Indianapolis 500 pole winner Simon Pagenaud devoted yesterday's practice to working exclusively in race trim. The result didn't change.

The Team Penske driver remained atop the speed chart for another day, this time in the second-to-last practice for Sunday's race. His fast lap of 228.441mph (367.6km/h) in cool temperatures bettered that of teammate and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden at 228.273 (367.4km/h).

"It was really good to run with so many people on track," Pagenaud said. "It was almost like a race. The trick part is that it was so cold, every car looks good. You want to see how your car is, but you want to see how everyone else is, too."

Pagenaud has all the momentum.

Advertisement

After ending a 21-race winless streak by making it to victory lane in the IndyCar Grand Prix, he celebrated his 35th birthday with the third fastest four-lap qualifying average on Saturday, then returned to the 2.5-mile (4km) oval less than 24 hours later and became the first French driver to take the No1 starting spot in 100 years.

The gap appears to be closing between the Chevrolet engines that were so strong in practice and qualifications and Honda.

The Team Penske duo was trailed by a trio of Honda drivers yesterday as James Hinchcliffe went 227.994, Scott Dixon was 227.951 and Alexander Rossi 227.660. Dixon won the 500 in 2008, Rossi won it in 2016 and Hinchcliffe was the 2016 pole winner.

"Rossi was really strong at the end also and was really good in traffic, so he'll be a force to be reckoned with as usual," Pagenaud said. "I think Dixon will be strong as well."

One reason for the change is shifting strategies.

Many of the 33 drivers ran in large packs to see how the cars handled in traffic. Some teams worked on fuel mileage calculations, while others swapped parts in and out on pit lane.

Newer drivers worked on finding the proper braking zones along pit lane, and at one point, 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan climbed out of his cockpit and into the car of teammate Matheus Leist to determine which set-up might work best on race day for AJ Foyt Enterprises.

It was an action-packed two hours for everyone.

"We're still trying to learn everything we can," Kanaan said. "We wanted to make a change that would be too much for one car only, so I jumped in his car to try it."

There also were some complications as crew members scrambled to fix an electrical problem on the car of James Davison.

"We chase the weather, we chase the race track and getting the balance right for 25 to 30 laps for a run is really critical for the race," said Mike Hull, managing director for Dixon's team, Chip Ganassi Racing.

Things weren't just interesting on the track.

One day after two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso failed to qualify, McLaren Racing's hospitality tent was locked shut with the televisions on, and the privacy shield the team brought for the month remained outside two unoccupied garages.

- AP