SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It was a record-breaking day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
The previous record for most qualifying attempts on Day 1 before the day began was 73. That record was smashed with an hour remaining as 84 attempts would be made before the final gun sounded. The conditions were pristine for some fast qualifying laps as temperatures barely got out of the 60s, but it was windy all day long making it somewhat challenging.
Still, after his teammate Alexander Rossi had sat atop the scoring pylon for 5 hours and 10 minutes with an average of 233.528 mph, Felix Rosenqvist uncorked a massive second run later in the afternoon at 234.937 mph, which is now among the top three fastest qualifying runs ever attempted at IMS.
“Super proud of the whole team for executing,” said Rosenqvist. “That last run we did was just phenomenal. Almost in a 234 average. That was pretty mind-blowing how we found so much speed.”
He and his other three Arrow McLaren teammates were fast enough to grab spots in the Fast 12. They and all four Ganassi cars make up eight of the fastest twelve drivers.
Yeah, we feel confident,” said Alex Palou. “That doesn’t mean that we feel like it’s going to be easy to get into the Fast Six or fight for pole. But we feel confident that we have speed.”
The Fast 12 are made up of Rosenqvist, Rossi, Palou, Rinus Veekay, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, Pato O’Ward, Santino Ferrucci, Marcus Ericsson, Benjamin Pedersen (R), and Will Power, Power being the only Penske driver to make the Fast 12.
“Unfortunately, we just weren’t good enough,” said Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden. “I really wish we had just a little bit more. We were really, really going for it. I felt like we were as aggressive as we could reasonably be at the end there.”
At one point, Newgarden gambled by withdrawing his 16th-best average to go out through the priority lane to improve. Instead, he went slightly slower, salvaging a run good enough for 17th.
Rahal Struggles, Juncos Perserveres
Juncos-Hollinger racing appeared to be in trouble heading into the day as Callum Ilott struggled all week long g to find speed. The team made the decision to change the chassis on the car after they found a defect with Iliott’s first one.
The team pulled off a miracle and got the new car race ready in a matter of 12-hours and Ilott, on his third attempt of the day, posted a four-lap average of 231.182 mph which was good for 28th.
“We just managed to turn the car around into something that was fast, and managed to scrape four laps out of it,” said Ilott. “I obviously was there when (the engineers) were rebuilding it. This morning it was a big thank you. I’ll buy them dinners at some point soon!”
Furthermore, all six one-off or part-time drivers have secured spots in this year’s Indianapolis 500.
The other big storyline of the afternoon was the lack of pace from the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan cars.
Among the four drivers that will compete in Last Chance Qualifying on Sunday, three of them are RLL-affiliated cars in Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard, and Jack Harvey. The fourth car is Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne/Rick Ware Racing.
“Just bad,” Rahal said. “I don’t know much else we can do. Sometimes you just don’t have speed.”
Rahal took an unheard-of five qualifying attempts and was unable to garner enough speed to bump his way into the field. Lundgaard found himself in a bumping battle between himself and David Malukas, who on his final run made it in at 23rd.
Harvey and Rahal simply lacked overall pace. The only Rahal car assured a spot in the field is Katherine Legge, the team’s one-off car for this year’s race.
In the early afternoon, each of the four drivers will have precisely one hour to take as many runs as they can to get into the final row. Later in the evening, the Fast 12 will duke it out for the Pole.
Sandwiched in between will be race practice for drivers in positions 13-30.
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