What Do Practice Results Mean?

Guess what? Indianapolis 500 practice starts today! HAPPY DAYS!

The road to the Indianapolis 500 is a long process full of lots of practice sessions. The usual series of bombarding tweets will be sent at us saying this driver is P1 and this driver stunk and so on and so forth. What do practice results mean? How have some of our most recent Indy winners done in practices?

I complied the practice results of the last six Indianapolis 500 results. Here's what we got:


2015 - Juan Pablo Montoya
Average session finish - 12.2
Number of sessions - 9
High - P5

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America


2014 - Ryan Hunter-Reay
Average session finish - 5.6
Number of sessions - 10
High - P1

98th Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America


2013 - Tony Kanaan
Average session finish - 14.3
Number of sessions - 10
High - P7

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America


2012 - Dario Franchitti
Average session finish - 8.6
Number of sessions - 9
High - P1

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America


2011 - Dan Wheldon
Average session finish - 15.1
Number of sessions - 7
High - P5

Indianapolis 500 Mile Race
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America


2010 - Dario Franchitti 
Average session finish - 6.6
Number of sessions - 8
High - P1

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America


After close analysis of the last six Indianapolis 500 winners and how they practiced, here's what we can infer: it's really a mixed bag. Half of the winners listed above have done really well, while the other half haven't done as well. Looking at Montoya last year, he cracked the top-ten less than half of the sessions. Yet on race day, he looked dominant.

In the DW12 era (and most Indianapolis 500 eras), the tow, or draft you receive from the car in front of you, plays a huge part in the times you put up. So Montoya may have not got in a huge tow lap all during practice, and he did look pretty sluggish in qualifying too, but there wasn't a better car in the race.

The average finishing position of these six winners in 53 sessions is 10.2 Weirdly enough, only three times in those 53 sessions has the race winner finished P1 in the session. No winner in the last six years has finished P1 more than once in the practices leading up to the race. 

Coincidentally, every-other year seems to alternate between winners who practice well and winners who practice averagely. Just something random to observe, nothing huge.

What do you guys think: big correlation between how you practice and how it will impact your race?

Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey