The week of practice has come and gone and now we’re set for Pole Day for the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The quickest speeds of the Month were turned on Fast Friday as the boost was turned up on the cars by 10kPA. That gave the drivers and teams extra 50 horsepower to work with which in turn increased speeds by 4-5 mph.
E.J. Viso was quickest of the day at 229.537 mph. Viso’s lap though was with a bit of a tow.
Will Power has the distinction of being the fastest without a tow with a speed of 228.104 mph in his Team Penske Chevy.
Many of the favorites entering Pole Day are Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Power. I still think these five car sneak in and not just earn a top nine spot but steal the pole for the big race on May 26th.
Why not put E.J. Viso in this category. He’s not going to be listed as one of the favorites but despite having a bit of a tow he was the quickest of the day on Fast Friday. His lap is the quickest of the month and he enters Pole Day with a string of good starts.
Viso started on the front row in the last race at Brazil where he started second. His team Andretti Autosport has been fast all week long as Viso has been among those top drivers. He certainly has the setup and equipment to make a good run at the pole.
Also, Viso has been getting better and better at IMS each year. He started ninth last year with KV Racing. He also joins the team that put three cars in the top four last year and look even better in 2013.
Why not Viso?
If we’re going to have abbreviated first names on the sleeper list look no further than J.R. Hildebrand. The 2011 Indy 500 runner-up has been quietly quick all week long as he was ninth quickest on race set up.
With the boost turned up he ended up fifth quickest on the day at 227.549 mph. That lap actually was without a tow and earned him the third quickest speed of the month without help from another car.
With this being his third year at Indy and knowing his way around the track he’s among the favorites. He’s got a quick car and experience. Watch out for Hildebrand on Pole Day.
While we’re speaking of Panther Racing why not one of their satellite joint teams with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing? Oriol Servia has the same equipment as Hildebrand and equally if not better speed.
This certainly will be a heartwarming story as the team announced they’d have to close shop after Indy due to lack of funding. If he can earn the pole and run well on race day that could change.
Servia was sixth quick on Fast Friday with a lap of 227.237 mph. When he did a mock run he had a four-lap average of 226.122 mph. I do believe that will go up as he found more speed but never got a chance to run another mock qualifying attempt.
He will be a factor Saturday afternoon.
Is a three-time Indy 500 champ and defending winner a sleeper? For the race no, but for a pole yes he is.
It’s no secret Honda’s are once again down in speeds compared to Chevy’s. The pole looks like its Chevy’s to lose. That’s why if anyone with Honda power can get it done it’s Dario Franchitti.
Franchitti was ninth quickest of the Month with a lap of 227.080 mph. Like Hildebrand that lap is also without a tow as he came home sixth on the month with speeds without help.
That makes Franchitti a factor on Saturday. Will Power told me Monday that qualifying isn’t about skill anymore. All the drivers run flat out on the same set up. It’s all about hitting their marks and knowing the fast way around.
Cue Franchitti on that.
Again is a Team Penske driver really a sleeper for a pole at Indy? Afterall, Team Penske has won three of the last four poles including last year. This car even was the one of the pole. How is it a sleeper?
That’s because A.J. Allmendinger is the driver and this is his first open wheel oval race in over five years. He’s a rookie at Indy and first year drivers don’t win poles at the tough track.
Allmendinger has been in the top 10 all week and shown he does know the lines. Factor in he does have a Penske car and has help from Roger, Tim Cindric, Rick Mears, Helio Castroneves and Will Power and he’s definitely a good pick.
He was fifth quickest without a tow at 227.008 mph and he of all people know how to make four perfect laps.
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