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Indy 500 practice notebook: Day 2 – The Checkered Flag

While the entire day wasn’t rained out like Day 1, another session of limited Indy 500 practice running took place, with rain falling on the track from the scheduled start time of 10 a.m. until about 1 p.m. Cars finally got on track just after 3:00, and Kyle Larson made the most of the early runnings, posting a lap of 224.239 miles per hour just five minutes after practice went green. The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion ended his day 17th, the highest of any rookie in the field.

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin went fastest overall, reaching a top speed of 229.493 on his 14th lap of the day. McLaughlin spoke on the anxieties of waiting through a rain delay after the session:

It’s so boring, there’s only so much Netflix you can watch. I was over it.” said McLaughlin. “I watched about three movies but then I was ready to go once we got going, and I was happy as. When the car is good straight away, that’s a nice feeling. I feel that anticipation, as well, because it is quite a bit of anticipation just getting ready to go. I think this is two years in a row we’ve lost opening day. It’s a nice feeling.

Although about three hours of green flag running took place on Wednesday, the periods of green were interrupted by yellow flags so that crews could make sure the track was staying dry. Practice was extended an extra hour by IndyCar to maximize running time, but that extra hour was never utlized, as light rain brought out a yellow with just under an hour left that lasted until the checkered flag.

McLaughlin’s Penske teammates joined him in the top five after a less-than-stellar past few weeks for the team. 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power came in second-fastest in the 228 range, with defending winner Josef Newgarden in fourth at 227.675 mph.

While those speeds were all set in traffic, more attention will be paid to no-tow speeds as drivers and teams near qualifying this weekend. Takuma Sato topped those charts at 221.219 miles per hour. The two-time winner didn’t see much track time, logging just 31 laps on the day, but was in charge of running some early qualifying simulation laps for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

It was not impossible but very difficult to get by yourself, so the couple runs that we did were in a tow, gentle tow, but we tried to avoid it today.” said Sato. “Overall I think we’ve done a lot since last year. I think we did a very, very different the philosophy of the car, so it was good to see the car putting up better speed.

Other drivers putting up similar no-tow speeds were Rinus VeeKay and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino, who was last on the overall charts.

With the Fast Friday forecast looking bleak, teams may not have the chance to utilize the 100 horsepower boost to try and simulate weekend quaifying speeds. Thursday’s practice will be that more important with a clear forecast, although teams won’t be able to use the boost.

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