Chevrolet drivers take top 2 spots at Indy 500 practice


By Michael Marot

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power and Josef Newgarden finally got Chevrolet to the top of the speed chart Friday.

Now they’ll have to do it all over again in qualifying — at least twice.

The Australian driver for Team Penske took advantage of a power boost by producing the fastest lap all week in Indianapolis 500 practice, going 232.672 mph, while Newgarden finished second at 232.344.

“I’m really impressed with the speeds,” said James Hinchcliffe, the top Honda driver at 231.972. “I really didn’t think we’d hit those numbers.”

The numbers also can be deceptive.

Power acknowledged his impressive lap came with a tow, something he won’t benefit from when each of the 33 drivers make their first four-lap qualifying runs individually Saturday.

The nine fastest drivers advance to Sunday’s pole shootout while the remaining 24 will battle for starting position in their own group Sunday.

Power understands what it will take to start on the inside of Row 1 on the traditional three-car, 11-row grid. He’s qualified on the front row in three of the past six 500s and in the second row the other three times..

Newgarden also has some experience in the shootout. The young American, who drives for Ed Carpenter Racing, has started in the top nine each of the past two years at Indy.

Yet the most intriguing question heading into qualifying might be this: Can the Honda drivers regain the edge they appeared to have before series officials added almost 30 horsepower to the cars Friday?

“I think it’s good and fast,” Power said of his car. “I think it’s going to be really tight for the pole and I think I’m going to be right there.”

Honda drivers posted the best speeds each of the first three days of practice, and they took nine of the top 11 spots Friday, too.

Hinchcliffe, a Canadian driver with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports led the contingent at just a tick under 232.

Andretti Autosport has been the strongest team all week and each of its five drivers finished in the top 10 on the final full day of practice. Carlos Munoz led the Andretti pack. He was fourth at 231.952 while American Marco Andretti finished fifth at 231.824.

“The car feels great, it’s really good for sure,” Munoz said. “We have still some margin to go for tomorrow, like I think everyone does. We’ll see what we go.”

Here are some other things to watch this weekend:

COLOMBIAN CONNECTION: Munoz and Gabby Chaves, both of Colombia, have been among the fastest drivers this week. Chaves was eighth Friday at 231.136. Another Colombian, Juan Pablo Montoya, is the defending 500 champ and was 18th in practice Friday. But Montoya, who drives for Penske, has won two of his first three starts in the 500. Chaves drives for Dale Coyne Racing.

CROWDED INFIELD: With reserved seating sold out for the May 29th race, the 100th running of the 500, crowds this weekend could be large. Some parking lots near the track were already filling up after Thursday’s practice and there were longer lines than usual for Friday’s practice. Nobody expects Saturday’s crowd to top 150,000, like it did during the 1980s, but this weekend’s crowds should be larger than those in recent memory.

AWARD WINNERS: The 50th Louis Schwitzer Award for innovation and engineering experience was presented Friday to the trio that designed the rear beam wing flaps. Tino Belli of IndyCar, Arron Melvin of Chevrolet and Alex Timmermans of Dallara collaborated on a design that reduced the potential of cars going airborne after getting backward. Track historian Donald Davidson also was presented the Sagamore of the Wabash Award by Gov. Mike Pence. It is the highest award an Indiana governor can present.

NEW LOOK: Rookie Alexander Rossi’s car has a new look this weekend. Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian announced Friday that NAPA auto parts and NAPA Balkamp will be the primary sponsor for the No. 98 car. It’s the first time NAPA has been a primary sponsor in the IndyCar Series. NAPA also will appear as an associate sponsor on the team’s other four cars.

UP NEXT: The first of two days of qualifying begins Saturday.

By Michael Marot

AP Sports Writer

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