SPEEDWAY, Ind. — With 35 cars vying for 33 spots in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, it was a stressful, dramatic, and relieving first day of qualifying for the race.
On Saturday, positions 10-30 were set in stone with all 35 drivers entered take a qualifying lap. Some had to take more runs than others as the pressure was on to try and guarantee a spot on the grid.
There was also pressure to grab a spot to compete for the pole in the Fast Nine on Sunday, while the pressure was also on to not be one of the drivers relegated to trying to secure a spot on the last row in the Last Row Shootout.
Scott Dixon is the provisional pole sitter in turning in a top four-lap average of 231.828 mph. Being the driver who drew the first qualifying spot he sat on the pole right from the beginning and did not take another run the rest of the day.
Still, he said the car is not at its full potential.
“For us, it was just that first run,” he said. “We made a little mistake that cost us some speed, but tomorrow is a different day. It’s going to be different conditions and hopefully, all four of us get it right.”
The four he refers to are he and the rest of his Chip Ganassi teammates, all of whom in Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson, and Tony Kanaan made the Fast Nine Shootout. They are joined by Colton Herta, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, as well as the only Chevy drivers to make it in Ed Carpenter and Rinus Veekay.
“It was nice to get two of our cars in,” Carpenter said. “Wasn’t sure how it was going to shake out after yesterday but the team did a nice job. Chevrolet gave what we needed and we’re excited to get two of them in there.”
Palou wrecked his car in trying to improve his speed, a risk that did not pay off forcing his crew to repair his car before qualifying runs tomorrow.
The surprise of the day was the lack of performance from Team Penske. None of the four Penske drivers made the Fast Nine for the second year in a row. Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, and Simon Pagenaud are safely in the field, but Will Power was unable to find the speed and is among the five drivers who will have to compete for the three open spots on the last row.
Power is joined by Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, RC Enerson, and Simona de Silvestro in the Last Row Shootout.
A bit of confusion surrounded Power not making the field. He had turned in a run late run Dalton Kellett on the bubble with time running out. But, Kellett was in the priority line behind Power and went out again to try and protect his 30th starting position.
As Kellett was turning in his run, Power entered the priority line, thus deleting any time that he had posted before that juncture. Kellett completed his run and was in the 30th spot and time expired for Power to make another run.
Silvestro of Paretta Autosport, who is affiliated with Team Penske, was unable to find the speed like their Penske compatriots and was the very last driver to make an attempt when the final gun sounded on Saturday.
Drivers competing in Last Chance Qualifying will have between 1:00 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday to find enough speed to secure a spot on the last row. Immediately after, the drivers in the Fast Nine will duke it out for the pole in the Fast Nine Shootout from 3:00-to-3:45 p.m. Each driver gets just one run.