A wild Saturday of qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway resulted in more questions than answers by the time the gun fired at 5:50 PM. Scott Dixon continued his stranglehold on the rest of the field, but the entire Chip Ganassi Racing team flexed their muscle and locked their way into the Fast Nine for Sunday afternoon. Dixon’s four-lap average of 231.828 mph led the way as Tony Kanaan was third-fastest, Alex Palou was 7th, and Marcus Ericsson finished 9th.
The five drivers that will battle Ganassi for pole position on Sunday are Colton Herta, Ed Carpenter, Rinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. There are a lot of veterans, including four drivers that have a combined six Indy 500 victories. Honda has seven cars in the top nine, with the only two Chevrolet entries coming from Ed Carpenter Racing. Carpenter will be aiming for his fourth Indy 500 pole tomorrow afternoon.
Saturday Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Results
The fastest cars are always the center of attention, but there was even more drama playing out at the opposite end of the grid. There are five drivers vying for the final three spots in the race. Two of those are affiliated with Team Penske, in Will Power and Simona de Silvestro. The other three are Sage Karam with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Charlie Kimball with AJ Foyt Racing, and RC Enerson with Top Gun Racing.
Power will soon own the record for most poles in IndyCar history, a record that reflects just how dominant he is in terms of pace. Indianapolis is different, though. He has 62 career poles, but none of them have come on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Power has been struggled to find speed, and the 2018 Indy 500 winner will be fighting for a spot in the field tomorrow in the Last Chance Qualifying.
While Ganassi is clearly the team to beat, they did have a hiccup on Saturday with one of their cars. After everyone had made a qualifying attempt, Palou went back out around 3:30 PM to try to improve upon his 7th qualifying position. Palou got extremely loose in Turn 2 and slammed into the SAFER barrier. Fortunately, he was able to climb from the car under his own power. The team did not withdraw his first run, so he is still in the Fast Nine Shootout. The car is repairable, and the team will work overnight to get it ready for tomorrow.
Several drivers narrowly missed the Fast Nine but will still have solid starting spots next Sunday. 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi qualified 10th, with Ed Jones and Pato O’Ward joining him on Row 4. Pietro Fittipaldi had an outstanding run and starts from the inside of Row 5. Joining him there will be Felix Rosenqvist and defending race winner Takuma Sato. Row 6 has a lot of star power with James Hinchcliffe, Scott McLaughlin, and Graham Rahal. The same can be said for the row just behind them, with Conor Daly\, Jack Harvey, and Josef Newgarden.
Other drivers that secured their starting spots are JR Hildebrand in 22nd, Santino Ferrucci in 23rd, and two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Montoya in 24th. Marco Andretti starts 25th in what will be his only IndyCar races this season. He will be joined by the Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais. Row 10 consists of Stefan Wilson, Max Chilton, and Dalton Kellett.
Track activity begins at 11 AM tomorrow, with a 30-minute practice session for the five drivers aiming for the last row. As soon as that concludes, the top nine drivers will have a 30-minute practice session before the real drama begins. Last Chance Qualifying begins at 1:15 on NBC Sports Network, where two drivers will be sent home. The Fast Nine Shootout to determine the first three rows, including pole position, will begin at 3 PM on NBC.
Last Chance Qualifying will allow drivers to make multiple attempts until 2:30 PM. The Fast Nine Shootout will be single runs in reverse order, meaning Dixon will be the final driver to qualify. In addition to the television coverage, all sessions will air on Peacock Premium. Once qualifying concludes and the 33-driver field is set, there will be a two-hour practice session beginning at 5 PM. This will be the final on-track activity before the two-hour practice session on Carb Day next Friday.