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Andretti drivers get on the gas during rain-shortened Fast Friday

Marco Andretti (228.754 mph) turned second-fastest lap during Fast Friday practice Speedway. | AJ Mast~AP

Marco Andretti (228.754 mph) turned the second-fastest lap during Fast Friday practice at the Speedway. | AJ Mast~AP

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Updated: June 19, 2013 6:17AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Bolstered by the 40-50 mph boost in horsepower they were given for Fast Friday, Indianapolis 500 racers got down to the business of dialing in their cars for qualifying for Pole Day on Saturday.

As expected, speeds increased by 4-5 mph. It also wasn’t surprising that Andretti Autosport drivers continued to set the pace at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Andretti teammates E.J. Viso (229.537 mph), Marco Andretti (228.754) and rookie Carlos Munoz (228.520) were the fastest before a nasty thunderstorm shut down practice early.

Munoz (225.163) and Andretti (225.100) had been the fastest ­before Friday, while Viso (224.221) had been seventh.

There was a 30-50 percent chance of more showers late Saturday afternoon. The greatest threat of rain could come in the 3:30-5 p.m. slot, when the top nine qualifiers of the day will battle it out for the biggest prize.

That could affect strategy for securing the most coveted pole in motorsports.

“You don’t want to be as conservative on your first run,’’ Andretti said. “Because that could be the pole run if there’s no top-nine shootout. Just go for it on the first run.’’

Because Indy, like life, isn’t always fair. With the right combination of wind and sun aiding a qualifying run, followed by a drenching rain, any number of drivers could post a good early time and wind up starting first on the 33-car grid.

But don’t look for that to happen. If the pole eludes the Andretti team, the Penske team (led by Will Power and Helio Castroneves) and Target-Ganassi (led by Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon) are the next-best bets. Because for all its quirks, Indy tends to reward the top drivers with the best equipment on Pole Day.

The Andretti team isn’t assuming it will win the pole based on its practice times.

“We’re comfortable with our speeds,’’ Andretti said. “But tomorrow’s going to be another day. Power put up some good laps. It’s going to come down to having good balance.’’

Viso also believes Andretti must prove itself when it counts.

“We definitely have a good shot,’’ Viso said. “But the Penske guys have shown they’re strong. Helio didn’t put everything into his run before it rained.’’

Castroneves won the first of his four poles 10 years ago with a speed of 231.725 mph, the last time cars exceeded 230 mph in practice or qualifying.

The racers believe 230 will be out of reach for qualifying runs this year.



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