On Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, qualifying for the 98th Annual Indianapolis 500 kicked off. Under the new format, Saturday is used to lock in the nine drivers that will go for the pole. With the top nine locked in, Sunday will be used for those nine to go for the pole and set the top nine spots, while the rest fight through spots 10th thru 33rd.
Topping the charts on the first day of qualifying for Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter as he had a four lap time of two minutes and 36.0735 seconds with an average speed of 230.661 mph behind the wheel of his No. 20 Fuzzy Vodka Chevrolet.
“It’s been a good month,” Carpenter commented. “I’m really happy we have the second car this month with the way it’s gone with limited running and the rain. Having JR on the team has been a huge help. I’m happy we’re in a position to have a chance to win a pole again, and at the same time I feel like we’re in better shape for the race than where we were last year too, so it’s shaping up to be a fun weekend.”
Carpenter is looking to win the pole for the second straight year and says he has to repeat what he’s done in the past in Sunday’s session.
“We’ve got to get it right for that one run,” he said. “Everybody’s got one shot at it, and I think you saw guys going faster, going slower, going faster, going slower today depending on which run they were on. Some guys moved forward, some guys moved back when they pulled out a time. It just comes down to the engineers and the drivers making the right decision, believing in it and going out a laying down four good ones.”
Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz was second fastest as he is looking to better his run in last year’s Indianapolis 500 by one spot after finishing second to Tony Kanaan.
“After the second run, I was really disappointed. During the first run, the Cinsay car was really good, but during the second run, we just completely lost the balance of the car,” Munoz commented. “My team, my engineer – they did exactly what I asked, and we had a great third run. I was questioning myself, the team, everything before, but as soon as I hit the track I forgot everything (about the second run). The car was really fast, and it’s a shame we wasted that second outing. I think we’re looking strong, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves was third fastest, followed by James Hinchcliffe. The laps on Saturday marked Hinchcliffe’s second session behind the wheel as he missed practice last week due to a concussion suffered in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
“It feels really good now. It’s a huge testament to this team and the work that they’ve done to be able to come out here,” Hinchcliffe commented. “We had a solid first run, but we knew we were going to have to tweak some more out of it. We were sitting back in the garage there watching ourselves tumble down the charts, watching the track get a bit quicker and guys go a bit quicker. We knew it was our time to go out. The rain came, and we weren’t sure what that was going to do to the track and the conditions. But Nathan (O’Rourke), my engineer, just nailed the aero balance on that one. The car was even nicer to drive than it was the last run. It was on edge, man. I’m shaking a little bit. But it was fast, and that’s what matters.”
Will Power rounded out the top five, followed by Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand. Kurt Busch was in the Fast Nine for the majority of the session, though was bumped out in the final half hour as he was 10th quickest in today’s session.
“I’ve qualified Pro Stocks on the quarter-mile; I’ve done the longest track on the NASCAR circuit (Talladega) but to do four laps here on a 2.5-mile track, that’s a 10-mile run. That’s the longest I’ve had to focus for a qualifying run. Just the shear excitement of trusting a car with downforce going down into Turn 1 at 230 is indescribable,” Busch commented following his first of two runs on the day. “Those four laps felt like one; 230 is a totally different game. I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be; the moment of Indy can kind of overtake you. It was a very solid run; I was hoping for more. I didn’t keep up with the adjustments in the car. Those guys at Andretti Auto sport have given me a great car.
“It’s been an experience, the month of May in an Indy car. It’s really hard to digest at all. The chance to qualify is one thing but to do it in an Andretti car is another. The qualifying run I made felt very comfortable, maybe that’s why it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Maybe I was conservative with the car instead of edgy. I have to thank Andretti Autosport and Suretone for making all this happen; those guys have been great to partner up with and run a big advertising campaign around the Indy 500.”
Surprisingly, none of the Chip Ganassi cars made the Fast Nine Shootout with Dixon laying down the quickest four-lap time in 15th.
“It was an average run,” Dixon commented. “I think we were a little bit neutral and started sliding the rear a bit coming from Lap 2 and onwards. The speed just wasn’t there anyways. After Ed (Carpenter’s) run we have to find a good mile and one-half or a little more. We’re trimmed out more than what they are. It’s not about how trim you are; it’s all about the whole package together. We’ll go back out. With warmer conditions later we may see some bigger speeds.”
1. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 02:36.0735 (230.661)
2. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.2090 (230.460)
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 02:36.2286 (230.432)
4. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.2452 (230.407)
5. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 02:36.3022 (230.323)
6. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.4306 (230.134)
7. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.4741 (230.070)
8. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.4993 (230.033)
9. (21) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 02:36.5032 (230.027)
10. (26) Kurt Busch, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.5493 (229.960)
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.5904 (229.899)
12. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.6471 (229.816)
13. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 02:36.6681 (229.785)
14. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 02:36.7821 (229.618)
15. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.0111 (229.283)
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.1426 (229.091)
17. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.3252 (228.825)
18. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.3522 (228.786)
19. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.4043 (228.710)
20. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.4364 (228.664)
21. (22) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.4460 (228.650)
22. (6) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.5435 (228.508)
23. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.5944 (228.435)
24. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.6265 (228.388)
25. (63) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.6474 (228.358)
26. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.6917 (228.294)
27. (5) Jacques Villeneuve, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.7766 (228.171)
28. (33) James Davison, Dallara-Chevy, 02:37.7912 (228.150)
29. (16) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.8713 (228.034)
30. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 02:37.9011 (227.991)
31. (68) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.0246 (227.813)
32. (41) Martin Plowman, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.5601 (227.043)
33. (91) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Chevy, 02:38.9102 (226.543)