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Thursday’s rain delayed eventful Indianapolis 500 practice highlights

IndyCar: 108th Running of Indianapolis 500-Practice
Credit: IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

While the rain did not stay away all day, the IndyCar Series did complete more hours of Indianapolis 500 practice on Thursday than it has over the first two days combined and it was an eventful session despite two additional weather delays.

What was scheduled to be an eight-hour session was stopped 68 minutes in and ended 13 minutes short due to precipitation from the southwest. All told, all 34 drivers participated in the session and totaled 1,896 laps.

Overall, Pato O’Ward was fastest on the afternoon with a 228.861 lap in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, albeit with the benefit of a aerodynamic tow with cars ahead of him on the historic 2.5-mile oval.

“We got a really fat tow lap on the board, which was unexpected,” O’Ward said. “I’m happy with my car. We did race runs. We did qualifying runs. Obviously, it doesn’t necessarily translate perfectly to when the boosts come up just because the speed is so different. But tomorrow if it does rain out, at least we got a bit of a feeling of what the car is tending to want to do on a bit more trim level.”

There were a mix of strategies on the day as some teams focused on qualifying runs, with the potential of Fast Friday getting rained out, others focused on race runs, whilst others yet focused on a mix of both between the storms.

Limited Larson

Between the weather and some mechanical challenges with the Arrow McLaren No. 17, Larson has not been able to acclimate himself as thoroughly as he wants in advance of his debut appearance in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Specifically, rain washed out the nearly entire day of practice on Tuesday with the 2021 Cup Series champion only turning two laps before the bottom fell out of the skies. Half of the day was lost to weather on Wednesday and Larson only turned 47 laps with most spent in traffic at least.

He had hoped to use Thursday, a session extended by IndyCar officials to compensate for the weather riddled first two days, to catch up to those with more experience than him in these cars but he could only make 11 laps before the rain came due to a precautionary engine change.

All told, Larson only turned 29 laps with a best speed of 222.805 mph, and there is some frustration mounting.

“It’s been an enjoyable experience so far, just would like to enjoy driving my car,” Larson said. “I just keep going back to the motorhome, lay down on the couch, relax. These days are so long and I just want to kind of make some laps.

“I thought the weather would be good and I’d get to turn a lot of laps, but everybody has turned laps but me. It’s been a bit boring and frustrating.”

Tension and tempers

The lack of consistent practice time has made patience wear thin across the paddock.

Meanwhile, a simmering fued between Santino Ferrucci and Romain Grosjean added another chapter during a high speed block in practice on Thursday.

During a pack racing session just before 1 p.m., with Ferrucci leading a pack, Grosjean went to make a late pass and it was blocked.

“With guys like that, they think they can hop a pass real late and they’re not going to lift and it’s going to wreck two race cars,” Ferrucci said on the broadcast. “Helio (Castroneves) did the same thing to me when I was learning here as a rookie.

“Clearly, he’s not a rookie but he’s just not getting it, and it’s okay, everyone learns at a different rate. But I want to take care of our equipment and if you throw one late underneath, you put us both at risk. That’s why I threw it down there a little bit, just to protect me more than anything else. He’ll figure it out at some point. He’s a smart dude.”

This is the third issue between them in the past 18 days. There was contact between them during the warm up lap at Barber Motorsports Park and then another issue during an installation lap last weekend at the IMS Road Course.

Two big crashes

There were two crashes during the session, the first two of the month, involving Linus Lundqvist and 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson. Neither driver was injured after being checked and released from the infield care center.

At 11:30 a.m., Lundqvist went from drafting with the Arrow McLaren duo of O’Ward and Rossi to sliding through Turn 2 and crashed into the SAFER Barrier with his right rear before making a second contact with the inside wall on the backstretch.

“I’m alright,” said Lunqvist after just 23 laps turned during the day. “It’s my mistake. I know exactly what I did; I touched the curb in (Turn) 2 and I couldn’t hold onto it. Something they talk about often around this place. But it’s just a mistake in my part and obviously my team has to pay the price for it, so yeah, it sucks.”

The team will not need to prepare a backup car and instead opted to repair its rear assembly, body panels and the floor.

Ericsson crashed his No. 28 at 3:49 p.m., when he caught the curbing in Turn 4 before making a 180-degree spin across the track, hitting the inside wall and then clipping the attenuator at pit entrance.

He logged 79 laps with a best lap speed of 224.592mph at 18th overall.

“I think I brushed the curb a little bit and that’s probably enough to send it,” he said. “And then you’re a passenger, so yeah. Very disappointed.

“Very sorry for my team. They’ve done a very good job and they have a lot of work ahead of them now, so that’s probably the worst of the whole thing.”

They are moving to a backup car.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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