Editor's note: Thursday's practice results, as well as overall combined results of all practices to date are at the bottom of this story.
INDIANAPOLIS – Takuma Sato led the speed chart a second straight day (Wednesday was rained out) in Indianapolis 500 practice Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when most teams continued to work on race setups for this weekend's qualifying runs.
Sato, a two-time Indy 500 winner, drove his Dale Coyne Racing Honda to a speed of 227.519 mph on the 2½-mile oval. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was second for the second straight practice at 227.335 mph, rookie David Malukas, also with Dale Coyne Racing, was third at 226.869 mph and J.R. Hildebrand was fourth at 226.846 mph in his A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
Hildebrand was the fastest of the Chevy drivers, who made more of a presence in the top 10 than in Tuesday’s opening practice when only two – Rinus VeeKay and Josef Newgarden – cracked that list dominated by Honda teams.
The other Chevy drivers in the top 10 Thursday were Pato O’Ward (sixth at 226.048 mph) and Felix Rosenqvist (eighth at 225.788 mph), both with Arrow McLaren SP, and Ed Carpenter (10th at 225.493 mph) with Ed Carpenter Racing.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, a rookie in the Indy 500, was a surprising fifth at 226.409 mph, continuing a strong week in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after running third on Tuesday.
“The first lesson that I was reminded of is just because you had a good setup on Tuesday, doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good setup on Thursday,” said Johnson, whose 153 laps were most of all 33 drivers. “This track, in a Cup car and certainly I’m learning in an Indy car, it’s very temperamental, and you’ve just got to be on top of it. You can’t put your guard down.
"Things change and I’m trying to understand why there was a difference, because obviously when you go to race, you don’t get a practice session beforehand to see where your balance is. But all in all a great day. A lot of lessons learned, a lot of laps in the car, a lot of running in the pack, so just a successful day.”
While most drivers practiced Thursday in race setups and the fastest speeds came with the help of the aerodynamic tow, some simulated qualifying runs to get a baseline for when teams get extra turbo boost for practice Friday and qualifying Saturday and Sunday.
Chevy drivers posted the top four no-tow speeds Thursday, led by Team Penske’s Will Power at 224.325 mph. VeeKay was second at 224.047 mph, followed by Carpenter (223.858 mph) and rookie Callum Ilott (221.894 mph) of Juncos Hollinger Racing.
Carpenter, a three-time 500 pole winner, said it’s too early to predict what speeds will be when teams get added boost, especially in practice Friday when 30 mph wind gusts are expected.
“We all three (ECR drivers Carpenter, VeeKay and Conor Daly) did qualifying simulations. It seems like we have some decent speed,” Carpenter said. “But again, there’s a lot of good cars that didn’t do any qualifying simulations today. It doesn’t quite mean anything until tomorrow. We just wanted to do it and get a good baseline and balance for the configurations we plan on running tomorrow with the boost.”
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