By Paul Kelly
INDIANAPOLIS – ( INDYCAR.COM ) The Month of Marco continued Saturday at the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, as Marco Andretti posted the fastest four-lap qualification run and enters the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday as the top seed for the run to the coveted NTT P1 Award for pole position.
Andretti posted a four-lap average speed of 231.351 mph in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda on his only attempt of the five-hour, 50-minute qualifying session. Andretti’s run was even more impressive because he was the 28th of 33 drivers to make his attempt in the first trip through the qualifying draw, blazing the top speed in hotter, more slippery track conditions than earlier qualifiers.
RESULTS: Indianapolis 500 Day 1 Qualifying
The Fast Nine Shootout takes place from 1:15-2:15 p.m. (ET) Sunday, with live NBC coverage from 1-3 p.m. Andretti, who led “Fast Friday” practice and was in the top three on the speed charts in all three practices this week, will be a favorite for his first career Indianapolis 500 pole.
“It was a steady day,” Andretti said. “The one-and-done things are always nice. It’s not fun to have to go do this a few times. We executed on the first time, so my goal is to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Andretti’s top spot was the pinnacle of a dominant performance on the 2.5-mile oval by Andretti Autosport and Honda. Andretti drivers swept the top four spots in the first day of qualifying, and Honda-powered drivers will comprise eight of the nine participants Sunday in the Fast Nine Shootout.
2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was second at 231.330 in the No. 28 DHL Honda, followed by 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi at 231.268 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/Auto Nation Honda. James Hinchcliffe was the final member of the Andretti party on the pavement, fourth overall at 231.195 in the No. 29 Genesys Honda.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was fifth at 231.155 after a busy day in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, the fastest non-Andretti car in qualifying. Rookie Rinus VeeKay was the only Chevrolet-powered driver to earn a Fast Nine Shootout spot, an impressive sixth at 231.114 in the No. 21 SONAX entry.
Rookie Alex Palou also turned heads with the seventh-fastest qualifying attempt, 231.034 in the No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda. Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammates Graham Rahal and 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato rounded out the Fast Nine, with Rahal eighth at 230.822 in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda and Sato ninth at 230.792 in the No. 30 Panasonic/PeopleReady Honda.
Each driver in the Fast Nine Shootout gets one attempt, running in inverse order from Saturday’s speeds. Sato will be the first driver on track, followed by Rahal and then through the line until Andretti will make the last attempt in a session that promises to be filled with drama. Andretti could become the first member of his famous racing family to win the Indy 500 pole since his grandfather Mario took the top spot in 1987.
What they are saying about the first day at Indy:
FERNANDO ALONSO (No. 66 Ruoff Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “The speed was not there yesterday in practice and today in qualifying. We know that so we just wanted to put in a solid run in for qualifying with no mistakes and execute the best we could. I think we achieved that, and I’m happy with that. The No. 66 Ruoff Mortgage Arrow McLaren SP car was feeling great today. I think we have a good race car because the first few days we were on the competitive side. The starting place for the race is not changing our hopes for next Sunday. All our focus now is on the race. This place offers a lot of possibilities even for the people starting at the back, and we will be looking to take that possibility next week.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “The roll-off speed of the Honda, the team and car they put together. It’s fun working with my engineer. When you roll off with speed, that’s always the Indianapolis first hurdle. When you get over that, it’s about fine-tuning and circumstances, so hopefully we are on the better end of things.”
OLIVER ASKEW (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “My first qualifying at the Indianapolis 500 was pretty exciting. First run ended up being our quickest. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go quicker. It looks like we are stuck in 21st right now. Probably the most frightening four laps of my life, but that’s what Indy 500 qualifying is all about. Looking forward to putting the race setup back on because I feel like Arrow McLaren SP have a much more competitive package in race trim. Looking forward to the rest of the week.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 United States Space Force Chevrolet): “Today was a day of mixed emotions. I’m very happy for Rinus (VeeKay) and the ECR team for once again prepping fast cars. Chevrolet gave us great power today, and we had a chance. We gave it all we had, but at least we have one car in the Fast Nine Shootout. I was really hoping to have the U.S. Space Force car up there, but this is the Indy 500, and you can win from anywhere. That’s still the mission.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “Being on the second page (of the time sheet) isn’t what you want, but we are working on it. We are going to find out if we can find a little bit and if not, we race the Pennzoil Chevrolet from there and we have a very good car. We’ve all been really happy with the cars in race trim. You hate to start that far back as you need to pass a lot of cars and use some strategy, but it can be done from there. I’m just excited to run in another Indy 500 and do our best to put on a show for all the fans watching at home.”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “All things considered, I’d say I’m pleased with how our day of qualifying ended. We drew a low number in the draw yesterday, so we didn’t even get out to do our first qualifying run until about two hours into the session, when the track was at its hottest. We just didn’t have it on our first run, and I’d say we didn’t maximize the setup we had for the conditions at the time of day we were running. We weren’t happy with where we ended up, and both the team and myself felt like there was definitely more in the car, so the guys went back and quickly looked through the data to see what direction we needed to go to make another attempt. The guys made some changes to the car, and we went back out with about 40 minutes to go in the session, which was obviously the right call as we averaged almost a mile and a half quicker and moved up two spots and into the row ahead of where we’d been. I’ve said it from the beginning, but I really feel that we have a good race car, and I’m looking forward to hopefully working my way up to the front.”
