INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Hunter-Reay slid into a seat next to Simon Pagenaud and E.J. Viso after the final practice for the Indianapolis 500, and then started to rattle off what he had learned.
“The Hondas turned up their power,” Hunter-Reay said, “which we were expecting.”
“They always play that game,” Viso added with a smirk.
“Yeah,” Hunter-Reay said, elbowing Pagenaud in the ribs. “Why don’t they do that all week?”
“I’m not the person to ask!” the Frenchman replied.
Hunter-Reay and Viso were among the fastest cars on Friday, just as the Andretti Autosport teammates have been all week — and just as most of the Chevrolet-powered cars have been this month.
But what stuck out to Hunter-Reay was yet another rally by the Honda machines.
Pagenaud topped the chart with a fastest lap of 225.827 mph, and Honda had six of the fastest 10 cars on Carb Day. That performance raised comparisons to last year, when Chevrolet dominated all month but Dario Franchitti won on race day with a Honda engine.
“The Honda mentality is to go racing, and that’s exactly what they’re doing,” Pagenaud said. “They’ve provided us with an engine that’s clearly a lot better, and it’s a good sign for the race.”
Scott Dixon was fourth-fastest and Franchitti, his Ganassi teammate, was sixth. James Jakes was seventh, Katherine Legge was eighth and Alex Tagliani was 10th.
“We’ve got a car we can fight with,” said Franchitti, who will start Sunday’s race from the sixth row. “We’re a lot closer and we’re in the fight.”
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of power still in the Chevrolets.
After all, that’s what Andretti is running.
Viso was second-fastest with a lap of 225.305 mph, and Hunter-Reay was third with a lap of 225.053 mph. Sebastien Bourdais was fifth-quickest for Dragon Racing, while Marco Andretti landed the third of Andretti Autosport’s five Indy 500 entries in the fastest 10 on Friday.
“I think I’ve visited this room in these two weeks more than I did in my previous my years,” Viso said with another smile. “Every time you go to the track, they’re giving you a very fast car, and there’s a great teamwork that we all have.”
Legge turned plenty of heads when she spent most of the hour-long practice Friday among the three fastest drivers. She didn’t land a ride until Schmidt Peterson Motorsports fielded an entry for her at the last minute, and she just squeaked into the 33-car field. She’ll start last on Sunday, but insists she has a top-10 machine.
“With this race, because it’s so long, you need to be on the lead lap and in the race with a stint to go, and then start being a little more aggressive,” Legge said. “If you can stay on the lead lap, we have a fast car, and if we’re out there, we can be in the top 10.”
Ryan Briscoe will be using a fresh Honda engine on Sunday after his car caught fire just as the practice session was coming to an end. It was quickly extinguished and Briscoe was fine.
”We were on a huge lap before the engine went,” Briscoe said. “Bright side, better to happen now than the first couple laps of the race.”