Talk about youth and good looks coming up trumps: rookie Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) was the fastest IZOD IndyCar driver Thursday afternoon at the famed Brickyard for the sixth day of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
The youngest driver in the field took the top spot with nine minutes remaining in the six-hour session, turning a lap at 225.163 mph. That also puts him as fastest overall for the six days of practice so far. (See full practice 6 times
"I knew it would be hard, so I took it step by step. I didn't expect it to feel so good. Everyone will be quicker for qualifying," the young Colombian said.
With thirty or thirty-three years being the gap between rookie pole winners, could 2013 be the year for Munoz? The last rookie driver to win the Indy 500 pole position was Teo Fabi in 1983, and prior to that it was Walt Faulkner in 1950.
In 1996 Tony Stewart started the race from the pole position, but he had qualified second fastest. Stewart's Team Menard teammate, Scott Brayton, had earned the pole position, but was tragically killed in a crash during practice in the week between Pole weekend and Bump weekend - back when qualifying took two weekends. During the eleven row/three-abreast Parade Lap for the 80th Indy 500, Stewart maintained his P2 middle position, in honor of Brayton.
Thirty-three drivers were on course Thursday. Only a few cars ventured on track at a time. By the last hour or so on Thursday, there were fewer than five cars circulating the 2.5-mile oval track - at one point the track was green but silent. It's all about engine management and making the Chevrolet and Honda engines last their allotted 2000 miles without any problems. At least Munoz gets a new engine at IMS as it's the Firestone Indy Lights regular's first IndyCar start this season.
The 2013 IndyCar rules call for five engines per car, which must last 2000 miles each. If a car fits a new engine before reaching 2000 miles on the prior engine, or fits a sixth or more engine in the car - considered 'unapproved' - this generates a 10-grid position penalty. Unique to the Indy 500, any such penalties will be deferred to the next race, the Chevrolet Indy Duel in Detroit on Saturday 1 June 2013, which is the first of the double-header races.
Where the teams stand on their engines is considered newsworthy, and IndyCar will soon be releasing a status report.
Starting with "Fast Friday" on May 17, the cars will have a boost level increase from 130 kPa to 140kPa, which they will also have for Pole Day and Bump Day qualifying. The boost means an increase of approximately 40 hp to the engines. Chevrolets run a twin-turbo charged V6 engine, and Honda runs a single turbo-charged H113R.
The additional horsepower is short-lived. For Carb Day on Friday May 24 and for the Indy 500 itself on Sunday May 26, the cars again run 130 kPa. Will Phillips, IndyCar's vice president for technology, said that "Lap speeds are expected to increase in qualifying."by Lynne Huntting