INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato was the fastest driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before IndyCar drivers were given some extra boost for Friday’s practice.
He was even quicker afterward — despite the incredibly gusty winds.
The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner from Japan finished atop the speed chart for the third consecutive day with the fastest lap of the week at 232.789 mph.
“All day long and all week, turn three is the one I felt was a bit different from last year,” Sato said. “Until yesterday, it was puzzling, but I think the track is very consistent so I think that’s good.”
Sato is attempting to win his third 500 with a third team. His first win, in 2017, came with Andretti Autosport. He won the 2020 race with Rahal Lanigan Letterman Racing and this year is driving for Dale Coyne Racing.
Alexander Rossi, the 2016 race winner, posted the second-best lap at 231.883 and Pato O’Ward of Mexico was third at 231.788. O’Ward had the top Chevrolet in the final six-hour practice session before qualifying begins Saturday. The pole shootout will be held Sunday with the biggest race of the IndyCar season scheduled for May 29.
The tricky weather, a squirrel — and an additional boost of about 90 horsepower — didn’t make for a traditional Fast Friday.
While all 33 drivers turned laps, nobody did more work than American rookie David Malukas, Sato’s teammate. Malukas logged 39 laps and finished seventh at 231.414.
Nineteen of the 33 drivers completed fewer than 15 laps, a list that included 500 winners Scott Dixon, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya, defending series champion Alex Palou of Spain and Colton Herta, who won last weekend’s IndyCar Grand Prix on the road course.
“I think we’re maybe a little bit under the radar,” Malukas said, referring to Coyne’s team. “I wasn’t really expecting anything like this. Whatever way it goes, I’m just happy. I have Takuma Sato as my teammate and I’m driving an Indy car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we’re quick. If you were to tell me that as a kid, I’d be pinching myself to wake up.”