INDIANAPOLIS —After three days of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the AJ Foyt Racing team is looking solid heading into the qualifying weekend for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Veteran Tony Kanaan is leading the team on the track and off in his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. He posted the second fastest time of the day today (225.896 mph) and yesterday posted the fastest “no tow speed” of 223.048 mph, which is a positive indication for qualifying. “No tow speed” is that speed where a car does not receive the benefit of the draft (or tow) of cars running ahead of it. An IndyCar driver is alone on the track during his qualifying run.
"It's been a good week for us,” said the 2013 Indy 500 champion. “We unloaded pretty quick since the test [May 1-2]. Now it's more about trying to figure out what you're going to need in 10 days, and it's quite hard to know what the weather is going to do, so we're trying to run in any type of weather. We're recording everything on the books and have all that information for next week, so by Carb Day you can try to predict what can happen on Sunday and what set-up you need. Tomorrow it's 'Fast Friday' and you worry about four laps the first day (of qualifications) and four laps the next day. From tomorrow on, you'll be making the car as fast as you can for qualifying."
Matheus “Matt” Leist, posted his fastest speed of the week 224.507 mph yesterday – his first day on track in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. The team worked through a variety of setups for both qualifying and race trim over the two days and found a few things that made the 19-year-old more comfortable, and his mentor as well.
“Matheus found a couple things today, too, that I tried at the end of the day and I liked it. It's working like we used to work, like I used to work,” Kanaan said of the relationship with his rookie teammate.
Having tested here along with Kanaan, Leist is becoming more familiar with the track which Kanaan warned, “This track will play mind games with you.”
With 118 laps in, Leist has logged the fewest laps of the drivers this week as a result of not making it out on the track the first day. Coming off the Grand Prix, both teams built brand new cars for this event, which proved to be quite challenging in the short amount of time available.
Leist, who won the Freedom 100 here last year in the Indy Lights Series Presented by Cooper Tires, has proven to be a quick study. After his second full day on track, he said, "I felt like today was pretty good. We established a pretty solid base line on track today. I'm pretty happy with the car balance. I think that we have a great set up for the race and qualifying this weekend. I'm looking forward to the rest of the month. I believe that we have great potential at this track. Can't wait to see how Fast Friday goes tomorrow."
Perhaps the toughest job on the team belongs to James Davison, who did not get to test in early May. Driving the No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s Chevrolet fielded by Foyt/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi, Davison took a refresher test on Monday, not having driven an Indy car since last year’s Indy 500 when he subbed for the injured Sebastien Bourdais. However Davison is optimistic because his team was assembled in advance and he will have the benefit of a week of preparation before qualifying for the first time in his career.
Looking to make his fourth 500 start, Davison was 12th quickest on opening day with a speed of 223.346 mph. Yesterday the team struggled to find speed but fared better today.
“It was a much improved day for the No. 33 team,” said the 31-year-old Australian. “We got in the mix in traffic, and found a reasonable balance that made us racy--something that we didn’t have yesterday. We trimmed the car for the first time at the end of the day and managed to run over 220 MPH by ourselves. That was a great sign for us, we believe that we have a decent chunk left. We are going to study all the information tonight, and come out of the box either tomorrow weather permitting, or Saturday.”
Teams have one more day of practice—dubbed Fast Friday—before qualifying begins on Saturday. The engines will be given a bit more boost as the engineers turn up the wick in preparation for qualifying which begins at 11 a.m. ET Saturday.
Tomorrow’s practice will be streamed live on Indycar.com from 11 a.m. ET through 6 p.m. ET. The live streaming continues on Saturday morning starting at 8 a.m. ET. ABC TV will broadcast the final two hours of qualifying Saturday afternoon starting at 4 p.m. ET.