Auto racing: Andretti drivers have been fastest during Indy 500 practices
By Jeff Majeske Post-Tribune correspondent May 17, 2013 8:44PM
Indianapolis 500 - Practice
What: Qualifying to determine the first 24 spots in the Indy 500 field
When: 10 a.m. today
Updated: June 19, 2013 6:20AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Rain or shine, Andretti Autosport emphatically stamped itself as the favorite to win the pole during qualifying Saturday for the 97th Indianapolis 500.
A fierce mid-afternoon storm cut short Friday’s practice session by about three hours. Just about an hour after the track opened, E.J. Viso cut a tow-aided lap of 229.537 mph, fastest of the month.
The Venezuelan, seeking his sixth 500 start, became the fourth member of the five-driver Andretti Autosport team to be the fastest in a session.
Viso joined Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and rookie Carlos Munoz — who turned the trick twice this week — in heading the daily speed charts. Andretti drivers have topped five of the seven practice days.
The turbocharger boost was increased for Friday and Saturday, adding about 40 horsepower to the Chevrolet twin-turbocharged V6 and Honda single-turbo V6 engines.
In terms of speed, this change translated into an increase of about four mph — Munoz had the previous top lap at 225.163 mph on Thursday.
“We went little by little, step by step, trimming the car one step at a time,” said Viso, whose best Indy start was ninth last year. “Every day we’ve been on the track and testing a number of pieces on the car.”
Andretti was second fast on Friday at 228.754 mph, followed by Munoz at 228.520 mph.
“I think as a team we’re quite comfortable with our speeds,” said Andretti, who indicated that a 230-mph lap – the first in a decade — was possible had not rain halted practice. “I think there are five of us in the running for the pole, but as far as favorite — there are going to be a lot of factors (today).”
The “slow poke” on the Andretti team is reigning IndyCar series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started third in last year’s 500 and has a best lap of 226.919 mph.
Last year’s pole speed was 226.484 mph by Ryan Briscoe, then driving for Penske, in the first year of the new equipment package for the IndyCar series.
Perennial favorites Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi continue to lag, which has been a theme this season.
Penske’s Will Power, runner-up in the series championship the past couple of season, has the best lap of the bunch at 228.401 mph. Teammate Helio Castroneves, a four-time pole winner and three-time champion, had a best lap of 226.988 mph on Friday.
Defending 500 champion Dario Franchitti led the Ganassi team at 227.080 mph, with Scott Dixon, the 2008 pole-sitter and race winner, at 226.162 mph.
Qualifying begins at 10 a.m. Central today with the first 24 positions of the 33-car field available. The top nine qualifiers as of 3 p.m. will participate in a 90-minute shootout to determine the pole position winner and the rest of the first nine spots.