When pole sitter Scott Dixon parked-up early in the final pre-race session before the Indianapolis 500 he sent an unmistakable message to his challengers.
Dixon is ready to go and ready to win his second Indy 500.
But it’s the Team Penske crew who caused the sensation of the session when all four of its cars ran in the Top 10 as teams switched to the more-conservative race settings, after running with high turbo boost and trimmed-out aero for qualifying.
After morning showers on Carb Day, the traditional name for the Friday practice that was once used for tuning carburettors on Indy cars, teams were able to complete their preparations as everything is now pointing to cool temperatures for the 500.
Dixon’s quickest lap was still comfortably in front as he ran around at 228.323 miles-an-hour (367.450km/h), but he was chased home by Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden from Team Penske, with Will Power in 6th spot – after a dismal qualifying that left him 32nd of 33 starters – and rookie Scott McLaughlin in 7th and up 10 spots from his qualifying effort.
“That was fun. I’m really happy with where we’re at,” said McLaughlin.
“We’ve worked really hard for this opportunity. We start 17th but I think we have a car that can move forward. I’m ready to go.”
He said his Pennzoil racer, nicknamed the Yellow Submarine, has been transformed by a switch to his Chevrolet race engine.
“The car is feeling absolutely like a rocket-ship down the straightaway. I’ve been able to make more moves today than I have the whole month.
“Great day, great build-up to what’s going to be the biggest race of my life.”
Dixon, though, is clearly the favourite for the 2021 running of the 500, as 150,000 fans return to The Brickyard in the biggest sporting attendance since the start of the pandemic.
He completed his pre-race work early and, with many drivers pushing the edges to prepare for high-speed pack racing when the flag drops, he was happy to walk away early.
“Everybody felt like King Kong out there with the weather conditions,” Dixon said. “That may give you an indication of how the race will be. If it’s like this, it’s going to be mentally draining. There’s going to be a lot of action going on.”
There was plenty of banter between Dixon and Power, another previous winner of the 500, once practice was done.
“Obviously starting way back there just makes it super hard,” said Power, who will have a long day trying to get to the front.
“I think the better cars always find their way to the front,” said Dixon.
“It’s pretty tough back there,” Power replied.