Simon Pagenaud led Carb Day practice with a late flier, tow-assisted, fastest lap of 225.827 mph for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. Until that point, Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso (225.304) looked set to lead the timesheets as has been the trend this month.
Besides Pagenaud’s No. 77 HP entry, Honda has made some strides in the morning session. Cars are now running in full race trim and with the same boost level (130 kPa) as they had before a temporary increase in qualifying.
Honda entered the top 10 – something they failed to do in qualifying – with six cars. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates (Scott Dixon fourth, Dario Franchitti sixth), Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s James Jakes (seventh), Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey’s Katherine Legge (eighth) and Barracuda Racing’s Alex Tagliani (tenth) all cracked the top 10.
“Honda has done a lot of work before qualifying and after qualifying, and Honda’s racing mentality is to go racing and that’s exactly what they’re doing,” said Pagenaud, who starts 21st on Sunday. “They provided us with an engine that is clearly a lot better, so it’s a good sign for the race.”
“We’ve had a tough week; the Hondas were struggling a little bit,” Franchitti said over the PA system at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “The Target guys did a lot of hard work between Bump Day and now. Honda’s brought a much better engine now. I feel now we have a car we can fight with.”
From discussions with all but Dixon on Thursday’s media day, the other four felt very confident with their cars in race trim.
Andretti Chevys were second (Viso), third (Ryan Hunter-Reay), and ninth (Marco Andretti). Sebastien Bourdais, who’s had a solid if unspectacular month for Dragon Racing, clocked in fifth.
There were no incidents in the hour-long session, with 1,305 laps completed, other than Ana Beatriz having a minor moment at pit in, where the Dale Coyne Racing driver got front wing damage.
Right at the end of the session, Ryan Briscoe’s engine let go down the backstraight and he pulled off in Turn 3. The engine was on fire but Briscoe emerged from the car unscathed.
“We were actually on a huge lap, coming to the checkered flag before the engine went,” he said. “But looking at the bright side of things, it’s better to happen now than the first couple laps of the race. So maybe, we’ll be really lucky and be able to put in a fresh engine without a penalty for the start of the race. It looks like the cars are running strong, so I’m feeling good for the race.”