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.