With qualifying weekend imminent, the big teams and star drivers were increasingly showing their confidence and their game plans on Thursday in a shortened five-hour Thursday afternoon practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which had to fit around the first runs out on track for Dragon Racing breaking in their brand new Chevrolet engines.
Scott Dixon put the Honda-powered Ganassi at the top of the timesheets for the first time since the practice started last Saturday, with a lap of 223.088mph (40.3428s) once again with the help of a little tow in traffic.
"We're just working on the race car, and I think we've made big improvements on how it feels," said Dixon. "For me, I feel happy because we made the car feel a lot nicer to drive, and especially in traffic it pulls up better, I think.
"These speeds are all big tows, so it doesn't really matter much," he added. "Tomorrow and Saturday are going to be totally different stories to see who's got what out there by themselves, so that will be interesting. But all in all, I think Honda and Team Target are doing pretty well."
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing rookie star Josef Newgarden continued to impress by holding on to second place in the times with a lap of 222.709mph (40.4115s) just 0.0687s off Dixon's best lap.
"We've had a great week, and we just need to continue what we've been doing," said the 21-year-old. "Today we only worked on race setup. We'll start back on qualifying tomorrow when we get the boost. We just picked up today where we left off yesterday and continued working in the race direction."
The Ganassi squad were clearly stepping up a gear and starting to reveal their true pace on Thursday, with all four of their cars in the top ten by the chequered flag: Graham Rahal was in third (222.080mph, 40.5259s), Dario Franchitti eighth (221.344mph, 40.6606s) and Charlie Kimball ninth (221.321mph, 40.6649s).
"A great day," enthused Rahal. "We worked on a couple things we needed to, we found out a lot. We worked on our race cars, and we're pretty happy with it. We're excited to move on and work on some qualifying stuff. Come Sunday, when we get back to race trim, I think we're going to have a good car."
"We had a pretty good car last night, and we tried a lot of different stuff today and managed to make it worse!" admitted Franchitti. "Right at the end there, we made a couple of changes and got it better again. I think we're probably back to where we were last night, which is not a bad place."