Spring is in full swing as we rush into summer, but the year warming up isn’t the only thing getting up to speed in Indianapolis. All 34 entries for the 107th Indy 500 descended upon the speedway Wednesday morning to begin the hectic push of preparation for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in 10 days’ time. Wednesday was the first of many practices for the prospective Indy 500 field in the lead up to the race on Memorial Day weekend; some prospects rose, and others plummeted.
Chip Ganassi Racing: Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon topped the board as the only drivers to reach an excess of 229 MPH in Wednesday’s session. Both cars were fast and their teammates were not far behind. Alex Palou placed 4th in the session; Marcus Ericsson, last year’s winner, finished 7th in time. To have all 4 cars from the same organization post top 7 times is an impressive achievement, and Ganassi enters Thursday with a chance to cement themselves as the clear-cut favorite for qualifying this weekend.
Santino Ferrucci: A Foyt car in the top 3 on speed? Impressive. Ferrucci has a penchant for strong runs in underperforming cars, and he has never finished outside of the top 10 in 4 starts in the Indy 500. The American driver posted a speed of 228.977 MPH- just a hair away from 229- and was the fastest Chevy in the session. Also worth noting is that teammate Benjamin Pedersen was the fastest rookie in the session, placing 21st with a speed of 225.48 MPH. Foyt has clearly brought some stout cars to Indy this year; Ferrucci and Pedersen will look to keep those heads turned as we race towards qualifying on Saturday.
Team Penske: While not as strong a session as Ganassi had, Penske left Wednesday looking solid on speed and performance. Scott McLaughlin was 5th, Josef Newgarden was 9th, and Will Power was 12th on speed. For a team that’s best finish in this race last year was 13th (Newgarden), a strong running on Wednesday gives optimism for a stronger run this year.
Juncos-Hollinger Racing: A car will be bumped this year. 34 entries, 33 spots. And after Wednesday’s practice? Callum Ilott is in danger of missing the field. The entire Juncos organization was woefully off on speed, but Ilott especially struggled to post a competitive time. The team spent the entire day in last on the chart, Ilott at one point being 5 MPH behind the next closest car (his teammate, Augustin Canapino). Canapino was able to jump up to 22nd towards the end of the day, salvaging an equally rough session for him, but Ilott was unable to climb out of the 34th place spot on the speed chart. The struggles were a carry-over from the April practice, but they were able to improve throughout the day. However, the concerns persist. There are a few more sessions before qualifying, and the team can improve their prospects, but if not? We may see a full-time entry going home this weekend.
McLaren: TV commented, multiple times, that the orange team has the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place drivers from last year’s Indy 500. All that is fine and dandy, but to repeat those results you need a fast car. A fast car the McLaren was not on Wednesday, as they could only muster the 19th best speed as their fastest car in the session (Alexander Rossi). We may be early in the Indy 500 preparations, but to see a powerhouse organization like McLaren- with 2 former 500 winners on its roster to boot- struggle heavily to find speed at a track that has become one of their strengths is concerning. Thursday will show whether Wednesday was a fluke or not, but the eyes are on those beautiful throwback rides to see some improvement as we inch towards qualifying this weekend.
Andretti Autosport: It’s a mixed bag for Andretti leaving Wednesday; reach a hand in and you may pull out Colton Herta, who ended the session in 6th place and looked strong all day. Reach a hand in again, however, and you’ll pull out Romain Grosjean, who finished a measly 30th in the session and was among the worst, especially for those who drive for a consensus top team like Andretti, Ganassi, Penske, and the like. Teammate Devlin DeFrancesco was just one spot better, and Kyle Kirkwood was in 25th. Marco Andretti, returning to the Speedway once more, was tenth, but even he seemed dissatisfied with the car following his runs. Andretti has had the speed, albeit not the results, early in the 2023 season; Thursday will show if they can regain the speed after a frustrating Wednesday practice.
Thursday will see another 6 hour session for all teams from 12-6 PM. It can be viewed on Peacock and listened to on SiriusXM channel 160.