Scott Dixon paces Carb Day as Team Penske finally shows speed in final Indy 500 practice


INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon remained the favorite at the top of the board Friday in the final Carb Day practice before the 105th Indy 500 and called it a day with 45 minutes remaining in the session.

“Hopefully it runs this good in the race,” Dixon, who won the pole position last Sunday, said after his lap at 228.323 mph put the six-time IndyCar champion in control of Friday’s practice. “I was told we were done. We got through our list. I thought the car felt good.

“Also the conditions, I thought everyone was going to feel like King Kong out there.”

105TH INDY 500 INFO: Start times, schedules, TV, stats, historical details about the 2021 race

STARTING LINEUPThe 33-car starting grid for the 2021 Indy 500

Dixon packed his helmet and calmly headed back to the paddock, his rivals taking nervous notice of confident the pole-sitter is ahead of Sunday’s race.

It’s the fifth time in 10 days that Dixon’s No. 9 Dallara-Honda was the fastest at the end of a practice or qualifying session (also posting the fastest speed in Saturday’s qualifying opener and topping practice last Wednesday and Friday).

“We changed our plans when we saw that. We knew we were in trouble,” joked Will Power. “Completely changed the car. I thought I was safe, then I saw him get out. That’s it, it’s over.”

WHO WAS FAST: Click here for the speed chart from the final Indy 500 practice

Rain disrupted the traditional “Carb Day” practice but IndyCar was able to get cars on track for almost two hours later Friday afternoon. Indianapolis Motor Speedway leased “Air Titan” track dryers from NASCAR to get the 2-mile track dry for a practice session in which all 33 cars got on track.

The session was shortened for the final 10 minutes when it once again began to rain, but not before Team Penske showed its ready to race Sunday and the rest of the field indicated it should be a rather exciting show.

“The racing is amazing right now,” said Colton Herta, who will start second alongside Dixon. “I hope it stays this cool for the race because it is actually a lot of fun out there.”

The biggest surprise was Team Penske, which struggled in qualifying and nearly missed the race with Power. One of the greatest qualifiers in IndyCar history had to fight his way into the 33-car field and rookie Scott McLaughlin at 17th was the highest-qualifying Penske driver.

“I honestly felt bad for Will. Obviously, he’s a fierce competitor. Seeing the struggles, not him, but the team are going through for qualifying pace,” Dixon said. “He’s probably the greatest qualifier of our era if not all time. You definitely know it’s not him, it’s just one of those frustrating things.

“He handled it extremely well. Kudos for keeping his foot in it, too, which made for some great TV, some great Internet stuff, as well.”

Team owner Roger Penske said his four cars would be just fine come race day, and that seemed to be the case in final practice. Simon Pagenaud, the 2019 race winner, was second fastest and followed by Josef Newgarden in third. Power, the 2018 winner, was sixth while McLaughlin was seventh.

Conor Daly was fourth fastest on the day in yet another strong showing for Ed Carpenter Racing.

But the American said Friday was his worst day of the month, and he was furious after a near on-track miss with Santino Ferrucci.

Marco Andretti, meanwhile, was fifth fastest after rebuilding the floor of this car Saturday following a disappointing qualifying effort. The change had an immediate effect, and Andretti now believes he’s got a shot at winning the race.

“I’ve had a car to win this race a lot of times. I’ve said that before the race,” Andretti said. “We just have to see if the stars align, do our job, slowly get there, hopefully stay out of messes. But the field is pretty stacked, very talented, hopefully very smart.”

Andretti was the pole-sitter a year ago but the first since 2001 to fail to lead a single lap.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023


Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.