There will be a new track record set Saturday afternoon. The only questions are who will set it and how fast?
All twenty-four cars obliterated the current track record of 42.510 seconds (211.715 MPH) set by Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989. Marco Andretti led the way with the fastest time, 40.7308 seconds (220.963 MPH), nearly a full mile per hour faster than second fastest and Triple Crown hopeful Tony Kanaan (40.9460 seconds/219.802 MPH). Chevrolet swept the top five while taking eight of the top ten on Thursday. Helio Castroneves was third ahead of Ed Carpenter and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda in sixth position, 0.5117 seconds off Andretti.
Sébastien Bourdais was a surprise seventh quickest on the day ahead of the most recent IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe and Penske's Will Power. James Jakes was tenth fastest ahead of three fellow Honda drivers Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and Justin Wilson. One driver and team we know will not set the track record on Saturday is Ryan Briscoe and Panther Racing as Briscoe will be at Lime Rock Park driving in the American Le Mans Series race for Level 5 Motorsports. Panther Racing will not make a qualifying attempt and start twenty-fourth on Sunday. The Australian was fourteenth fastest yesterday.
The only driver in the field to have raced at Pocono was fifteenth fastest. That driver is Dario Franchitti who made one NASCAR start at Pocono in 2008 where he started fourteenth, completed one hundred and thirty-seven laps and finished forty-first. Sixteenth fastest was Alex Tagliani ahead of Josef Newgarden and EJ Viso. AJ Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato was nineteenth. AJ Foyt will not be at Pocono after undergoing hip replacement surgery. Rookie Tristan Vautier was twentieth ahead of Simona de Silvestro and Graham Rahal. Pippa Mann was twenty-third and Sebastián Saavedra rounded out the field with a time of 41.8603 seconds (215.001 MPH).
The top ten were covered by 0.5913 seconds with the top fifteenth covered by 0.6449 seconds, the top twenty covered by 0.7078 seconds and 1.1295 seconds covering the whole field.
IndyCar drivers will have 90 minutes of practice on Saturday with a one hour practice at 10 a.m. ET and a 30 minute session at 5:30 p.m. ET. IndyCar qualifying is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. ET. Tristan Vautier is scheduled to go out first in qualifying with heavy-hitter Marco Andretti and Scott Dixon going out third and fourth respectively. Drivers to watch out for in qualifying are James Hinchcliffe (seventh in the qualifying order), Ryan Hunter-Reay (eleventh), Helio Castroneves (twelfth), Will Power (sixteenth), Simon Pagenaud (seventeenth), Tony Kanaan (eighteenth), Dario Franchitti (nineteenth) and Ed Carpenter (twenty-first). Alex Tagliani will be the final driver to post a time.
ABC's coverage of the Pocono Indy 400, the first IndyCar race at the 2.5 mile triangle in nearly a quarter of a century, begins at noon on Sunday.