunes on Friday like they were on Monday.