Fast Friday’s 90 horsepower boost will require full commitment from Indy 500 drivers

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INDIANAPOLIS — After using poise and instincts to win the rainy, white-knuckle GMR Grand Prix, Colton Herta will be chasing a new goal with 90 extra horsepower in Fast Friday practice for the Indy 500.

All-out speed.

The 22-year-old Californian and 32 other drivers entered in this year’s Indianapolis 500 will get their long-awaited, three-day power boost, setting them up for qualifying Saturday and Sunday.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: Thursday session l Combined 

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

“It’s a lot more speed, it takes a lot of commitment to hold it flat going into turn one because it’s a huge difference pace-wise,” Herta said Thursday. “It’s always fun. It’s always good, and then when they turn it back down, it never quite feels the same.”

At practice Tuesday and Thursday, most teams were content to work in traffic on race set-ups and posted fast laps near 226 or 227 mph. Wednesday’s session was rained out.

When practice resumes Friday, series officials will add about 90 horsepower to each car – a number that could lead to four-lap qualifying averages in the 230s. The last two pole-winners – Marco Andretti in 2020 and Scott Dixon in 2021 – both topped 231.

After turning the most laps (153) in Thursday’s session, Jimmie Johnson said he “broke through to a new level of comfort in race trim” while prearing for his Indy 500 debut. But the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion conceded he had “no clue what it’s going to feel like to go 230 something around here when the boost goes up.”

A four-time winner of the Brickyard 400, Johnson noted that in his 18 Cup starts at Indy, he always lifted off the accelerator and used a little brake entering Turn 1 in a stock car.

He will be holding the acceleartor wide open Friday (or at least working his way up to it).

“To feel the boost and the straightaway speed and look down at that 90-degree turn and think that I’ll hold it flat, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with my right foot,” Johnson said.

And with so many variables because of the weather’s effect , there’s no assurance Friday’s intense practice will provide many clues about how to handle qualifying weekend.

“It’s big, it’s going to feel big tomorrow when you get the boost,” defending series champ Alex Palou said. “It surprised me the first year, it surprised me the second time, and it’s going to surprise me again tomorrow.”

NEW PLAN

IndyCar owner Dennis Reinbold has been a fixture at the Indianapolis 500 since 2000. This year, with only 33 cars entered, his team is taking a different strategy.

With longtime friends Sage Karam and Santino Ferrucci teaming up for the first time, the drivers with similar racing skills will be working more on qualifying set-up for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

“We’ve started on the last row way too many times, and it’s just so much work to get up to the front,” Reinbold said. “So we really wanted to dedicate some time to our qualifying and being a little quicker than we’ve been before – a lot quicker than we’ve been before.”

There’s one other aspect that will help. Karam, who has qualified 31st each of the last three years with DRR, won’t have to sweat out Bump Day.

“It’s very cool to know you’re already in,” Karam said. “It’s going to be hard to nail it, but I know we’ve got a good team behind us and they’ll make sure we’re ready to go.”

ANTHEM SINGER CHOSEN

Actor and musician Jordan Fisher has been selected to sing the national anthem May 29 before the Indy 500, race organizers announced.

Fisher is the first Black actor to hold the lead role in the Broadway play “Dear Evan Hansen,” appeared in the Tony Award winning musical “Hamilton” and was ABC’s 25th season winner of “Dancing With The Stars.”

His other credits include appearances in “Rent Live,” a variety of television shows, and performing a duet with Lin-Manuel Miranda on Disney’s “Moana” soundtrack.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”