Michael Andretti will score his first Indianapolis 500 win Sunday, according to Max Papis. "He is the Michael I know and love as a race car driver," Papis said after purposefully hooking up and turning laps Friday with ...
Michael Andretti will score his first Indianapolis 500 win Sunday, according to Max Papis.
"He is the Michael I know and love as a race car driver," Papis said after purposefully hooking up and turning laps Friday with the team-owner-turned-temporary-driver during Indy's annual Misnomer Practice Session, otherwise known as Carburetion Day.
"We were racing."
"Michael didn't post super-fast times Friday but I know what he was looking for. I predict that by the middle of the race he will be in the top five. I hope to go there with him."
Why should this Indy 500 be any different than the 14 previous Indy 500s after which Andretti has pegged nothing but goose-eggs in the win column?
"He's in the same position as I am - people are not expecting much. 'Under- promise' and 'over-deliver' is a pretty good position to be in, pressure wise, and this is probably the first Indy 500 that Michael hasn't had tons of pressure on him."
Outside of the ease with which Papis picked a winner, if there's anything about the race that's on Papis' mind it's the field getting to about the 250-mile mark.
"The temperature was in the 60-degree range Friday and the track was slick and it was dusty, too. Speeds were low because everyone had to be super careful."
With his Lap-7 best final day practice speed of 220.698-mph, race pole sitter Sam Hornish Jr. was a little over 8-mph off his 228.985 qualifying average posted last Saturday.
Likely the result of too few laps put down due to rain washing out the originally scheduled qualifying weekend, the track is greener than it might otherwise be going into Sunday's classic Memorial Day weekend event.
"The most interesting thing about Friday's practice was that most of the cars looked out of shape on the track because it was so dusty and slippery. I saw a lot of long faces after the practice ended."
As a result, Papis thinks the field will have to carefully tip-toe through the race's first stages.
"It's going to take two, maybe three sets of Firestones before the track surface gets the grip it needs."
Nevertheless, after turning 22 laps Friday, tallying a top speed of 215.380 on Lap 17, Papis is satisfied with his No. 52 Sport Clips Honda- powered Dallara.
"I have the car like I want it going into Sunday," when Papis will start 18th on the Indy 500 grid.
"After the race starts it'll take 10 to 12 laps to sort it out for the conditions - which is supposed to be 85-degrees compared to the 60- something temperatures on Friday (final practice session)."
Despite Saturday's absence of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the day was still going to be a busy one for Papis, who already was on his way to the Speedway when others had yet to roll out of bed on the beginning of a lazy Memorial Day holiday weekend.
On Papis' Saturday agenda are Speedway and team driver meetings, autograph sessions, sponsor tours of his Eddie Cheever Racing garage in Gasoline Alley and hanging out with brother Alex, nephew Pietro and spouse Tatiana.
Sunday will come soon enough. -
-DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com