18 May 2012
Indy 500: Dixon top as big names move up
"We had another productive day of race simulation, ran a couple of sets of tyres and made some good progress," added Kimball. "It was great to be out there with my teammates."
Ganassi's big rivals in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, Team Penske, were also perking up as qualifying weekend loomed, with Will Power the top-placed Chevrolet-powered car in fourth place (221.932mph, 40.5529s) and his team mate Ryan Briscoe finishing the day with the sixth fastest lap (221.510mph, 40.6302s).
"It was our last chance [until Sunday] to try race setups and understand what the car does in traffic," said Power. "We did two full runs, basically."
"Not a bad day, really," added Briscoe. "It was nice to get more running in after a quiet Wednesday. We did a lot of race setup work with our IZOD car today, and we are learning a lot, finding more of the things we will need come Race Day."
The only other Chevy runner in the top ten on Thursday was Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand, last year's Indy 500 runner-up, who posted a best lap time of 221.022mph (40.7200s) to finish in in tenth place. The remaining places in the top ten were taken by Justin Wilson - who continued to look strong for Dale Coyne Racing in fifth place with a best lap of 221.715mph (40.5927s) - and AJ Foyt Racing's rookie driver Wade Cunningham, who was seventh fastest of the day with a lap of 221.450mph (40.6413s).
"We rolled out full race setup," explained Cunningham about the team's approach to the day. "It was the first time we'd run full tanks, so we matched tyres with the fuel loads, full race downforce. We made some attempts at it yesterday, but we improved the gearing a little bit for the race downforce."
The top ten were helped by the team that had dominated much of practice so far this week - Andretti Autosport's five-car squad - largely putting its feet up on Thursday, having already accomplished everything that they wanted to ahead of Fast Friday. Ana Beatriz put in only 14 laps and Ryan Hunter-Reay simply put in a quick installation tour without setting a representative time, while Sebastian Saavedra and Marco Andretti didn't come out at all.
James Hinchcliffe also only made a token appearance out on track, explaining later: "We always knew we were going to get on track late today. I think we were hoping to get on track and get at least one real run or two getting ready for tomorrow with proper boost, but we had a small problem that we found and we wanted to make sure everything was right before we hit the track properly.
"We only got out for an install today, but that means the GoDaddy car is ready to rock tomorrow with the extra boost - and that's when it's really going to matter," he added.
The usual six-hour session had been reduced by an hour in order to allow the Dragon Racing team more track time following their late clinching of an engine deal with Chevrolet following their bitter split with previous engine suppliers Lotus.
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