May 17, 2024 | By IndyCar PR

Penske Flexes Muscle on ‘Fast Friday’ as Qualifying Looms

Photo by IndyCar photo

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — If “Fast Friday” is any indication, the record pole speed for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge could be in jeopardy Sunday, and Team Penske has that mark squarely in its sights.

Penske teammates Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Will Power were the three fastest drivers during simulated qualifying runs in practice Friday for the 108th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” as the focus shifted toward PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying on Saturday and Sunday on the 2.5-mile oval.

SEE: Practice Results | Qualifying Procedure | Qualifying Draw

Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Newgarden averaged 234.063 mph in his best four-lap qualifying sim in the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet. Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou set the event record last year with an average speed of 234.217 en route to his first career “500” pole.

Speeds soared Friday because the Honda and Chevrolet engines that power the field featured approximately 100 more horsepower due to increased boost levels that also will be available this weekend during PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying.

“You can’t get too excited on a day like today,” two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden said. “We’re testing. Everybody’s testing. It counts when it counts, but I think we have fast cars. There’s no doubt. We’ve got to be somewhat pleased at what we’re looking at. This team has worked hard.

“We need to put our pieces together tomorrow. It’s going to be harder tomorrow; it’s going to be even harder on Sunday.”

The first day of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying takes place from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. Saturday. A practice session will precede qualifying from 8:30-9:30 a.m., with two 30-minute groups.

Positions 13-30 in the starting field will be set Saturday, with the Last Row Shootout, Top 12 and Firestone Fast Six qualifying sessions Sunday afternoon deciding the rest of the 33-car starting grid.

McLaughlin posted the second-fastest qualifying sim, 233.623 in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. 2018 Indy 500 winner and two-time series champion Power was third at 233.451 in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet.

Arrow McLaren drivers took the fourth and fifth spots on the qualifying sim speed chart. 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi was fourth at 233.355 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, while Pato O’Ward was fifth at 233.043 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

Colton Herta was the fastest driver overall on a single lap Friday, with a top trip of 234.974 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global w/ Curb-Agajanian.

“I’m happy with what we were able to do,” Herta said. “We seem to be lacking a little bit of speed (for qualifying runs). It’s nice to be quickest, but it doesn’t mean much for qualifying.”

Rookie Kyle Larson was second fastest overall on a single lap at 234.271 in the No. 17 Hendrickcars.com Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. He was 10th on the qualifying sim speed chart at 232.549. 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Larson is attempting the “double” of racing in the “500” and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26.

Newgarden’s lap of 234.260 – the first on his fastest four-lap qualifying sim – ended up as the third-fastest single lap overall.

All 34 drivers attempting to earn one of the 33 starting spots combined to turn 990 laps today, a significant reduction from Wednesday and Thursday as teams focused mainly on solo runs in qualifying simulations instead of running numerous laps in traffic to test race setups.

There was one incident in the six-hour session. Rookie Nolan Siegel spun in Turn 2 during a qualifying simulation and hit the SAFER Barrier. Siegel’s No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda then rolled and became briefly airborne, landing on its left sidepod and sliding down the backstretch on its roll hoop. Siegel was unhurt. The car was heavily damaged, and Siegel said the team is shifting to a backup car.

The 108th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 26 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network).

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