INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Kanaan told us after Monday’s practice session that he just doesn’t think that his car is good enough to win Sunday’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network). He said that he would have instead been happy with a solid top 10 finish.
But, in the next practice session on the annual Carb Day practice, Kanaan topped the speed charts in his No. 14 Chevrolet. The 2013 race winner circled the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a speed of 225.517 mph.
This was the first time all month that Kanaan was in the top 10 of the speed charts. Kanaan, has two top five finishes in his last three Indy 500 starts as he looks like he may have a better car than initially though.
Rookie Santino Ferrucci turned in a late lap of 225.486 mph in his No. 19 Honda to move from 11th to second on the speed charts in the final 70 minute practice session of the month. 2017 race winner Takuma Sato (225.468 mph) was third while rookie Jordan King (225.337 mph) and James Davison (225.314 mph) rounded out the top five in the incident free session.
Here are my main takeaways.
Honda’s Look Strong
Chevy had the preferred speed in qualifying, taking five of the top six starting spots for Sunday’s race including sweeping the front row for the second straight year. But, it was Honda who stole the show on Carb Day.
Six of the top seven speeds belonged to the Honda camp.
Can they win their fourth race of the season and fourth Indy 500 triumph in the last seven years?
Race Will Be Track Sensitive
The drivers have been saying this all week. How the race will look will depend on the conditions. If it’s cooler and more overcast, expect more passing throughout the field. If it’s hotter and sunny, expect only the first couple of positions being able to pass.
We saw that on Friday.
When the session started, the track conditions were cooler. We saw a lot more passing than we saw later on in the session when track temperatures were at the hottest that we’ve seen for practice this month.
Friday’s Conditions Threw Teams For A Loop
We all knew this would happen. Due to how the conditions for Indy 500 practice were for most of the month, Carb Day would be a key indicator on how far off these teams really were.
See, everyone was happy following Monday’s practice. With cooler and overcast conditions, there was plenty of grip on the track and in these cars. But, Monday and even a couple of the practice days last week weren’t ideal conditions for what we were going to see on race weekend.
When you practice in the 60’s but the temperatures on Friday and Sunday will be in the 80’s, what you learned previously wouldn’t translate well over to now.
That’s why so many drivers were left scratching their heads when the Carb Day practice ended.
“You know it’s funny, I think we were a little more confident with our start setup than it ending up being,” said James Hinchcliffe. “But I’m very thankful that we ended up having an extra 30 minutes this year in Carb Day, because we made a lot of changes to the Arrow car, but all of them were positive. So, I think where we ended was the best balance that we’ve had all day and certainly much more race-able car. The conditions were a lot trickier than Monday; it’s a lot hotter, the wind is a bit different. I think a lot of guys are struggling. We chipped away at it, and I’m really proud of the progress we made.”
His teammate Marcus Ericsson agreed.
“I think the Arrow car was quite different on Monday,” said the rookie driver. “The conditions obviously changed with all the rain we’ve had and it became very hot. So I feel we have a bit to work on to get the right feeling there in traffic, but it’s still part of that learning curve. Now we have another day to sort of think about it and how to set it up for Sunday. We have a good baseline to work from, but I wasn’t 110 percent happy today but that’s how it goes sometimes. Like I said, we still have a good base to work from, we just have to tweak it a bit for Sunday.”
It wasn’t just the SPM guys. Two of the all-time great Indy Car drivers as well as two former winners of this race too weren’t happy with their cars either.
“It’s very, very difficult to make the car work in traffic,” said the defending winner Will Power. “We’ll go back and talk about it and see what kind of changes we need to make.”
Power, said he’s very frustrated and doesn’t think his car is good enough at the moment. The saving grace is, he doesn’t see anyone else who is either.
“Based off last year, the car’s definitely not as nice.”
Scott Dixon is equally as worried. He thinks something may be wrong with his car in fact.
“I don’t know what happened there with the PNC Bank car honestly,” said Dixon. “I hope we find something wrong with the car because it wasn’t great. It’s really bizarre, and nothing like we had all month, so we are unsure. We are perplexed as to why this is, there are a lot of new parts on the car – including the gear box, bell housings, uprights, etc. So hopefully we find something that is a little off. We were just trying to get through some last-minute items, but ultimately it was not great anyway, so we are trying to figure out why. There is a fundamental issue on the car and we’ll work to find out what happened there.”
Dale Coyne Racing Was Strong
When looking at the speed chart, the first initial look shows that Dale Coyne Racing was strong. Rightfully so too. They’ve looked the sleeper part all month and here they were 2-5-6 in final practice on Monday.
With good cars in the draft as well as having good outright speed, watch out for them on Sunday.
Charlie Kimball Quietly Good Again
We can’t overlook the lone Carlin driver in the field. Charlie Kimball came in P8 on the final speed charts of the month. That was the fourth time in the last five practice sessions this month that Kimball was in the top eight of the speed charts. He has some of the longest odds in the field, but here he is with some of the best speed.
Andretti Cars Looking For Setups
You wouldn’t think that most of the Andretti Autosport drivers were happy following the Carb Day session. The two winners of this race in their camp were chasing setups all session. Ryan Hunter-Reay said that the front of his car isn’t a good mixture with the back of his car. He was only P15 in the session.
Alexander Rossi was seventh overall but he had to pit a number of times for setup changes. Did they find one they liked? Actually, he thinks that they did.
“As we expected, the track temp is different than it has been all month in terms of group running.” said the 2016 race winner. “We tried a couple different things to bring the car into the window and I think we found something, so hopefully we can put it all together for Sunday.”
Conor Daly, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach was 16th, 23rd and 28th respectively themselves. Daly, is happy with where he stands at the moment.
“I still think the car balance is pretty solid,’ said Daly. “I’d like to find just a few small pieces for the race, but in the end happy that we haven’t dropped off a cliff or anything. The U.S. Air Force is still pretty good in the long run, so hopefully we are good for the race.”
Andretti though, says that his team may have some work to do.
“We didn’t find exactly what we wanted in today’s practice. We need to make the right moves tonight so we have a car to push to the front on Sunday. It’s a long race and it’s only the last lap that matters, so our plan is to drive clean and move forward and be leading that final lap.”
Carb Day Practice Speed Chart
1. 14 Kanaan 225.517
2. 19 Ferruci R 225.486
3. 30 Sato 225.468
4. 42 King R 225.337
5. 33 Davison 225.314
6. 18 Bourdais 225.288
7. 27 Rossi 224.692
8. 23 Kimball 224.650
9. 88 Herta R 224.527
10. 12 Power 224.240
11. 5 Hinchcliffe 224.152
12. 3 Castroneves 224.094
13. 2 Newgarden 223.911
14. 21 Pigot 223.905
15. 28 Hunter-Reay 223.664
16. 25 Daly 223.659
17. 15 Rahal 223.541
18. 20 Carpenter 223.481
19. 9 Dixon 223.388
20. 10 Rosenqvist R 223.210
21. 60 Harvey 222.978
22. 22 Pagenaud 222.856
23. 98 Andretti 222.824
24. 48 Hildebrand 222.762
25. 7 Ericsson R 222.759
26. 39 Mann 222.621
27. 77 Servia 222.612
28. 26 Veach 222.582
29. 24 Karam 222.450
30. 4 Leist 222.202
31. 63 Jones 222.112
32. 32 Kaiser 221.699
33. 81 Hanley R 219.719