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Tony Kanaan says heat ‘concerning’ for Sunday’s Indy 500

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Kanaan, who’s qualified to start Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the 10th starting spot, set fastest speed Friday during a final one-hour practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on what’s known as Carb Day.

Scott Dixon was second fastest and Marco Andretti was third. Kanaan, who won the 500 in 2013, was clearly the swiftest with a speed of 227.791 miles an hour around the legendary 2.5-mile race track. Dixon and Andretti were both a tick above 225 mph.

The two Canadians in the field, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Zacharie Claman DeMelo of Montreal, were way slower, with the two of them running in the mid-221s. However, as their qualifying positions are locked in – Claman DeMelo will start 13th and Wickens 18th – the Carb Day practice is designed for the drivers and teams to experiment.

For instance (and all of this stuff is secret), some teams will run with a full load of fuel on a race-day setup. Others will run with less fuel while still others will make technological changes to see how the car reacts.

Sunday – when the 500 will get the green flag shortly after noon EDT (Sportsnet 1 and Sportsnet 360 will start its coverage at 11 a.m. with a pre-race show) – is expected to be very hot, with temperatures close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  When Carb Day practice started Friday, it was warm but was approaching hot an hour later.

Kanaan, as a result, said that his team essentially learned nothing. “The car was okay in the beginning, it was okay in the middle, and at the end the temperature started to get hotter and it was a completely different car.  It’s concerning.”

Kanaan, pictured above, said the IndyCar drivers haven’t practiced with temperatures in the high ’80s and the warm weather could have a negative effect on performance on Sunday.

Wickens, however, didn’t sound upset when he spoke later.

“We were just running through the program,” he said. “We had to do an install first lap, then we did some pit stops. Then we got into our test program trying different things. There wasn’t anything wrong. We have some work to do, for sure. Today was pretty good for track conditions compared to where we have been. We have to make some adjustments. By no means are we in no-man’s land.”

He was asked about fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe, who failed to qualify for Sunday’s classic but was on his best friend’s timing stand.

“He was just listening, nothing crazy,” said Wickens. “It’s not like he’s coaching me from in there. He was giving his opinion and talking with the engineers, just trying to lend a hand in any way he can.”

Claman DeMelo was similarly confident that Carb Day was just a practice.

“It was a tough session today.” The 20-year-old from Montreal said. “The Paysafe car wasn’t exactly how we wanted and it didn’t feel like Monday (when they held the last practice session). But, I’m still feeling confident going into the race. I’m sure we’ll figure out the problem and that we’ll be really strong going into Sunday.

“You can’t count anyone out here, so it should be interesting on race day. The buildup to this race is huge, it feels like we’ve been here a long time but it’s been fun. I can’t wait for race day.”

All eyes, of course, were on Danica Patrick, who is making her final start as a racing driver on Sunday. She qualified seventh, which is the inside of the third row, but seemed to have some difficulties during the final practice.

“Today we had a little bit of an electrical issue,” she said, “but our team was able to get me back out there before practice was over. At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done.

“I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about Sunday.”

In the only race of the day Friday, the Freedom 100 for Indy Lights cars, Colton Herta, son of retired IndyCar racer Brian Herta, edged Pato O’Ward for the victory. Pole-winner Dalton Kellett of Toronto was third in the eight-car field.

And although it wasn’t a race, per se, the annual Indianapolis Speedway Pit Stop Contest is always great fun because it’s one of the few times that members of pit crews can win some extra cash, a trophy and boasting rights.

Wickens and his Arrow/Lucas Oil pit crew made it to the final but lost to Dixon and his Ganassi Racing team.

NEWS ‘N NOTES

Scott Maxwell, one of the finest road racers this country ever produced, lost his father this week. He Tweeted: “With great sadness, I must share the news of the passing of my dad George Maxwell. He was my inspiration to pursue and succeed in motorsports and life but above all he was a great husband, father and friend to so many.” Mr. Maxwell is at the Ogden Funeral Home, 4164 Sheppard Ave. East (east of Kennedy R.). A memorial service will be held on Tues., May 29, at 1 p.m.

Carin Sundin reports from Ohswseken Speedway the addition of the Gale’s Auto Aftermarket Performer of the Week award for the 2018 season and the first recipient is crate sprint car driver D.J. Christie and the No. 5 Strickland’s GMC Crate Sprint Car team. They broke a driveshift in the heat on the first night of racing on May 18th, managed to change that and finish second in the B-Main and then started 20th in the feature, eventually finishing third . . . . . .

Kyle Busch won the pole Thursday night for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was the third pole of the year and 30th of his career. 191.836 mph . . . . .