One day after dramatic qualifications that saw Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe claim the Verizon P1 Award for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, the 33-driver field participated in a busy practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden topping the timesheet.

With attention shifted to the race, the 3.5-hour session was dominated by cars running in packs to simulate what drivers will experience on May 29. Newgarden’s best lap around the 2.5-mile oval of 227.414 mph put the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet atop the speed chart.

“I think today is the most representative day that we’re going to get going into Sunday, which was great,” said Newgarden. “Everyone was in a pack together, which was great because that’s what we need to see.

“To me, some guys looked good at certain points and then they looked really bad at other points. I think that’s how it’s going to be on race day.”

Newgarden, who will start on the front row on Sunday between polesitter James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay, was followed on the Practice 8 leaderboard by two former Indianapolis 500 winners. Tony Kanaan turned the second-fastest lap at 226.393 mph while Scott Dixon was third fastest in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at 226.339 mph.

“I’m glad we were finally able to get the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet up to speed for practice today,” said Kanaan. “I’ve felt really good about my race car since the early sessions and it showed how strong the car is in race setup today on track.We made a lot of progress overnight and it helped put our qualifying run behind us. We’re 100 percent focused on the race now and just figuring out the best strategy to get back up front.”

“We made a lot of progress overnight and it helped put our qualifying run behind us. We’re 100 percent focused on the race now and just figuring out the best strategy to get back up front.”

Joining his former Chip Ganassi Racing teammates in the top five was Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing’s Sage Karam who was fourth fastest at 226.045 mph.

“Due to the weather forecast later in the week, I think everyone was really trying to get their car running well in race trim, and that is what we were trying to do today, too,” said Karam, who finished ninth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

“We worked on fuel numbers, pit stops and many things. I think we have a good baseline moving into Carb Day and the race.”

Pippa Mann completed the top five in the No. 63 Susan G. Komen machine for Dale Coyne Racing and was the top Honda driver of the session. Mann turned 116 laps, the third-highest total of the day, to gain valuable track time after crashing during Saturday’s qualifying.

“This was like Carb Day on steroids because we were out there doing it for (nearly) four hours,” said Mann. “Nobody wants to go out there and tear up a race car this close to race day, for sure. It was pretty hairy out there, but that’s representative of what it will be like in the race.

“In the race, when you have that many cars in a group, you won’t be able to run fast times. You’ll have to use all the gears and occasionally use the brakes. I know that sounds weird here. It gets really interesting and difficult and you are reacting to what everyone is doing, not just what your car is doing.”

Mann was not alone in turning a significant number of laps. The 33 drivers completed 2,886 circuits, the most of any Indianapolis 500 practice session in 2016. Nine drivers ran more than 100 laps with Carlos Munoz and Max Chilton running the most at 117 each.

Drivers will have one more chance to practice for Sunday’s race in a one-hour session at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 27 in preparation for the green flag of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29 at 12:04 p.m.

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