Verizon IndyCar Series

VICS: Pagenaud Quickest Prior To Speed Boost

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With boost pressure set to be increased on all 34 entries in less than one day, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud made his statement as a contender for the Verizon P1 Award by posting the fastest overall lap and the quickest solo lap on Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although a bit off the pace set Wednesday by Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz, who still holds the fastest lap of the week so far at 230.1 MPH, the Frenchman’s 228.793 was enough to top the Honda-powered pilot on Thursday, who also exceeded 228 for the day. Pagenaud however, showed he is capable of improving on his middle of the second row qualifying effort from one year ago at the Brickyard when he fired off a 227 MPH plus pass without drafting aid from another car, the first driver to achieve that feat this week.

Chip Ganassi Racing was also represented near the top of the speed charts on Thursday, as Scott Dixon, Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan, and Charlie Kimball posted laps in excess of 227 MPH, although all were achieved via drafting. Also looking to get among the fight between Chevrolet foes CGR and Team Penske for pole position this weekend, is Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher’s CFH Racing team who saw their team boss Carpenter top the 227 mark on Thursday. Entering time trials this weekend, the Indianapolis-native is hoping to become the first driver in the history of the Indianapolis 500 to win the pole position in three consecutive years. The team will have its work cutout for them though, following a late Thursday afternoon crash involving teammate Josef Newgarden. The Tennessee-native did not suffer injuries in the shunt, but the Century 21 Chevrolet team will be hard pressed to have the damaged car back at 100 percent prior to the start of qualifications on Saturday.

Newgarden’s accident was the fourth suffered so far this week, already three more than seen the entire first week of practice a season ago. The new aerodynamic kits and an increase in speeds have had some to do with the issues, as have varying temperature and wind factors throughout the first four days of practice.

Thursday also saw the first appearance on track for 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier, piloting the No. 91 Wynn Vision Research Chevrolet for Lazier Partners Racing. Lazier only managed 204 MPH in eight laps, meaning more speed will certainly be sought in order to make the grid for next Sunday’s race. Dale Coyne Racing’s Pippa Mann, who crashed on Wednesday was absent from track participation on Thursday, but hopes to return to the track with her car fully repaired on Fast Friday.

While the 23o MPH barrier is expected to be topped by multiple drivers this weekend, the question of whether that will happen in qualifying mode is certainly in question. According to weather.com, there is a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Saturday and an increase to 80 percent for Sunday, when the pole position is set to be determined. It is unknown what Plan B action may be taken if no action is completed this weekend, although in the past the backup plan was to have a special session on the next rain-free day, in which each driver would get one chance to make a four-lap run. Such a session has not called upon since 1979, however that was due to threatened lawsuits involving complaints of teams supposedly receiving more boost than others, rather than due to rain. To calm the tension, a special session of qualifying was held that year adding two cars to the field, meaning 35 started the race that year rather the traditional 33. The special session has never been called upon due to weather reasons however.

Stay tuned to Rubbings Racing for continued updates during time trials weekend at Indianapolis. 

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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