Indy 500 practice week is done, so what does it all mean?

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INDIANAPOLIS – The week of pre-qualifying practice for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is in the books and there’s more questions than answers that emerge going into the two days of qualifying (a format of which requires an infographic to explain).

A few quick observations and questions from the week just passed to follow:

HONDA’S BETTER

Last year Honda went into qualifying knowing the qualifying would feature race downforce in a last-minute switcheroo from INDYCAR’s competition department and it pretty much hampered what little chances they had. The frustration still lingers 12 months later.

Alas, it’s been a good week for Honda leading into qualifying and as the story has gone this year, whether the practice pace actually translates in qualifying remains to be seen.

Realistically a good day for Honda would be getting four of five of its cars into the Fast Nine. A great day would be six or seven. A tough-ish day would be three or worse.

There’s seven or eight realistic targets from the Honda camp based on no-tow speeds: all five Andretti Autosport cars, perhaps one to two Schmidt Peterson Motorsports cars, and based on his most impressive week of running, the welcome underdog story of the month in Gabby Chaves at Dale Coyne Racing. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal also has a decent shot but didn’t find as much speed as he or the team would have wanted, trimmed out. The remaining three Coyne drivers are respectable and should target the midpack; A.J. Foyt Enterprises has had a tough week of it.

IS THERE MORE LEFT IN THE PENSKE/GANASSI TANKS?

Despite topping Friday’s final practice, and being second in the no-tow charts, Will Power and the rest of Team Penske have focused much more on race setup than outright pace. Power along with teammates Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud have also all ran a lot of laps.

The Chip Ganassi Racing team hasn’t had the strongest of weeks. Charlie Kimball was good early but fell off a bit on Friday; Scott Dixon has been midpack and Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton a little behind. Ganassi, for whatever reason, hasn’t blown the hottest at Indy some recent years – remember challenging qualifying weekends in 2012 and 2013? But mind you, Dixon is the defending polesitter here and can’t be counted out. You figure at least two and probably at least one Ganassi will make the Fast Nine.

CLEAN SO FAR

Thus far only Spencer Pigot has had an accident, and that came under abnormal circumstances. Really good weather and generally safe running have thus far been the story lines; the field has more than 8,000 completed laps this week.

Does that change on Saturday? Quite possibly.

MORE TO COME

Saturday’s qualifying won’t mean anything except who can run for the Fast Nine. Sunday’s is slightly more important.

Saturday’s practice begins at 8 a.m.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III