Team owner Roger Penske promised his cars would be fine come race day at the Indianapolis 500 and that looked likely to be the case after the final practice session.
There was concern for the powerhouse team after Australia’s Will Power, one of the greatest qualifiers in IndyCar history, only scraped into the 33-car field and rookie Scott McLaughlin at 17th was the highest-qualifying Penske driver.
However that concern eased somewhat on Friday with Simon Pagenaud, the 2019 race winner, emerging second fastest, followed by teammate Josef Newgarden in third, with Power, the 2018 winner, sixth while McLaughlin was seventh.
New Zealander Scott Dixon topped the times in the final practice, with his team so confident that he called it a day with 45 minutes remaining in the session ahead of his pole start on Sunday.
“Hopefully it runs this good in the race,” Dixon said after his lap at 228.323 mph put the six-time IndyCar champion in control of Friday’s practice. “I was told we were done. We got through our list. I thought the car felt good.
“Also the conditions, I thought everyone was going to feel like King Kong out there.”
Dixon packed his helmet and calmly headed back to the paddock, his rivals taking nervous notice of how confident the pole-sitter is ahead of Sunday’s race.
“We changed our plans when we saw that. We knew we were in trouble,” joked Power. “Completely changed the car. I thought I was safe, then I saw him get out. That’s it, it’s over.”
Rain disrupted the traditional “Carb Day” practice but IndyCar was able to get all 33 cars on track for almost two hours later Friday afternoon.
Dixon had expressed disappointment for Power after qualifying.
“I honestly felt bad for Will. Obviously, he’s a fierce competitor. Seeing the struggles, not him, but the team are going through for qualifying pace,” Dixon said.
“He’s probably the greatest qualifier of our era if not all time. You definitely know it’s not him, it’s just one of those frustrating things.
“He handled it extremely well. Kudos for keeping his foot in it, too, which made for some great TV, some great Internet stuff, as well.”
Marco Andretti, meanwhile, was fifth fastest after rebuilding the floor of this car Saturday following a disappointing qualifying effort. The change had an immediate effect and Andretti now believes he’s got a shot at winning the race.
“I’ve had a car to win this race a lot of times. I’ve said that before the race,” Andretti said. “We just have to see if the stars align, do our job, slowly get there, hopefully stay out of messes. But the field is pretty stacked, very talented, hopefully very smart.”
Andretti was the pole-sitter a year ago but the first since 2001 to fail to lead a single lap.