With Tuesday’s (May 17) opening practice cancelled because of rain, the Month of May officially started Wednesday as the cars were finally out on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in preparation for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.
For most of the afternoon, the speed chart was full of the usual big-team, veteran suspects, but with less than an hour to go, Santino Ferrucci decided to crash the party.
Driving the American-flag adorned, iconic No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing entry, the 24-year-old Ferrucci posted a fast lap of 228.977 mph to finish the day third-quickest on the speed charts.
Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, topped the scoring pylon with a lap of 229.439 mph, with 2008 champion Scott Dixon right behind at 229.174 mph. Alex Palou, who won the GMR Grand Prix on the Indy road course last Saturday, was fourth at 228.720 mph, while Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin was fifth at 228.473 mph.
Ferrucci, who finished fourth in 2020 and has been in the top 10 in all four of his previous 500 starts, no doubt is familiar with the quick way around IMS, and said some adjustments made after the Apr. 20 open test quickly paid dividends.
“We weren’t strong in the open test (last month) at all,” Ferrucci said. “To immediately to just be comfortable was really, really nice. I haven’t been this comfortable here in a couple of years.”
It was a busy day at IMS, as all 34 cars appeared on track and the field turned a total of 3,450 laps. The focus was on race setups, as most teams are holding off on going with any qualifying trim until the boost levels go up on Friday.
Ferrucci, who said his car was totally in race setup with the “nose down” and the rear-wing “stacked”, posted his fast time late in the day, when a train of 20 cars were on track and things got a bit competitive.
“We were looking to put up a good tow lap, like everybody else,” Ferrucci said. “What I didn’t expect was to be passing people in that lap, and to be able to follow as closely as we did. This is definitely a car that I don’t see the need for a lot of adjustments for (the race).”
Of course, all of the top speeds came with the benefit of a tow, which at Indy is almost like a tractor beam pulling cars to faster laps. But on the “no-tow” list were two of the top four qualifiers from last year’s race, and both were from Ed Carpenter Racing.