INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Will Power ended the final practice session for the Indianapolis 500 up front — exactly where he doesn’t want to be for most of Sunday’s race.
Power posted the fastest lap in Friday’s hour-long session, which was free of any incidents and dominated by the Chevrolets from Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. The Australian turned a fast lap at 229.020 mph to give Penske the session.
He then downplayed being atop the leaderboard.
“It means nothing, really. It’s just a big draft,” said Power, who won the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to open the month. “You know, we’ll see on Sunday.”
What Power does know is that he’d prefer not to be the leader for the bulk of Sunday’s race. The last few races have been marked by multiple lead changes, including a whopping 35 last year.
Given his preference, Power said he’d like to race near the front Sunday but not be the actual leader.
“No one is going to want to lead,” he said. “You can’t get away. In the old car, you could get away, so track position was really important. Now you sit half throttle on the straights. Last year, no one would pass me. Leading felt like one of the biggest mistakes of the race. You had to pit earlier, you get shuffled back.”
Power, who starts second Sunday, doesn’t have to worry about pole-sitter Scott Dixon giving him the lead when the checkered flag waves. Dixon was second fastest in final practice with a lap at 228.585, and the New Zealand driver was one of the few who has no qualms about leading during the race.
“Oh, I’ll lead,” he smiled. “For us, we would probably want a lot of green-flag pit stops. One is going to string the field out a little bit, give you room on a bit of strategy, having to save fuel. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
The session was incident free after two weeks of spectacular accidents, including a trio of cars that went airborne amid concerns that the new aerodynamic kits were unsafe.
Third in final practice was Tony Kanaan, as Ganassi and Penske solidified their position as the race favorites. The two teams combined for seven of the 10 fastest cars Friday.
Penske had Simon Pagenaud (fourth) and Helio Castroneves (10th) behind Power, while Ganassi drivers Charlie Kimball (sixth) and Sage Karam (seventh) joined Dixon and Kanaan in the top 10.
In all, Chevrolet had eight cars in the top 10, with Takuma Sato the fastest Honda at fifth.
Chevrolet has dominated since Indianapolis opened to teams earlier this month, and it’s outperformed Honda in every race and qualifying session. But the Indy 500 is the first oval on the schedule and Chevy drivers aren’t convinced Honda won’t be competitive come race day.
Dixon also noted the numbers game has given Chevrolet an edge.
“Right now you would say that Chevrolet definitely have an edge on most of the circuits we go to, (but) it’s also got the two biggest teams,” said Dixon. “When you have nine cars between Ganassi and Penske here at this race, it’s hard to get on top of that.”
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