CONOR DALY (No. 47 United States Air Force Chevrolet): “Not the day we wanted to have here. After yesterday, we knew our car was a challenge to drive in the heat. The time of day where we drew to qualify was quite hot. I had a bit of a loose moment on the last lap, which really didn’t help the four-lap average. We went out later in the day and improved a little bit, but it was just really challenging in the heat. We know the U.S. Air Force Chevy is a going to be a good race car, though. Ed (Carpenter) and I are starting from the same row and we can definitely move forward from there.”
JAMES DAVISON (No. 51 Jacob Construction / Tilson HR Honda): “Today was a frustrating day for the No. 51 Jacob Construction crew. We had speed in the car running high 230’s on the first lap. No matter what we tried, in advance or on the fly to tune the balance, we would lose it. Not only would we lose it, but we would be fighting a car that pushed and was loose. Through no lack of effort, we have ended up qualifying further back than we would have liked, but there is 500 miles ahead, and we will regroup and do what we can to get on top of the balance in the final practice we have prior to the race.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I didn’t know if our first attempt would be good enough to put us in the Fast Nine when we ran. We were fairly conservative on balance and overall downforce. As we got through the hotter parts of the day today, it got harder for the drivers to hold on to the cars when they were this trimmed out. I don’t think you want to go fastest today because that means tomorrow you’ll go last in the hottest part of the day. I’m pretty happy, though, with the PNC Bank Honda. Our second attempt was better, and we improved some, for sure, but I made a change in the car that stiffened it up and I had to save it from the wall. We improved from sixth to fifth at the time. We’ll keep working on it and be ready for tomorrow.”
MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think I had a decent first run. The No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda felt really good. We built really good balance in the car yesterday, and that carried over to today. It felt good out there, but I feel like we left a little on the table. I was quite keen to go out again after the first run. I thought there was more speed in the No. 8 car. After our second attempt, it felt better out there. We were so close to being in the Fast Nine, finishing in P11. However, I think the track conditions got worse throughout the day.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “Qualifying for the SealMaster Honda team went really well. I’m super proud of the crew for getting the car sorted overnight. It’s never a good feeling going to sleep when your last run (yesterday) before qualifying was right next to the wall. Today, I was able to run wide open for four laps, and putting the car mid-pack feels really good. I’m confident we can have a strong result in the Indy 500.”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “Today was a bit disappointing for us. We had a great draw, and somehow we weren’t able to maximize getting to go out so early on in the session. With the temperatures just getting hotter as the day went on, nailing that first run was so important. And not nailing that run was a product of a difficult day. I went into today thinking we had the pace to be between eighth and 13th, so it was a bit of a disappointing result for us today.”
COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda): “Today was an OK day and qualified right inside the top 10, in 10th, so I am happy with that. A little disappointed on why our pace isn’t as good as our teammates and confused on that front. I think we have a pretty good race car, and that’s what matters. I am happy to roll off 10th and give it a crack next Sunday.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 67 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet): “I wasn’t psyched about being the last qualifier today. We know how the track gets later in qualifying, and after 115 or 120 degrees track surface, it starts to get really slick out there. We knew that after Friday’s practice in the afternoon, and it was 127 on my qualifying run today. The car feels good in race trim, but once we started trimming out the car, we have been struggling. It’s a bum draw, for sure, today. The crew guys have been working super hard to improve our cars throughout practice and qualifying. I felt good about the first lap in the heat with a 228.5 (mph), but the conditions were different in Turns 1 and 2 from 3 and 4. I did have a big moment on the second lap in Turn 1. The focus now is on the race, and I feel that our setups are good. We’ll try to improve on some of those settings in Sunday afternoon practice. If we have a good car in the race, we can move up. It’s 500 miles, after all.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 29 Genesys Honda): “A great day for the whole team, finishing 1-2-3-4 and Colton (Herta) just outside the Fast Nine in 10th . It’s a testament to all the hard work that everyone at Andretti Autosport puts into this program for us. Great to see the Genesys car up there with the teammates. Only .15 mph between the four of us there over 10 miles is absolutely crazy. We are going to dig a little deeper and harder overnight trying to see where we can kind that extra little bit of speed. Obviously, (Scott) Dixon is going to be quick tomorrow after what we saw at the end of the day, and we want to try and get that Genesys car on pole. Going to get everything we can get out of it and go for broke tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was a really encouraging day. We had speed in the 28 car that we felt we had yesterday and in some of our qualifying simulations in Fast Friday. It was good to replicate that performance, stick the 28 up front for the Fast Nine tomorrow. Hats off to the 28 team for preparing a great car. I think all of Andretti Autosport did a great job putting the cars P1-P4. Well done to Honda, as well, for all of their performances today.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Well, a little bit disappointing. I think we could have been in the top 15, but the car was pretty comfortable. We concentrated a lot on the race setup, and the car is actually pretty decent in race trim, so just a few more cars to pass, but, all in all, the temperature didn’t help us. Of course, we would have like to drawn an earlier (qualifying) number, but that’s just the luck of the draw. So, it is what it is, but we’re ready for next weekend.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “This isn’t what we wanted, obviously. Around Lap 2 we ended up blistering a tire, and that made the car pretty loose. I just stayed flat (on the throttle) and made the best of it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough today. We missed the first-lap speed because the car didn’t fell off that badly. We wanted a few more mile per hour on Lap 1. We have started in the back before and worked our way up. We are going to focus on how to make the race car platform better. Our race setup is definitely more comfortable than the qual setup. And our DRR WIX team is real good in the pits, as well. I know this race is going to come down to track position. In laps and out laps are going to be huge. Obviously, pit stops are extremely important. I’ve never worried about my pit crew. Despite being an Indy-only crew most of the time, they work year-round on pit stops in the shop. We always pick up positions on pit stops. If we get are in position to improve on the track, I know that the crew will gain us spots in the pits, too.”
DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line USA / AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet): “Really excited, really happy that we got that solid run in. Went off the order third, so the track was nice and cool. The car felt great for all four laps. It was good to get lots of practice in the heat yesterday when it was slippery, moving around, but I ended up getting a solid platform for this morning after a couple changes. Looking at the times, maybe we could have been a bit more aggressive on our mechanical balance, but we’ve really had the focus this week for the race, which is what we’re looking ahead for and devoted most of our time to, so I think being conservative in qualifying was always our plan. But very happy to get that run in, and looking forward to practice on Sunday.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 Tresiba AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet): “It was a challenging run for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet, but the A.J. Foyt Racing guys have been good all week. I know the car is good in race trim. We just have to figure out exactly what happened in those four laps. Got pretty busy in Turn 4 on Lap 4, so it’s about a four-lap average here unfortunately – not one or not two. We’ll work on it, figure out what’s going on and be better for tomorrow (practice).”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Shell V-Power Nitro Team Penske Chevrolet): “Judging from yesterday, the hotter it got, the more difficult it was for everybody. This early draw here was certainly beneficial for us and others that got it today. I think that was pretty much where are our car was today. We could practice for a touch more, but I think we were pretty close to our limit. It’s just great to be here. I’m just pumped we are running the Indianapolis 500. I can’t say thanks enough to Roger (Penske), everyone at IMS for making this happen. We are going to put on an amazing show next weekend. I think we are going to have a good car to race with for Shell V-Power Nitro and Team Chevy.”
PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I think it was positive toward the end of the day. I think we started the day a little confused based on where we had ran yesterday. We fixed it for the afternoon. We improved a few spots but didn’t have enough for the Fast Nine. Every time you improve a few positions, it is positive. We should look back and be happy with our last run because of the heat. We will start working on the race car now. Excited to see what Arrow McLaren SP and Chevrolet can do next week.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I wasn’t what we wanted out there at all with the Menards Chevrolet, but this place treats you like she wants to treat you, and you have to respect that. We had a perfect experience last year, but this year it is a little harder, so we have to work for it. It was an eventful qualifying session, for sure. Certainly way too much sliding around, and certainly not fast enough, either. If we start where we are, we have a great race car for the race. What bothers me the most is I wanted a fast time, and at Team Penske, that is what we expect. So, we will just have to work on it and make it better for the race next Sunday.”
ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “That was awesome to complete a qualifying run here at Indy. The Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh crew gave me such a great car. It’s so enjoyable to drive every lap. I think we had a really good first three days of practice. We already felt really comfortable yesterday. The speed was there. The car has a lot of speed, so I was really confident and comfortable with the car balance. We just did the job we’ve been doing all these days, and we’re in the Fast Nine. I think that’s really amazing in my first year here for me, for the team, for everybody. It shows how all my crew worked to give me the best car possible. I think we’re able to fight. I don’t know about fighting for the pole because there are a lot of really fast cars out there, but we will study tonight and see if we can go for it. Just starting in the top nine is going to be awesome for my first Indy 500. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will be a bit easier going into tomorrow, because now I know how it works, what you feel when you’re waiting there with the engine off, and you hear all the cars go by and you don’t really know what’s going on. I think it’s going to be a bit calmer. I know what to do now. It was the first four consecutive laps I did in qualifying mode. We’re ready for tomorrow. I’m super happy, and this gives me a lot of motivation for the Fast Nine qualifying. I think it’s going to be a great day for the team.”
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 45 Hy-Vee RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport Honda): “Overall, it was not a bad day. We had a solid run this morning that maybe could have been a little bit quicker to help us get in the Fast Nine. But at the end of the day, starting 12th with three cars in the top-12 is a really good showing for the whole team. We can definitely race from there. It’s not a bad spot to be. Overall, I’m happy with the Hy-Vee car, and we will get back on track tomorrow to work on our race setup. Thanks to everyone at RLL, and it was a good debut at the Indy 500 for Citrone/Buhl Autosport.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon 5G Edge Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m not sure what else we could do out there today. I was wide open the whole time. We will see where we end up and just focus on the race and get back to race mode as a team. We will keep the focus on that for tomorrow’s practice and work on the drivability of our car. This will be the furthest back I’ll probably ever started here, but you can win from anywhere in this race. It will be a long day, but we have a good Verizon 5G Edge Chevrolet. The guys have worked hard, and I appreciate the effort. We will continue to work on the race car and have some fun next weekend.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “I must say that I’m proud of our United Rentals team. Yes, we got an early draw. Yes, that was an advantage, but at the same time, we did take advantage of it, and we did make it work. We had a very consistent four-lap run today to start our day off, and we made it to the Fast Nine tomorrow. The good thing is, we get to be in the Fast Nine. The nerve-racking thing is that we’re in the Fast Nine, and we’ve got to do this again. Hopefully, we will have a good day tomorrow, but to have a top-three row start for the Indy 500, we’ll take it. We can race from there. We’ve definitely started a lot worse in recent years, so we’ll take it.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we really turned things around from yesterday. We had a rough ending to yesterday and had a rough moment in Turn 1, but the engineers really nailed the setup today. I think it was a really good run. There was no big understeer, no big oversteer, and I was pretty balanced over the four laps. I am really happy with that. I think there’s probably a little more in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda, but for the time of the day I think we had a really good first run.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / Auto Nation Honda): “An amazing day for the whole team, the 27 guys and for Honda. Congrats to Marco (Andretti), you can’t really ask for much more than that, I mean obviously we would love to have seen Colton (Herta) and Zach (Veach) in this group, as well, but I think we have six very fast race cars. It’s going to be very interesting to see how tomorrow goes. I’m really happy with the car, really happy with the run. I definitely think we still have some speed in it still, which is encouraging. It’ll just be about if it comes to fruition over four laps.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/PeopleReady Honda): “The car was extremely fast. I’m very happy for the job that the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team did. We drew a really lucky position for qualifying order. First for Graham (Rahal) and second for myself and Spencer (Pigot) seventh, and we basically made the most of it with a top nine for Graham and I. Unfortunately, Spencer missed only by a small amount, but he was very competitive. All three cars are on a small pack, which was a great job by the team. For myself, I was on the bubble and was a little bit nervous the last two hours. The team did a great job, and I was happy with the result. Tomorrow, if we can maybe jump up one row, it would be a bonus. But if not, I think we have confidence for the race car.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Disappointed after today. We lost speed in the car, which we can’t really explain right now. The balance of the car was absolutely mega for what we were trying to do, so hats off to the Gainbridge guys for putting it underneath. That wasn’t our cause of being a bit slow. So, we just have to regroup and figure out what went wrong. We had a great car, just not the speed today. It is what it is. Starting 17th isn’t terrible, still my best start for the Indy 500 – so I’ll take that. We’ve just got to do a lot of running tomorrow and Carb Day to make sure we have a really good day on August 23rd.”
RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “Pretty good day at the office! I was lucky yesterday with the draw and had a good run this morning. Fourth driver out, and I think the temperature really helped us. We put some really good laps down and stayed super consistent. I was kind of shocked by the 231.7 on the first lap. Very pleased with that. Being the only Chevrolet driver in the Fast Nine is also something to feel good about. Tomorrow is another day. It almost feels like the hardest part is over, the waiting is so hard. Tomorrow we can just go and qualify. For the race, everything is going to be different, but we have a good race car. I’m very confident.”