Scott Dixon was fastest again in Friday practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as he backed up his pole position with an effort of 223.714 mph on the final day of preparation before Saturday's all-important second round of qualifying for the 92nd Indianapolis 500.
The Ganassi driver recorded a comparatively light workload of 60 laps as the 11 drivers who secured their grid spots in last week's Pole Day session worked on longer full-tank runs, while those not yet in the race focused on a combination of race and qualifying simulations.
Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe completed the top three, both using their back-up cars, despite Briscoe being one of three drivers to crash during the day. The Australian was unhurt when he spun into the wall on the exit of Turn 1 while running behind Marco Andretti just after 4pm local time.
"I think the tyres were getting old, and I lost the rear going down into Turn 1," said Briscoe, who has already qualified on the outside of the front row.
"I was a bit surprised because I wasn't at full speed. I was just coming up to speed. I must have caught some dirty air from Marco's car in front of me and just lost the rear."
Will Power (KV Racing) and EJ Viso (HVM) also escaped injury in their earlier accidents, although as the ex-Champ Car duo did not make it into the field last Saturday, their crashes could have serious effects on whether they qualify for the race tomorrow.
Power was the fastest of the 'transition' drivers who have joined the IndyCar Series from Champ Car and was holding second overall when he crashed just under 45 minutes into today's session. His speed still stood for fourth-best at the end of the day. However, Power never returned to the track after the crash, and his team was still repairing the car late on Friday.
"Obviously this is a setback for the team because of the track time we're going to lose," Power said. "But I know the team will do what needs to be done and we will be ready to qualify tomorrow."
Also running well on Friday was Graham Rahal, who was bumped from the top 11 at the end of last Saturday's qualifying session and should be among the top runners when qualifying resumes. Rahal was clocked at 222.959 mph and went fifth-fastest in his Newman/Haas/Lanigan Dallara-Honda, despite a brush with the wall late in the day.
"It was due to the wind," Rahal said. "I had lifted already and at that point there isn't much you can do. You turn the wheel and you're off the throttle, and it's tough to get the front end back."
Returning veteran John Andretti also continued to show promising speed, as he has since he took over the No. 24 Roth Racing Dallara-Honda from Jay Howard last weekend. He posted the sixth-fastest lap on Friday at 222.860 mph.
Marco Andretti, who had the busiest day of all as he completed 126 laps, set the seventh-best lap at 222.764 mph. Dan Wheldon, Oriol Servia and Danica Patrick rounded out the top 10, as 36 cars took to the track in total, recording 2,164 laps between them.
1996 Indy winner Buddy Lazier was the latest addition to the field, making his first appearance of the year for long-time employers Hemelgarn Racing.
There will be a final hour of practice on Saturday morning before the qualifying session that will set the remaining places on the grid, after which only one position in the field will be up for grabs in Sunday's 'Bump Day' session.
Pos Driver Team Speed (mph) 1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 223.713 2. Helio Castroneves Penske 223.411 3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 223.372 4. Will Power KV 223.039 5. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 222.959 6. John Andretti Roth 222.860 7. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 222.764 8. Dan Wheldon Ganassi 222.680 9. Oriol Servia KV 222.456 10. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 222.388 11. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne 222.102 12. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold 221.919 13. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 221.632 14. Alex Lloyd Rahal Letterman/Ganassi 221.538 15. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 221.475 16. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold 221.857 17. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 221.046 18. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 220.878 19. Vitor Meira Panther 220.756 20. Ed Carpenter Vision 220.726 21. Darren Manning Foyt 220.300 22. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest 220.297 23. Davey Hamilton Vision 220.240 24. Jeff Simmons Foyt 220.111 25. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon 220.006 26. AJ Foyt IV Vision 219.909 27. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 219.893 28. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 219.810 29. Roger Yasukawa Beck 219.542 30. Mario Dominguez Pacific Coast 219.194 31. Marty Roth Roth 218.951 32. Jaime Camara Conquest 218.851 33. Max Papis Rubicon 219.959 34. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 218.633 35. Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 216.392 36. EJ Viso HVM 177.902