Fast Friday, frustrated drivers: Scott Dixon fast again in a ‘pretty hairy’ Indy 500 practice

Indy 500 Fast Friday
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INDIANAPOLIS — Close calls and tight speeds were the story of “Fast Friday” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Scott Dixon posted the fastest lap of Indy 500 practice for the second time in three days.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver got more good news after the session when his team drew the No. 1 spot in qualifying for the 105th Indianapolis 500. That means he will put the first speed on the board at noon ET Saturday for everybody to chase in the battle to make the Fast Nine that will battle for the pole position.

That might brighten the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion’s mood.

Dixon was one of many drivers frustrated by slower traffic while trying to find a clear track to simulate a four-lap qualifying run around the 2.5-mile oval in a highly competitive field of 35 cars. Drivers also were adapting to an extra 90 horsepower in a turbo boost provided for “Fast Friday” and the qualifying sessions Saturday and Sunday.

HOW TO WATCH QUALIFYING ON NBC: All the details for Saturday and Sunday

FRIDAY SPEED CHARTClick here to view who was fastest on Day 4

COMBINED PRACTICE RESULTS: Top speeds through the first four days

“Obviously, it was really tough out there today; just really tough to get a clear track,” said Dixon, whose 19th of 29 laps led the session at 233.032 mph in his No. 9 Dallara-Honda. “You had some guys doing some pretty silly stuff out there. Teams should have been held responsible for some of those runs as well.

“I know it’s difficult. I know everybody wants to try to get a run. Some of those closing speeds when you have people doing cooldown laps at 150 mph, you’re coming in at 240, gets pretty hairy.”

After one narrow miss, Graham Rahal apologized to Ed Carpenter after lingering in the bottom lane instead of moving his No. 15 onto the apron (Rahal blamed miscommunication with his team) as the No. 21 Chevrolet whizzed by at speed.

QUALIFYING ORDER: How the cars will go to begin setting the Indy 500 starting grid

Alexander Rossi, whose No. 27 Dallara-Honda posted the fastest no-tow speed (231.598 mph) voiced his displeasure with Josef Newgarden midway through the session.

“Yeah, it was kind of annoying,” Rossi said. “People aren’t doing any favors either, so it was a lot of … whatever, it’s fine. Yeah, it was a good day.”

Dixon blamed one unnamed driver for putting him in a bad spot by declining to pull off track into the cooldown lane.

“When you’re coming in at 240 mph, you had a car in the short chute at 150 mph, that’s a pretty big problem,” he said. “Some of it you’ve got to rely on the spotters. We found ourselves in some positions today. It’s not easy. It’s hard to talk about.”

Dixon said the solution might not be as simple as IndyCar monitoring how cars are released.

“I think it’s part of the process now,” he said. “Once you do a run, everybody is trying to cool the cars off. Some people used to not care about that, but now everybody is doing it. It becomes a lot of cars on track at different speeds. I feel like if you’re off the pace, you just got to use the bottom lanes. How they address it, I don’t know, man.

“I think it was just more difficult this year because I think you’ve got a very full field that are very close. You have a couple people that are going to be hanging on pretty tough. Everybody’s trying to get a run.”

While there were many real estate disputes, there was no debate about which engine manufactcurer had the field covered Friday.

“Honda with a capital ‘H,’ ” Rossi joked.

Honda drivers posted the top five speeds (with Dixon, Colton Herta, Tony Kanaan, Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou) and 12 of the top 15. Team Penske’s fastest driver was Newgarden (22nd), followed by Scott McLaughlin (24th), Will Power (29th) and Simon Pagenaud (30th).

Hondas also had seven of the top 10 four-lap average speeds. The best Chevy was the No. 5 of Pato O’Ward, who posted the sixth-fastest speed and was third on four-lap average.

It portends another tough Indy 500 qualifying session for Chevy, which had only one car in the Fast Nine last year and three cars in the top 15 starting spots of the 2020 Indy 500.

“I think we can all look at the chart and see who is more dominant,” O’Ward said. “My Chevy has been good to me so far. I think we’ve been doing a good job with what we have. Tomorrow obviously the goal is going to be getting to the Fast Nine.”

Friday’s session was the third this week to run incident free. The only crash in four days of Indy 500 practice was Santino Ferrucci, who was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital for precautionary examinations of his left foot Thursday after backing his No. 25 Dallara-Honda into the Turn 2 wall in a hard collision.

INDY 500 INFO: Start times, schedules, TV, stats, historical details about the race

MONTH OF MAY SCHEDULEWhen cars are on track with TV times, schedules

After being cleared to drive Friday morning, Ferrucci posted the 14th-fastest lap and the eighth-best four-lap average in a car that his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team worked overnight to repair.

“I’m so proud of these guys and so thankful the cars are as safe as they are,” he told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “Our Hy-Vee Honda is cooking, man. I just had to forget about (the crash). It’s like that golf mentality. You hit a bad shot and just forget and move onto the next one.

“We had our setback yesterday. I slept it off, took some Tylenol when I woke up this morning and said we’re going to go fast.”

Here’s the rest of the top 10 in qualifying draw (going early usually is an advantage because the track tends to lose grip as the temperature rises): Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Ed Jones, James Hinchliffe, Stefan Wilson, Tony Kanaan, Newgarden, Rinus VeeKay.

In addition to determining the Fast Nine that will compete for the pole position, Saturday’s qualifying session also will leave five cars in jeopardy of missing the field. Two will be eliminated Sunday in the Last Row Shootout.

The cars that seemed to be in the danger zone as the five slowest Friday: Rookie RC Enerson (226.055), Charlie Kimball (228.520), Sebastien Bourdais (229.426), Simona de Silvestro (229.477) and Sage Karam (229.536).

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change