An Indy 500 rookie, Pato O’Ward, has claimed the final prize ahead of the biggest event in American motorsport.
O’Ward goes quickest during the final practice for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 ahead of IndyCar veteran and previous winner Scott Dixon.
The two Australians in the field, Will Power and James Davison, are still only 24th and 29th in the 33-car field, but anything can happen on race day.
“I think we are ready for the challenge ahead,” says O’Ward, a 21-year-old Mexican, after pacing the field.
“It was a very positive day in terms of how we were feeling in traffic, passing cars, and playing around in five, 10, and 15-car trains. So, we are looking forward to Race Day and going forward.”
The final hit-out comes on ‘Carb Day’, which takes its name from the days when Indy cars used carburettors.
It’s the traditional final tuning day and is also the time when teams practice hot pitstops for the first time with a full field on the track, as well as learning about the pack racing that will be common on raceday.
The big surprise on Carb Day is that Marco Andretti, the pacesetter throughout the lead-up to the race and the pole position driver, is only 28th on the timing sheets.
“Today we found a few things we didn’t like in the car, which is good and bad because we found it out before Sunday,” Andretti reports.
“We ticked a lot of boxes on a semi-difficult day, but I think we are still in a good position for the race on Sunday.“
There were no crashes during the practice session and most drivers report few problems, even though the Indy 500 will be run in much hotter conditions.
“It was the last opportunity to test the last few items we had on our list. Some of them were OK, and some of them we will not be keeping for the race,” says Fernando Alonso, who is deep in the field but hoping for a shot at victory before he returns to Formula One with Renault in 2021.
“Now we have a more or less clear idea of what we want. Sunday is a completely different thing, and it’s supposed to be a bit hotter, so we will try to adapt to the conditions.
“There’s nothing more to test on the table, so it’s race time.”