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Marco Andretti once again fastest in practice for Indy 500

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For the second time in three days, Marco Andretti turned in the fastest speed during Friday’s practice session for the May 27th Indianapolis 500.

The beneficiary of increased horsepower at his disposal today – as were the other 34 drivers in the field, as well – Andretti covered the 2.5-mile oval at a stout speed of 231.802 mph.

“We’ve been feeling good actually, pretty good in traffic, which obviously the tow time shows that, and the car is close in race trim,” Andretti said. “I don’t know how much better we can get it.

“But qual trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the Top Nine to be honest. And I think it’s going to take us to nail it to get it in, as with probably five or six other guys, we’re going to be right there with them, and I think it’s going to be all about a third and fourth lap, and we’re just going to have to nail it and do everything right to get it in. Hopefully we can.”

Throughout the first four days overall of practice thus far, Andretti has consistently been one of the fastest drivers in the field, including being No. 1 on Wednesday and again Friday.

“Well, obviously it is very important to win the race, but the month is a roller coaster,” the third-generation racing member of the Andretti family said. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 13 years here, you just have to be prepared for the roller coaster.

“You look at Graham (Rahal), he’s No. 1 yesterday, he’s struggling today. I could be struggling tomorrow. That’s the way it works. We just need to maximize every time out there, take it corner by corner and hopefully make the right decision at the right time. This place, it always helps to catch the circumstances right, as well. Not only in qualifying but over the course of the 500 miles, it picks the winner, right?

“I’m just focused on trying to be quickest every time out, and I’ll smile when I’m quickest every time out.”

Canadian driver and IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens was second-fastest at 231.732 mph, followed by team owner and part-time driver Ed Carpenter (231.066 mph).

“Well, first off, I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here,” Wickens said. “I mean, Fast Friday is for qualifying and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me, and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am.

“Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re okay by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for (Saturday).

Veteran IndyCar driver Oriol Servia, who is competing in a one-off event in a third car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the 500, was fourth-fastest (230.247 mph).

Fifth through 10th were Will Power (229.780 mph), Sebastien Bourdais (229.740), Tony Kanaan (229.500), rookie Matheus Leist (229.365), Stefan Wilson (229.273) and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (229.235).

Graham Rahal, who was fastest Thursday after struggling Wednesday, returned to the struggling side of the ledger, with a top speed of 226.811 mph, good for 33rd in the 35-car field.

Pre-qualifying practice takes place Saturday from 8-9:30 a.m. ET, while qualifying takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

There was only one incident of note in Friday’s practice: Australian driver James Davison spun exiting Turn 2, hitting the wall broadside on the left side of his car.

While the chassis tub did not sustain damage, the gear box did, but his team expects to have the car repaired in time for Saturday’s qualifying.

Below are the non-tow chart, as well as the chart of the first four combined practices from Tuesday through Friday.

 

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Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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