Rain stops Fast Friday, but not Viso and Andretti’s latest fastest lap in Indy

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Rain stopped play on “Fast Friday” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the last day of practice before qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Before the torrential downpour, which began at 3:19 p.m. local time, E.J. Viso set the fastest lap of the week – and for that matter, fastest lap in a decade – at IMS. Viso, driver of the No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet was the latest Andretti Autosport driver to top the timesheets at 229.537 mph.

Viso’s best lap was set in a tow, like all others this week. But throughout Friday, some single-car runs crested the 228 or 227 mph plateau. A four-lap qualifying average sets the grid beginning on Saturday; Pole Day qualifying will be live on NBC Sports Network and live streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.

“We went little by little, step by step, trimming the car one step at a time,” said Viso. “Until that point, I believe our realistic time was in the high 227s or low 228s. There are so many factors in play when we were running that we really won’t know until all of the factors are the same for everyone. I think that we have evolved as a team and heading into the right direction.”

Viso joins teammates Carlos Munoz (twice) in the No. 26 and Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, each in the No. 25, as Andretti drivers to end the day on top. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only one who hasn’t, but has still ranked in and around the top five all week.

The top 28 drivers on Friday all set their fastest laps of the week thanks to the engine boost increase from 130 kPa to 140 kPa, which provides the Chevrolet and Honda engines an extra 40 horsepower.

Pole projection is likely be in the low-to-mid 228 mph range, or more realistically in the high 227 mph range. Weather conditions and low downforce runs will determine whether anything faster is possible. Ryan Briscoe took the pole a year ago at a four-lap average of 226.484 mph, so that should be substantially eclipsed.

Thirty-two of the 33 drivers entered took laps on Friday; 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Lazier began his refresher program while Conor Daly missed out on running despite his A.J. Foyt Racing team repairing his wounded No. 41 ABC Supply Honda after its accident on Thursday.

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.