INDIANAPOLIS – Déjà vu. In a repeat of last year’s Carb Day performance, Tony Kanaan topped the speed chart today in the final practice before the Indianapolis 500. Posting a speed of 225.517mph, Kanaan ran 40 laps with the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet in race trim. There were no incidents in the 90-minute session which saw all 33 starters on track under hot and humid conditions.
“Yeah, a good day for us,” Kanaan said in the post-practice press conference. “Obviously, conditions look like they’ll be pretty similar to what we're going to see on Sunday hopefully, so you know, it was a pretty easy day for us. I wasn't really happy with my car on Monday, and I was extremely vocal about it, and I think my engineers heard me, so we made it better today."
Tony Kanaan looks over his car before taking to the track in final practice.
“I was really working on my car, the level of downforce and grip that I wanted to have starting 16th,” said Kanaan, who qualified for his 18th straight Indy 500 at a speed of 228.120mph. So really, we worked in traffic a lot trying to find the grip and scan to some of the items that we had on the list to be able--once we put ourselves in the front during the race--to know what to do.”
Similar to last year, Matheus Leist was not as happy with his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet in final practice. Leist’s speed of 222.202mph put him 30th on the speed chart (last year he was 28th).
“Things didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to in the number 4 car but the team will debrief with car 14 engineers to see where they’re at and what they think because they seem to be fast,” the 20-year-old Brazilian said. “We had some good cars before this practice so it’s just a matter of putting it all together and figure out what’s going to be the best car for the race.”
Last year, despite the disappointing Carb Day practice, Leist, who’d started 11th, ran in the top-10 for most of the race and finished 13th. Last Saturday, he qualified at a speed of 227.717mph and will be starting 24th after surviving being on the bubble for the guaranteed top 30 starting spots—necessitating a second attempt.
“Maybe we had to go through that, maybe the team had to or myself,” Leist revealed. “I think I’m going to get here next year with a different mindset for qualifying, just more prepared. I think I was a little bit too confident when I jumped in the car for the first run. I thought, okay that’s easy, I’m going to do four laps and we’re going to be in. It’s not that simple, you’ve got to respect this place to know that the weather changes the track so much, sometimes you don’t know and you can’t predict how it’s going to be. For sure for next year, I’m going to have a different approach and I think it just makes me smarter if we can learn from it and get better.”
Kanaan put it into perspective, saying, “It's the most competitive field I've ever seen in my 18 years here. Qualifying was extremely hard, and it's really tight. So yeah, I think it's going to be a difficult race. I do strongly believe that everybody, every single guy is starting this race, and girl, they think they can win this race, which is true.”
Kanaan believes his experience will serve him well in a field that sees six rookies competing in the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
“Well, it helps. It definitely helps,” said Kanaan who will be making his 18th start in the 500. “I've known the scenarios. I've known how to be patient and not to get desperate if you're 10th halfway through the race and you think, oh, I'm not going to win this race. This race really is going to start shaping up on the last pit stop, so let's say last 35, 30 laps to go. So for me, the experience, it only helps me to keep understanding what's going on with my car, so when I make that last stop, I will make the right decision on wings and stuff that we can choose so I'll be in a position to win the race.
“I’ve said the track picks the winner, and I still believe that. Hopefully, she'll pick me again.”
There are 32 other starters, including his young teammate, hoping for the same thing.
The inaugural NBC network broadcast of the Indy 500 starts Sunday morning at 11 AM ET with the green flag scheduled to drop at approximately 12:45 PM ET.