As planned, final Indy 500 practice ‘uncomfortable’ for Marco Andretti

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Indy 500 pole-sitter Marco Andretti gritted through his Carb Day in a thoroughly unenjoyable final practice Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Which was precisely the plan for the Andretti Autosport driver.

After leading the speed charts for the past three days of on-track activity at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (including Fast Friday and two days of qualifying), Andretti’s No. 98 Dallara-Honda team worked to ensure they knew which setup adjustments to avoid making during Sunday’s 104th Indy 500.

THE 104TH INDY 500How to watch Sunday’s race on NBC

‘A MASTERPIECE’: Marco Andretti loves his car for the Indy 500

“Today the goal was to put myself in the most uncomfortable circumstances possible because we’re not planning on leading 200 laps,” Andretti told hosts Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick in an NBCSN interview after the two-hour session. “That would be beautiful. But we know there’s going to be a state of adversity at some point in the 500 miles, so that’s what I put myself into today.

“It was just as uncomfortable as we thought it was going to be!”

He ranked 28th of 33 drivers with a best lap at 221.314 mph, which left him last among his six teammates and the second-slowest Honda.

The third-generation driver, who will be the first member of his famous racing family to start first at Indy in 33 years, said his team worked through about “10 to 15 different things, not necessarily big items” (which he declined to specify because “my engineers would be pretty mad if I repeated it”).

After they “found some things that the car really doesn’t like,” Andretti said the benefit was realizing what changes to avoid for the 200-lap race.

“We needed to confirm, and I’d rather learn that today than on Sunday,” he said.

Marco Andretti final practice
Marco Andretti turned the 28th fastest lap in the Carb Day practice for the Indy 500 (James Black/IndyCar).

Starting from the pole for the first time at the Brickyard will afford Marco a great view of a special moment Sunday.

During the pace laps, his father, Michael, and grandfather, Mario, will ride in front of the field in a two-seater Indy car (with Mario behind the wheel). It’s the first time all three generations will be on track together at the 2.5-mile oval where Mario made his debut 55 years ago, beginning a tradition of speed that only has been lacking checked flags on the iconic layout.

Michael Andretti never counted the Brickyard among his 42 career victories despite leading 431 laps at IMS (more than any other winless Indy 500 driver). Mario Andretti won only once in 1969 despite leading nearly 20% of his laps in 29 starts,

When Marco Andretti lost the 2006 Indy 500 to Sam Hornish Jr. off the last corner as a rookie, it renewed the focus on whether the “Andretti Curse” was real.

But entering his 15th start at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with perhaps his best shot yet, Marco is relishing the attention.

“I think everybody asks is there a lot of pressure being on the pole,” he said. “I think that’s a good type of pressure. Bad pressure is what I’ve been going through before. When it’s not going right, that’s the pressure. When it’s going right, that’s the good part, so I’m in a good place mentally.”

Andretti chuckled when the interview on the speedway’s pagoda briefly was interrupted by his grandfather turning warmup laps below in the two-seater.

“What this place means to motorsports, it just casts such a wide web,” he said. “So (the pole) feels like a win even though it’s just qualifying. That’s how big this race is. It’s been a fairy tale so far. We just have to keep it going.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)