As of the completion of Practice 4 on Thursday, practice for the Indianapolis 500 has reached half time. It also marks the end of open practice, as starting tomorrow, Fast Friday, drivers will start practice for qualifying in groups.
As open practice ends and qualifying practice begins, what have we learned from the 33 entrants of the 101st Indy 500? Who has struggled? Who has done more with less, and vice-versa? Who has seized the opportunity and is in great shape the rest of the way through? Which rookie has shown the most promise?
First and foremost, the field remains wide-open, any one of the 33 entrants have a shot at the Borg-Warner Trophy. However, those in Honda cars have an out-right speed advantage at the moment which could be crucial come qualifying. That said, the reports of high winds could have played a part in Chevy not reaching sub-40s lap times sooner. In addition, fuel loads and traffic also factor into speeding around the Brickyard.
After four rounds of practice, who holds the edge in possibly kissing the bricks? If you ask Scott Dixon he’d say Alonso. The 2008 winner joins former drivers and pundits who have thrown their support behind Alonso’s Indy 500 bid. Speaking with Motorsport.com the New Zealander said Alonso has a “fantastic shot”.
“Obviously he’s very accomplished. We’ve seen many rookies win here in the first go and he’s with one hell of a team. I think he’s got a fantastic shot.”
Meanwhile, the two-time Formula 1 champion is downplaying his practice success. Saying that dealing high winds on the oval are “tricky”.
As for the rest of the field, mechanical problems for Alonso in Practice 1 and a crash by Jack Harvey, raise some questions about the reliability of Honda.
With Newgarden in a new car for Fast Friday following his hard Practice 4 crash, the Tennessee native will most likely take it slow until actual qualifying and work on setups. The midfield and one-off drivers are too inconsistent to settle on a pattern or front runner among them.
YouTube: Josef Newgarden Incident at IMS – May 18, 2017
Among the top team runners, Hunter-Reay has shown tremendous consistency. Finishing no lower than P5 in the sessions he’s ran. The 2014 winner is looking strong as he searches for his second Indy 500 win. Power is hoping his early-season misfortune doesn’t surface as he looks for his first Indy 500 victory.
With a wide-open field how the drivers deal in qualifying practice will go a long way separating the contenders from the pretenders. With this year’s field boasting seven past winners there will be plenty of jockeying in the last few practices. Drivers must be careful though, of showing their hand too soon. From here on out it is a chess match, with the right strategy and a little luck (just ask Alexander Rossi) it could very well be one of the unheralded ones to taste the milk come Memorial Day weekend. We’ll have to wait and see.
Indy 500 Practice timesheets: