Field full — but not set — for 97th Indy 500

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The Indianapolis 500 has its traditional field of 33 cars, but the starting grid will not be completely set until the gun goes off at 6 p.m. ET at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Going into today’s Bump Day action, ten drivers were set to battle for the nine remaining starting spots on the grid. So far, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden (pictured) is the fastest second-day qualifier after putting down a four-lap average of 225.731 miles per hour in his No. 21 Century 21 Honda. The Tennessee native was bumped out of the Top 24 with minutes to go in yesterday’s Pole Day, but should nonetheless feel encouraged by his efforts this afternoon.

“Today, it’s one of those days [where you] have to keep your chin up,” Newgarden told NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider. “What happened yesterday happened, let’s move on to the race. Hopefully, we can get some race [trim] running in today. I’d love to work on the car and I really think we’re going to be strong when it counts.”

Another driver that was left frustrated on Pole Day was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal, but he too has put up a strong run today. Rahal posted a four-lap average of 225.007 miles per hour in the No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda, which made him visibly more pleased than he was yesterday.

“We went out there [in practice] this morning and the car right away was back up into the 226s, so I just knew that the car had plenty of speed in it,” Rahal told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “We just needed to get four laps in and move on.”

Here’s the current speeds for today’s Bump Day qualifiers, who are going for Positions 25-33 on the grid. As of 1 p.m. ET, Michel Jourdain Jr. in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda is the only second-day qualifier that has yet to post an attempt.

Indianapolis 500

Second Day Qualifiers (as of 1 p.m. ET)

25. 21-Josef Newgarden, 225.731 mph

26. 15-Graham Rahal, 225.007

27. 6-Sebastian Saavedra, 224.929

28. 55-Tristan Vautier, 224.873

29. 18-Ana Beatriz, 224.184

30. 63-Pippa Mann, 224.005

31. 41-Conor Daly, 223.582

32. 91-Buddy Lazier, 223.442

33. 81-Katherine Legge, 223.176

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds