NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader Dixon jumped to the top of the speed chart Thursday on the second day of practice for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge with a top lap of 39.8050 seconds, 226.102 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. His fast lap came with the benefit of an aerodynamic tow, as drivers continued to refine race setups in traffic.
Dixon, who opened the 2020 season with three straight victories, rose to the No. 1 spot on the 2.5-mile oval after recording the third-fastest speed Wednesday on Opening Day at 224.047. He looks to be a prime contender for both pole position during Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend this Saturday and Sunday and for his second Indy 500 victory on Race Day, Sunday, Aug. 23.
“Today, we made some minor changes and tried to figure out some different balances,” Dixon said. “We’re also focusing on how the car feels. The No. 8 car had some changes yesterday that (teammate Marcus Ericsson) liked and we tried them, but I’m on the fence. We’re just running through those variations and trying to run in as much traffic as possible and get the car as comfortable as possible for the race.
“We’re really just working hard on race setup. We’ve had a lot of options to work through, and we also wanted to run some of the things the other two cars have tried. We also worked on finding traffic today to see how the car would respond.”
Takuma Sato was second overall Thursday at 225.693 in the No. 30 Panasonic/PeopleReady Honda, with Marco Andretti third at 225.249 in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda.
Conor Daly was the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver, fourth overall at 225.106 in the No. 47 United States Air Force entry. Rookie Alex Palou rounded out the top five and another strong day for Honda-powered teams at 224.971 in the No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda.
Jack Harvey was the fastest driver without an aerodynamic tow, with a top solo lap of 222.124 in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.
The first incident over two days of practice came at 4:40 p.m. – 50 minutes before the end of practice – when two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso was unhurt in an accident. Alonso made right-side contact with the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 4 after clipping the concrete apron in Turn 4 with his left front wheel, with his No. 66 Ruoff Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet then doing a half-spin to the left at pit entry and sliding into the inside pit wall, making secondary right-front contact. The car suffered moderate damage.
Alonso, who also crashed in practice last year, was eighth fastest today at 224.363 before his accident.
“It was the car, the grip of the car,” Alonso said. “This place, the walls are coming very close. This is the way it is. Unfortunately, it happened again today. Hopefully it happens today instead of Sunday the 23rd.
“You learn every lap you do around here, and we learned from this. Tomorrow we start again. I think everything tomorrow is going to be OK. Let’s keep up the good work, and hopefully no more issues.”
Ben Hanley completed the first phase of his refresher test after practice today in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA Chevrolet. He will attempt to finish the final phase during practice Friday.
Practice continues from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday for all drivers, with live coverage on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. Cars will receive increased turbocharger boost – generating approximately 50 horsepower and higher speeds – on “Fast Friday” practice in preparation for Crown Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s going to be cool,” Dixon said. “It’s a big jump (in power). We’re pretty low speeds (today). I expect to see some pretty big speeds tomorrow, especially in tows. Everybody will be trying to get a clear track, but that’s going to be tough to get. I’m excited for tomorrow – Fast Friday.”