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O’Ward Fastest, Herta Speedy Solo as ‘Fast Friday’ Looms

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Pato O’Ward led the overall speed chart Thursday during practice for the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while Colton Herta led the “no-tow” speeds that gain more importance as qualifying approaches.

O’Ward was fastest at 228.861 mph in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, a speed turned with the help of an aerodynamic tow from leading cars around the 2.5-mile oval.

SEE: Practice Results

“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.”

Speeds will jump during the next practice, from noon-6 p.m. ET on “Fast Friday.” The Honda and Chevrolet engines that power the field will feature approximately 100 more horsepower due to increased boost levels that also will be available during PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying on Saturday and Sunday.

Scott McLaughlin, fastest Wednesday at 229.493, was second Thursday at 227.316 in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou ended up third at 226.915 in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Herta was fourth at 226.828 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian. While that lap – like all of the top five drivers of the day – was turned with the help of a tow, Herta was fastest when running alone in a qualifying simulation, turning a best lap of 224.182.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five overall at 226.684 in the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet.

The eight-hour session was halted for 68 minutes late in the afternoon and ended 13 minutes early due to rain, the third straight day precipitation has hampered practice. In between raindrops, all 34 drivers alternated focus between honing car setups for qualifying and the race, combining to turn 1,896 laps.

There also were two caution periods for separate crashes – the first contact of the month – involving rookie Linus Lundqvist and 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson. Neither driver was hurt.

At 11:30 a.m. ET, Lundqvist’s No. 8 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda slid through Turn 2, making contact with the SAFER Barrier with the right rear wheel. The car then made light secondary contact with the inside wall on the backstretch. Lundqvist’s machine suffered significant damage and turned no more laps.

Lundqvist ended up as the fastest rookie of the day despite his crash, as his best lap of 226.261 was seventh overall.

At 3:49 p.m., Ericsson’s No. 28 Delaware Life Honda fielded by Andretti Global spun in Turn 4 and hit the SAFER Barrier, continuing to spin and making contact with the inside barrier and then hitting the pit lane attenuator. The car suffered heavy damage, Ericsson turned no more laps, and the team confirmed it will move to a backup car.

The 108th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 26 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network).

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