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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Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2