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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”