After a brief hiatus yesterday, Andretti Autosport were once again back on top and looking in commanding form at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on day 6 of practice for the 97th running of the Indy 500.
A late group run by the team propelled Carlos Munoz to the top of the timesheets during happy hour, the final 60 minutes of on-track time on Thursday. His time of 39.9711s (225.163mph) on the 2.5-mile speedway was the fastest of anyone so far in 2013, putting him 0.0112s ahead of Marco Andretti who set his fastest lap of 2013 so far during Monday's session.
"The fastest lap was a tow, an unbelievable tow," said the Firestone Indy Lights driver getting his first shot at a spot on the Indy 500 grid this year. "This last run I felt really comfortable each time I ran behind people in racing conditions. Each time I felt more comfortable.
"We have a real strong car every time we test, and we can go back and make sure we have a pretty competitive car," he continued. "But tomorrow and Saturday is another thing entirely. We will have to prepare for qualifying."
Another beneficiary of the late group effort was IZOD IndyCar Series reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who became the fourth man to break the 225mph/40s marks this week, Penske's Helio Castroneves being the only non-Andretti member of that elite group.
"We just keep working on the cars and inching in on where we need to be with limited practice days left," said Hunter-Reay. "I think we'll see some surprises in qualifying, we don't really know what to expect. We just need to concentrate on our program and being quick on Race Day - we need to peak in the race and not in qualifying."
But while it was looking good for Andretti Autosport, there was consternation in the AJ Foyt Racing pit as the #41 car of rookie driver Conor Daly hit the wall on the exit of turn 1. Rotated sideways by the force of the impact, the car went broadside-on to the direction of travel and was flipped up onto its right hand side, threatening to roll over entirely before the sidepod prevented it from tipping over any further and instead returning it to an upright condition.
Conor Daly was uninjured and climbed out of the car, and was subsequently cleared by the medical staff in the IMS in-field care centre.
“We had just made a change on the springs in the rear," explained the 21-year-old making his first appearance at Indianapolis. "I was just trying to experience a little bit more with the car, and there was a car in front and me. The wind, it feels like it's been gusting more, and the rear was leaning hard on the outside tyre, and it just kind of folded over on itself. I just lost it. Just not good."