May 15, 2013 | By Dave Lewandowski
Defending 500 Champ Fastest In Day 5
To tow or not to tow. In the final 30 minutes of a spirited practice May 15 for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, it wasn’t an option to drivers.
No less than 15 drivers toured the 2.5-mile oval in groups of three, four and five in an effort to experience the balance of their cars in traffic and overall race setup. In total, 32 drivers piled up 2,165 laps without incident on day 5.
Dario Franchitti recorded the fastest lap of the day of 224.235 mph (40.1363 seconds) with 27 minutes left in the six-hour afternoon session. Franchitti, driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, had a fastest non-tow lap of 218.789 mph of the 68 he logged on the warm (88 degrees, 37 percent humidity midway through session) day.
"It doesn’t really count for much, but it’s nice nonetheless," the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion said. "Right now we’re still very much in the preparation stage; we’re making changes to the car and sometimes doing one- and two-lap runs. I think we had a pretty tough morning there and made some big changes to the Target car in the afternoon. We ran some and I was pretty happy with it, so we went out there with some of the Andretti guys and my teammates – Scott (Dixon), Ryan (Briscoe) and Charlie (Kimball) was involved for a minute there as well – and some other guys involved in a pack.
"Really the lap time came from being in the right place at the right time. It was a bit like everybody out there. It was when you got the tow and how big the tow was, so for us it was more important that the car was balanced and how the car is in traffic and stuff, and we’re getting there. Still got a little work to do, but we’re closer than we have been."
Townsend Bell, in his second full on-track session, climbed to second (223.716 mph; 40.2295 seconds) in the No. 60 Sunoco “Turbo” car for Panther Racing. He had a best non-tow lap of 217.479 mph. Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves was among the fastest again (223.699 mph) in the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske car.
“The car has been solid. The Panther guys have done an awesome job,” said Bell, who will attempt to qualify for his seventh “500.” “We had a rocky start with me coming in late from (a May 11 race in California), but we’ve rebounded nicely since then.”
Marco Andretti (221.419 mph) in the No. 25 RC Cola car and Andretti Autosport teammate E.J. Viso (220.305 mph), driving the No. 5 Team Venezuela car, recorded the fastest non-day laps earlier in the session.
“Today we still answered some good questions that we had about the car, and what we are trying to do right now is make our race car even stronger,” said Viso, who was seventh fastest overall (222.727 mph). “I think we are going to be good for the race, but there are still plenty of details to fix to have an even better car.”
Hump Day also was transition day at the Brickyard as teams/drivers will turn their attention to qualifying setup for Pole Day on May 18 and Bump Day on May 19. Four-lap qualifications for the top 24 spots in the 33-car field commence at noon (ET). The fastest nine qualifiers through 4 p.m. will return a half hour later for a shootout to determine the Verizon P1 Award winner and set the first three rows.
Sixteen full-season drivers on the track were backed by fresh Chevrolet or Honda engines that will remain in the cars through qualifying. INDYCAR allows the 2.2-liter, turbocharged engines to be changed out when they surpass the 2,000-mile threshold. The count started at the Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park in mid-March and has continued through four race events, practice this week and – for some teams – additional private testing.
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