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May 24, 2015
May 16, 2014 | By Verizon IndyCar Series
Will Power threw out the notion early this month that a four-lap average of 230 mph in qualifications May 17-18 for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was approachable with favorable conditions.
Ed Carpenter’s lap of 230.522 mph less than 15 minutes into the “Fast Friday” session on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval gave credence to the Team Penske driver’s hypothesis. Carpenter’s calling card was the fastest lap speed in practice since 2003 by Scott Dixon, who laid down a 233 mph-plus lap on Pole Day morning.
View Indianapolis 500 'Fast Friday' Results
“The car is definitely up to speed this year,” said Carpenter, who earned the $10,000 F.E. Harding Asphalt Companies Fastest Lap Award for the brief work. “When it comes to predicting the pole, I think a lot of it will be figuring out what the weather is. If it warms up enough and the air gets a little thinner, certainly I think 230s are realistic, even up to 232 and 233.”
The session was halted after 19 minutes because of rain that remained in the area to force cancellation of the remaining 90 minutes. A 60-minute practice, split into two groups, that precedes qualifying May 17 begins at 8 a.m. (ET).
The first round of qualifications is from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. (ABC coverage from 4-6 p.m. ET), with starting positions, including the Verizon P1 Award, determined May 18 (ABC coverage from 1-3 p.m. ET that will feature the Fast Nine Shootout for the pole).
Four different teams were represented in the top five, seven entries posted a lap speed above 229 mph, and 10 more bettered the previous month’s best of 227.166 mph set a day earlier by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske car.
Castroneves was second fast (229.843 mph) in the session. Marco Andretti was third (229.419) in the No. 25 Snapple car for Andretti Autosport, while Carpenter’s teammate, JR Hildebrand, was fourth (229.384) in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services entry and Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing was fifth (229.276).
Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award last May with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car with a top speed of 229.347 mph on Lap 1. It was the best four-lap average since 2006 when Sam Hornish Jr. won the pole with a four-lap average of 228.985 mph.
Surpassing that over 10 miles in what Carpenter has called “more stressful than the race” will depend in large part on three factors:
Ambient and track temperatures
The May 17 weather forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a high temperature of 60 degrees, with highs in the mid-60s on May 18, which could be the sweet spot Carpenter referenced for the Verizon IndyCar Series cars.
“The air density -- humidity and ambient air temp -- has a lot to do with how much downforce versus drag the car is actually making,” said Hildedbrand, the Indy 500 runner-up in 2011 as a rookie. “That’s where your speed comes from and you don’t want to overshoot that by much one way or the other when you’re qualifying. The added variability adds to the stress and what to expect, and it adds to the out-of-car prep with the engineer that a driver needs.”
Team engineers are continuously monitoring and logging ambient temperature, track temperature, ambient pressure, humidity, and wind direction/speed and making adjustments as necessary to optimize the car’s set-up.