Mixed day for “Team America” leaves questions before qualifying

Ed Carpenter Racing’s all-American three-driver lineup for the Indy 500 has had an up-and-down week, yet Josef Newgarden was one of only two cars to crack the 232mph barrier on Fast Friday.

Mixed day for “Team America” leaves questions before qualifying
J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Tennessee native Newgarden, who has a road course win and a street course win to his name, has also produced several strong oval performances including a pole position, front-row starts, and near misses on race day, but has yet to nail an oval win. This will be his fifth Indy 500 start.

With everyone’s engine turned up to 1.4-bar qualifying turbo boost (as opposed to raceday 1.3-bar) for Fast Friday practice session, speeds jumped by 4-5mph on average, and Newgarden set second-fastest speed, just 0.06mph behind Team Penske’s Will Power. However, he received a tow (as did Power) to exceed 232mph, and on the no-tow speeds, he was P9.

Yet Newgarden stated: “It was a good day. It was hectic with a little bit of rain, so we weren’t sure if we were going to get the full day in, but luckily we did.

“We definitely wanted to go through our trim steps. We definitely made progress with all three cars. We’ve got a quick Preferred Freezer car, so hopefully all three of us are going to be fast tomorrow… inside the top nine.

“We'll do a little bit more work tonight and see where we're at."

However, his teammates sounded less optimistic. Local hero, teammate and team owner Ed Carpenter, who has lived in Indianapolis since the age of eight, has only raced on ovals since the start of the 2014 season, and is a two-time polesitter at the Indianapolis 500. But he has not shown that kind of form this week. On Fast Friday, he set 16th fastest time overall, and 13th fastest on the No-Tow Speed charts. Consequently, he was unconvinced he had the car to go for a third P1 at the Brickyard on Sunday, even were he to reach the Fast Nine.

“It was a tough day and I wasn't thinking we were going to run nearly 50 laps when the day started,” commented Carpenter. “We used a few more sets of tires than we had originally planned, but I think it was worthwhile in the end.

“We were struggling for speed for a while and I feel like we closed the gap a bit. We'll just have to work hard overnight tonight and see if we can close the gap the rest of the way and get up there with my teammates and some of the other faster Chevys." 

California's JR Hildebrand, who so dramatically missed out on Indy 500 victory in 2011, is now entering his third “500” as a driver for Carpenter. He was 14th fastest today and 12th without the aid of a draft, and described Fast Friday as “a hectic day.”

He went on: “We ended up feeling like we needed to kind of change our plan in the middle of the day. We were able to get some speed out of that, which was good, but it made for a busy afternoon. Hopefully we can go back and figure out what's best for everybody." 

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