‘Fast Friday’ begins to highlight pole favorites, bubble drivers

Photo: IndyCar

With “Fast Friday” now in the books, attention shifts exclusively to qualifying for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

At 35 entries strong, the race will see two drivers fail to qualify. Lap times from this weekend were all over the board as drivers experimented running by themselves vs. running in a pack – and we all realized by very quickly how big of an influence a tow can have on a lap – but some clarity finally began to come into focus on “Fast Friday.”

While Marco Andretti had the fastest speed of the day, the quickest non-tow speeds came from Team Penske. Will Power led the way in that regard, followed by teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud – and Power’s quick lap of 229.780 mph was nearly one mile per hour quicker than Newgarden’s.

Will Power had the fastest non-tow lap during “Fast Friday.” Photo: IndyCar

“I think the No. 12 Verizon Chevy is definitely in a good window,” Power said after Friday’s practice. “I think, obviously, we’re fast. I know there’s a lot of guys up there. I think it’s going to be very tight tomorrow, so we’ll know more when everyone goes. It’s always that you can feel fast on Friday, and suddenly go out, no traffic, or wind changes or anything, and the car’s not as good. But I felt I’ve been good all month, so we’ll see tomorrow.”

Ed Carpenter was fourth, putting four Chevrolets at the top of the non-tow board. Sebastien Bourdais was the best Honda, in fifth.

On the other end of the spectrum, some interesting names appeared at the bottom of the non-tow speed charts.

James Davison ranked 35th and last in that front on Friday, and he became the second driver to hit the wall this month – JR Hildebrand was the first on Thursday, though his contact with little more than a brush.

Davison’s, meanwhile, was much more severe, as his No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s Chevrolet broke loose and backed into the Turn 2 wall in the afternoon, doing significant damage to the left side the car.

James Davison had the first major incident of Indy 500 practice, crashing on Friday. Photo: IndyCar

And given that they were trying a setup change as they searched for more speed, the wreck puts them behind the 8-ball even more heading into Saturday qualifying.

“Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we had to try some things (on setup),” Davison said following the incident and the setup changes they made beforehand. “We’re 32nd quickest, right on the bubble and we are not going to go faster just standing there and looking at it, so no regrets there. I have been having a fantastic time with this AJ Foyt/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi team. We’ll regroup, see what we can pull out of the bag tomorrow and give it everything again.”

The driver directly ahead of him was somewhat more puzzling. Graham Rahal, who had the outright fastest lap on Thursday, was 34th on the non-tow chart on Friday. Until this point, the team seemed to be in no danger of being on the bubble. But, that may be in doubt heading into qualifying.

Graham Rahal had a puzzling lack of speed during “Fast Friday.” Photo: IndyCar

“It was a tough day for us,” Rahal lamented. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We don’t seem to have the pace. We’re trying everything we can possibly but we’re just not quite there yet.”

Kyle Kaiser and Pippa Mann were 33rd and 32nd on the non-tow list on Friday, and while those numbers would barely put them in the field of 33, they will most certainly want to improve upon them to better their chances.

Jay Howard and Sage Karam were 31st and 30th, but their pace may be indicative of experimentation with setups rather than outright pace. Howard was solidly quick in previous days, and Karam has been one of the quickest all week – he was fifth quickest overall on Thursday – and could enter the weekend as something of a darkhorse.

One driver who made a leap forward was Conor Daly, who ranked 26th in non-tow speeds after spending the week below 30th. He and the Dale Coyne Racing with Thom Burns Racing team will want to find a little more speed out of the No. 17 United States Air Force Honda, but their prospects are looking better ahead of qualifying.

Conor Daly found some speed on “Fast Friday.” Photo: IndyCar

“We feel pretty good with how our practice went today,” Daly asserted. “The balance was good, right where we ended it yesterday, and today was just about trimming, and each step we trimmed, the car was comfortable. Do we have the overall speed of our teammate Sebastien (Bourdais)? Probably not, but we’re not too bad. We’re really happy with the car.”

In short, Saturday qualifying – “Bump Day” – remains something of a mystery. And the list of drivers potentially on the bubble includes a couple surprises.

The non-tow speeds are below. A final practice before qualifying will run from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, with qualifying beginning at 11:00 a.m.


IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):

Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans