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Trackside Update: Fast Friday

5.17.13 – After an afternoon of high speeds and roaring engines filling the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the remainder of "Fast Friday" was canceled due to heavy thunderstorms. The Andretti Autosport drivers all showed their muscle as they finished in the top-four fastest overall. E.J. Viso was fastest, followed by Marco Andretti second, Carlos Munoz third, James Hinchcliffe 12th and Ryan Hunter-Reay 13th. As the crews continue to work hard to find the perfect setup for their cars, the focus now rests on tomorrow's Pole Day qualifications.

Team owner Michael Andretti was pleased with his team's performance this week, but hopes to see them improve as the cars go out for qualifying on Saturday. "Well I think we're in it. I think we're not as quick as we'd like to be," said Andretti. "We still got a little bit of work to do, and hopefully we'll be able to improve the cars that little bit that we need to get the pole tomorrow."

On Fast Friday, E.J. Viso piloted the No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA CITGO Chevy to the top of the speed charts – posting a lap at 229.537mph – the fastest overall lap of the month and the fastest practice lap since 2003 (unofficial). "Today has been a pretty fun day trimming the car," said a pleased Viso after the day came to an end due to heavy rain in the afternoon. "I'm confident with the car we've been developing all week long. We achieved a lap of almost 230 miles per hour – that's something fantastic. Hopefully in qualifying we can go as fast." E.J.'s best starting position was last year when he started from the outside of Row 3 in ninth. His lap today was the first to reach 229mph this May. Team Venezuela picked the perfect time to lead the field as the teams head into Pole Day.

Living up to the expectations of 'Fast Friday', Marco Andretti had another successful practice in Indianapolis today. Marco was able to put the RC Cola machine through its paces and turn in his fastest lap of the month at 228.754mph. Finishing the day second fastest overall, Marco made final adjustments to fine-tune his car for tomorrow's first day of qualifying. "I think we would have been over 230 if we had a full day. Obviously those were tow laps but I think as a team I think we're quite comfortable with our speeds. Obviously tomorrow is another day, and it's just going to come down to having a good balance."

Colombian Carlos Muñoz continued to impress today, recording his fastest lap of the month, and the third fastest lap of the day, at 228.520mph. "I think we have a strong car going into qualifying tomorrow," Muñoz – easily the fastest rookie of the month – commented. "The No. 26 Unistraw Chevy has been running well all week, so I'm looking forward to doing well." Carlos will make his first four lap qualifying attempt at IMS tomorrow, a challenge many drivers call one of the most difficult in the world. However, the rookie is excited to get his first shot at pole for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. "I'm really excited going into my first qualifying run for the Indy 500; it's a dream come true. Ever since I was small, I wanted to be in this race. I remember watching (fellow Colombian) Juan Pablo Montoya win the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. This is a special race for me; I'm going to give everything I have tomorrow." Carlos has consistently been one of the fastest drivers in the field this month, and after Sebastian Saavedra in 2012, he will try to become the second Colombian to drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy 500 when he makes his qualifying run on Saturday.

James Hinchcliffe ended the day 12th fastest with a top lap of 226.983mph. The Toronto native's fastest lap of the day was almost exactly half a mile per hour faster than his four-lap average of 226.481mph on Pole Day last year. "Trimming out and obviously getting the extra boost from Chevy was fun," said Hinchcliffe, whose previous fastest lap of the month was 224.210mph. "You feel like a hero, you feel like Superman, even though everybody else is doing the same thing, it's just nice seeing those numbers on the dash after looking at 218s and 220s all week." Hinch's No. 27 GoDaddy car wound up in the middle of row one in 2012 after missing the pole by just 0.0023 seconds over four laps, on his way to finishing sixth in the Indy 500.  When asked about Pole Day, James sounded like a veteran. "It comes so much down to conditions," the Mayor said. "When you draw for qualifying is going to be important, and how the wind is blowing is going be a big deal. It was a lot calmer today on that front, which was good. Hopefully we get conditions like that tomorrow. Now we have a nice, green race track after some rain, so we will see."

Ryan Hunter-Reay's is entering his sixth year competing in the Indianapolis 500, where he received Rookie of the Year honors in 2008. He started the 2012 running from the third position, this qualifying attempt marked his career best start at the 2.5-mile oval. "We feel pretty good overall – still have some work to do," Ryan said, "but hopefully the rain will hold off tomorrow and we'll get a shot at showing what we have. Andretti Autosport as a whole is competing for the front row again. But the race is really what counts, we need to be in the right position for the last 50 laps… and leading on (lap) 200."

Don't miss a minute of qualifying action at IMS tomorrow, tune into NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) for live coverage from at 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and continuing at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. You can also following along on Twitter (@FollowAndretti) for updates from pit lane throughout the day.

 

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