Josef Newgarden has won the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship twice in the last four years, so he freely admits winning the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is the biggest box left to check in his racing career.
If the speed chart from the second day of the Indy 500 Open Test on Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is any indication, that dream could become reality this May.
Newgarden, from Nashville, Tennessee, was the fastest driver today and overall from two days of testing, turning a top lap of 226.819 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet under mostly sunny skies on the 2.5-mile oval. That easily eclipsed the top speed from the rain-hampered first day Thursday, 224.427 by Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
“It was a pretty good day,” Newgarden said. “I was happy enough with the car. I think we still need some work, for sure, but to just get an initial read on where we’re at is good. Obviously, there are a lot of new parts and differences to the last couple of years, so we’re just trying to assess what we need to really work on these last couple of weeks before we get back here in May. But I’m pretty happy.”
Indy 500 winners and INDYCAR SERIES champions dominated the top of the speed chart. Two-time and reigning Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato was second at 226.369 in the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing Honda, with two-time Indy winner and 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya third at 226.123 in the No. 86 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was fourth at 225.906, while Graham Rahal rounded out the top five at 225.644 in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
RLL was the only team to power two drivers into the top five today, and Rahal was the fastest driver without the benefit of an aerodynamic tow in traffic, at 221.949. Sato won the 104th Indianapolis 500 last Aug. 23, with teammate Rahal third.
The speed limit increased today in more favorable conditions and larger, more aerodynamic packs. The top 12 drivers laid down laps faster than Bourdais’ chart-topper Thursday.
Passing raindrops and track inspections only briefly interrupted the nine-hour session. Rookie Scott McLaughlin turned 195 laps in his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, more than any driver and just five laps shy of the full 500-mile race distance.
Up next for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the 2021 season opener, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network will provide live coverage starting at 3 p.m. (ET).
The 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 30 at IMS.