Ganassi Flexes Muscle in Monday's Indy 500 Practice

Chip Ganassi had four of the five fastest cars in today's two-hour practice session.
Ganassi Flexes Muscle in Monday's Indy 500 Practice

After a record-setting weekend of qualifying for the 106th Indianapolis 500, drivers strapped back into their rocket ships on Monday for a two-hour practice session that was once again dominated by Chip Ganassi Racing. The team had four of their five cars inside the top five by the end of the session, led by Alex Palou.

The reigning series champion finished 2nd in last year’s race, and starts from the same position next Sunday. He will be next to his teammate Scott Dixon, who earned his fifth Indy 500 pole yesterday with a record-setting four-lap average. The six-time champion was second-fastest today, with teammate Jimmie Johnson 3rd, two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato 4th, and Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top five.

All 33 drivers took to the course early in the afternoon, with low temperatures and sunshine all around the track. Unfortunately, the first crash of the month came with about 30 minutes remaining in the session.

Dalton Kellett was entering Turn 1 on the outside of Romain Grosjean when he lost the back end of his No. 4 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. He spun and slammed into the outside SAFER barrier fairly hard, but was not injured. The team will have plenty of time to make repairs ahead of the next on-track action, which doesn’t come until Friday.

“I don’t think this sets us back that far,” he said. “I still feel like on Sunday we’ll be ready to go. I got a run on him on the outside and he stayed in it and I’m thinking he’s going to slot back in, but it’s fair that Grosjean didn’t let me go because I’m the passing car.”

The full field combined to turn 2,602 laps today as they dialed in their new race engines. Sato completed the most laps (106) while Palou and teammate Tony Kanaan did the fewest (31) laps in the afternoon. Teams also had a chance to work on their pit stops, with crews prepping for their entry into the pit box, and drivers practicing entering pit lane from the exit of Turn 4 for the first time this month.

Several drivers locked up their tires upon entry to pit lane, and Scott McLaughlin spun his Team Penske Chevrolet as he was leaving the pits. Passing didn't appear to be an issue today, but the weather forecast for Sunday will be much warmer, which could make it more difficult.

Ganassi Flexes Muscle in Monday's Indy 500 Practice

The real question is whether anyone will be able to compete with Ganassi on race day. All five cars have been exceptionally strong this month. “We were just getting everything ready for race trim,” Palou said. “The car is even stronger than qualifying. We had a really good day as well.”

"It shows the effort this team puts in," Dixon said about their strong qualifying runs. "What is even crazier about is that was an effort of five cars and almost all five made it to the Fast Six. Sometimes that effort can get diluted when you add extra cars. For me, it’s huge. I feel privileged and lucky in some ways to be in this position. But it’s all about the race."

Dixon will be aiming for his second Indy 500 victory on Sunday. His lone win in 2008 came when he started from pole position. "We’ll keep knocking on the door and one day, hopefully, it opens. Maybe one day. Maybe one day, I’ll get my second."

"I’m as determined as ever," Dixon said. "The longer you come to this place, and you have four or five second-place finishes and three of those have been under caution, those are the ones that hurt the most because you couldn’t even fight for it. But that is also what keeps the fire really strong. This place owes me nothing. I love coming here. It’s a privilege, and I’m very lucky coming with one of the best teams in the sport."

Dixon nearly earned three consecutive poles here, but came up one spot short in the 2020 race. That was the year that Marco Andretti took the top spot. The third-generation driver is making his 17th Indy 500 start on Sunday, and the 250th IndyCar start of his career.

"I think in traffic we're really good," Marco said after finishing 8th in today's practice. "It's just when you get to the back of a huge string of cars, everybody is kind of just at the mercy of lifting because you get a run and you pop out to pass and then the guy ahead of you has the tow to keep him there. You just have to be patient."

Ganassi Flexes Muscle in Monday's Indy 500 Practice

Andretti has not been one of the stronger teams this month, but Marco remains optimistic about race day. "It might take speed, luck, and balance to win this race, but if we get luck and balance, we can have a pretty good shot. It's going to take some strategy." His father Michael will once again be his race strategist on Sunday.

The track will now sit in silence over the course of the next three days, as drivers hit the road for media obligations ahead of the big race. The only day of activity remaining is Carb Day on Friday, which features a final two-hour practice session at 11 AM, followed by the Pit Stop Competition.

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