INDIANAPOLIS – Windy conditions caused just 408 laps turned around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday, but with the winds dying down a bit on Thursday, and today also being the last full day for teams on race setups until after qualifying, it was a much busier afternoon of practice around the 2.5-mile track.
The first half of the day and happy hour saw cars run in big groups, as everyone was simulating race runs. That produced 2,362 laps on Thursday.
In today’s practice, Jay Howard set the bar high with the fastest speed of the month. The Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports driver turned a lap around IMS at 226.744 mph in his No. 77 Honda, making his the quickest of the day.
That beat Marco Andretti’s lap of 226.338 mph on Monday.
Howard, hasn’t been in an IndyCar since Las Vegas in 2011, so to be fastest in the fourth day is nothing short of amazing.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was second fastest with a speed of 225.826 mph in his No. 28 Honda, while his two Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti (225.709 mph) and Fernando Alonso (225.619 mph) were third and fourth respectively.
The first big incident of the month also occurred today, with just over an hour into today’s six-hour practice session, Josef Newgarden lost control of his No. 2 Chevrolet exiting Turn 1 at 1:11 p.m. ET and crashed left side first hard into the outside SAFER barrier. He actually made contact twice with the wall, a second hit into the outsie SAFER barrier in the short chute before coming to a stop in Turn 2.
Newgarden, was able to limp away, as he has a bruised foot as a result of the crash. He was checked and released from the infield care center and cleared to drive again.
His lap of 225.455 mph was good enough for fifth fastest too.
Then, just past 3 p.m. ET, Sebastien Bourdais saw his No. 18 Honda go up in smoke, as it appeared an engine expired on his Dale Coyne Racing entry on the backstretch. That’s the second Honda engine casualty of the week, as Graham Rahal saw his engine blow on Monday.
The drivers get added boost on Friday, as speeds will be 3-5 mph faster as qualifying boost levels will be installed tonight. Fast Friday is the lone full day practice session for the 33 drivers to get acclimated to their cars on qualifying sims, before Time Trials begin on Saturday.