By: Spencer Neff
August 15, 2020
To cap off an action-packed week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Fast 9 from Day 1 of qualifying on Saturday ran for the pole. Later in the afternoon, the field took to the 2.5-mile course for two and a half hours of practice. Here are some of the highlights with less than seven days before the race.
Andretti takes Pole
After Andretti Autosport posted the Top four qualifying runs yesterday, that performance did not carry over quite as much. As an exception to that statement, Marco Andretti backed up yesterday’s quickest performance by winning pole.
With a four-lap average of 231.068 mph, Andretti edged out Scott Dixon for his first pole since Belle Isle Race 1 in 2018 and the sixth of his career . For Andretti, it marks his second front-row start in the “500” (3rd in 2013).
Joining Andretti and Dixon on the front row will be Takuma Sato. For the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, it is his first front-row start in his 11th “500”, besting his fourth-place starting spot from his 2017 win. For Honda, this is the first time since 2004 that they swept the front row at the “500” when they weren’t the lone engine supplier.
Leading the way for the Rookie class and the Chevrolet-powered entries was Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus Veekay, who starts fourth-the first rookie to start Top 4 since Carlos Munoz started second in 2013.
Completing the Fast 9 were Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, followed by Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh rookie Alex Palou, Sato’s RLLR teammate Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi, who bookended the Top 9 for Andretti Autosport.
Despite a session-best lap of 231.901 mph, Palou encountered issues with his weight jacker and was unable to maintain his pace for the ensuing three laps.
With a massive wind blowing on the south end of the speedway, speeds lowered some from yesterday and no driver eclipsed their four-lap average from Saturday. However, the field average of 229.339 mph trails only 2014 (229.698) for the fastest field in the “500” history.
Practice 6 Notes:
With qualifying over, the focused turned back to preparations for next Sunday’s race. For two and a half hours, the starting field took back to the track. Out of the field of 33, only James Davison did not practice.
Although the Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, Byrd and Belardi Auto Racing driver missed practice to race in the NASCAR Cup Series at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course
As was the case with Fernando Alonso on Thursday, Turn 4 provided more issues for the field’s most accomplished driver. Early in the session, Dixon’s Dallara got loose and spun on the exit of Turn 4. Fortunately for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series points leader, he sustained minor damage. Soon after, Dixon found himself atop the leader board but wound up third overall.
By the end of the session, Andretti was on top again, posting a best lap of 224.122 mph. In second, three-time winner Helio Castroneves was the fastest Chevrolet, finishing second overall. Next Sunday, he will start his 20th “500” from 28th. In what is speculated to be his final IndyCar race with Penske, Castroneves could equal two legendary marks.
If he wins and ties A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears with four career, the Brazilian will match Ray Harroun (1911-the inaugural race) and Louis Meyer (1936) in starting 28th and winning. No winner has come from further back on the grid. Adding to that, Meyer’s win in 1936 was his third career “500” win, the first driver to accomplish that feat.
Thank You for stopping by IndyCar1909. Look for more coverage throughout the week, including a few special features. Lastly, Thank You to IMS and IndyCar Media for helping me provide coverage.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR Media