Sebastien Bourdais took a deep breath Friday.
After an early race-day exit last weekend and an engine change Thursday night, he moved into position to contend for the Indianapolis 500 pole.
The Dale Coyne Racing driver jumped to the top of the speed chart with some extra horsepower, posting the fastest lap of the week at 233.116 mph. Now the Frenchman and everyone else in Gasoline Alley must wait to see if the constantly changing leader board creates a wide-open pole shootout this weekend.
“It’s pretty exciting just to be in the mix, knowing that we seemingly have a chance to do well in qualifying,” Bourdais said. “Every other time I’ve been there, I’ve never been in contention to really be any kind of factor, and that’s just boring. When you’re in that position where you know there’s going to be something you can do to actually play at the front, then hopefully it happens, because it’s a heck of a lot more fun.”
The practice sessions haven’t provided much help sorting out what to expect in qualifying.
Many teams started the week in race trim, rather than using the quicker, lighter qualifying setups. The result: Five different drivers from five different teams found themselves in the No. 1 spot on the leaderboard.
And until drivers got the extra boost Friday, the fastest lap of the week came from Jay Howard — a 36-year-old driver, whose only career Indy start came in 2011. He went 226.774 on Thursday.
The weather hasn’t cooperated, either.
After dealing with high winds Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, rain washed out more than 2 1/2 hours of what was expected to be a busy final full day of practice before the first day of qualifying.
More rain is expected Friday night, which could leave drivers with little rubber on the track when qualifying begins Saturday. More rain is expected both days of qualifying, too.
The one constant, of course, is everybody expects Team Penske again to be in contention again.
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