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Event Coverage: 2017 Indianapolis 500 Carb & Legends Day

by David Zipf

 

If you’ve followed our coverage of the Indy 500 here for the last couple years, you may have been mistaken for thinking that there isn’t much to do on Indy weekend aside from...you know...watch the race.  But that is where you would be mistaken.  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has dedicated a lot of time and resources into turning the Indy 500 into a three day event, celebrating tradition, speed, and teamwork.  If you’re planning to attend the 500, plan to call in sick and spend Friday and Saturday enjoying the sights and sounds of Indy.

On top of the 500, there is Carburetion Day and Legends Day.  Final practice, The Freedom 100, the Pitstop Competition, the memorabilia show, the 500 parade, and multiple autograph sessions of both drivers former and current, are all crammed into these two days.  It is a great lead-in to the race and we though we'd take you for a walk through the weekend events!

The Friday before the 500 is called Carb Day.  Carb Day is the final practice session before the 500.  In the days of yore, Carb day was the last chance teams had to adjust their carbeuretor jets and needles before the race.  A proper carbeuretor hasn’t run on Carb day in almost half a century, but the name has stuck.  
Instead, Carb Day's practice session is used to work out all the little details, such as ensuring the pit speed limiter is calibrated correctly (getting caught speeding in the pits is a great way to lose a lap at Indy and will ruin a race).  Drivers can also practice their pit entrances and exits, teams can lay out their final marks for the car (so the car stops perfectly every time), and most importantly, drivers can ensure their car is stable in traffic.  Because of its size and shape, Indy is very susceptible to wind changes and the cars must be setup to handle anything the track can throw at them.  This is the final chance to nail down the final gremlins: after the session closes, the cars will not run again until the race.
Final practice ended up being both a blessing and a curse for James Hinchcliffe.  With around 15 minutes left in the hour long session, his Honda engine expired in a big cloud of smoke.  Honda has seen an abnormal amount of failures this month, 7 in total.  While the engine failure is worrying, Fernando Alonso put it a different way: “If the practice session had been 10 minutes shorter, it would have failed during the Parade Laps.”  True enough, but surely all of the Honda drivers are still worrying whether their powerplants can handle the 500 miles of abuse they would be seeing in a few day’s time.
Alonso himself had a great final practice.  He spent a good portion of the session at the top of the timesheets.  It is a bit difficult to read into how this translates into the race though.  Remember, in traffic the effect of the draft will greatly speed up a car.  In race trim, these cars will generally run around 222 MPH on their own.  Alonso’s speed of 226.608 was in a partial tow.  Eventually others would go quicker and he would be 5th quickest of the day.
Pole sitter Scott Dixon (9), sporting a fresh new paintjob and Camping World sponsorship, put his car 4th of the day.  His Chip Ganassi Honda is very quick and he is an obvious favorite to win the 500.  Josef Newgarden (2) was looking far better in race trim.  He qualified only 22nd, but ran 8th throughout the day.  In fact all five of the team Penske cars looked better on Carb day then they had on Pole Day.
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