Felix Rosenqvist delivered a four-lap average of almost 234mph to eclipse teammate Alexander Rossi’s long-time benchmark and top Day 1 of qualifying for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500. In fact, all four Arrow McLaren Chevrolet drivers booked a spot in the Fast 12 session on Sunday, where they will face opposition from the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda quartet, the startlingly strong AJ Foyt Racing entries of Santino Ferrucci and rookie Benjamin Pedersen, and singleton entries from Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing.
After pulling out of the original qualifying line, Penske’s Scott McLaughlin was the first to hit the track from Lane 1 — the priority lane — and while his first lap was an impressive 233.515mph, there was 2.2mph loss over the course of the four laps, and he did well to deliver an average of 232.503mph, enough for 12th at the time.
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevy made a second run and the 2014 Indy 500 champion improved to 17th, Colton Herta did not improve on his second attempt, and then Josef Newgarden’s first run was just enough to nudge McLaughlin out of the top 12.
Helio Castroneves’ second run was far more comfortable than his first, and he lifted himself way out of the danger zone of needing to squabble for the last row on Sunday, claiming 20th with a 231.954mph. Teammate Pagenaud had metronomic-like speed in his second run – three 231.9mphs and a 231.6mph – and came in 22nd.
Defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson lost only 1mph over his four laps and improved to 10th, but Graham Rahal’s struggles continued, faster only than Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing. Another of the RLL cars, that of Christian Lundgaard, delivered the opposite kind of run to Rahal, the No. 45 Hy-Vee car looking comfortable if slow, and he moved into 29th.
Penske’s 2018 winner Will Power’s original run had dropped to 17th in the order by the time he hit the track again, but he smoothly moved into 11th with a 232.719mph average to bump teammate Newgarden out of the top 12 drivers who will get to run again on Sunday in the quest for pole position.
Ilott sprung from 34th to 27th on his second run, the JHR team having tuned the new chassis it had built up overnight, but another troubled RLL driver, Jack Harvey, saw his second qualifying attempt waved off by IndyCar as his first three laps were under 230mph, and David Malukas suffered the same fate for Dale Coyne Racing.
Tony Kanaan was 15th when he hit the track for a second time and he set the same time as Ed Carpenter’s original run to the ten-thousandth of a second, but because he set it later, he was classified 13th and therefore still not in the group to run again on Sunday.
Scott Dixon, five-time polesitter at Indy, went back out with 2h0m to go and ran three laps north of 233mph and a fourth of 232.6mph which resulted in an average of 233.375mph — enough to bounce him from the lower reaches of the Top 10 into fourth place.
Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta tried and failed to improve, teammate Kyle Kirkwood improved but remained outside the top dozen, and Romain Grosjean’s next attempt was waved off.
Ed Carpenter tried to improve but departed from Lane 2, so when his fourth lap dragged his average down, his original speed kept him in the top 12.
Juncos Hollinger sent rookie Agustin Canapino for a second run, but the always impressive touring car ace had a scary moment at Turn 1, smacking his right rear tire against the SAFER barrier just hard enough to damage his suspension, briefly inducing a scary wriggle from the No. 78 car, but he slowed it down and brought it to pit road.
With two hours to go, Takuma Sato, who lay eighth, emerged from Lane 2 and immediately laid down a 234.085mph on his opening lap. The fall-off was rapid and his fourth lap was down to 232.779mph, but he jumped to fifth, a tad behind Dixon, but ahead of Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren.
Marco Andretti made a run which he decided to abort after two laps, before Ericsson made a third run to try and get him more firmly into the top dozen. He did so, albeit marginally, improving from 10th to ninth, whereas Castroneves bailed just a couple of laps into this third run, and Newgarden’s first lap of his second run was 1mph shy of his first lap in his initial attempt, so team president Tim Cindric called him in.
Kirkwood went yet again, stuck at it for all four laps, and grabbed 12th, bouncing Carpenter out of the top dozen by 0.042mph.
Then it was time for Rahal to try again to get into the field — ideally the top 30, so he wouldn’t have to run the bump session on Sunday. The car looked stable, at least, but his first three laps were below 230mph and the run was waved off.
Malukas made a third attempt and clocked 30th-fastest time, bumping Lundgaard out, thus RLL pushed the Dane’s car to Lane 1 to pull its time and get it out on track. Once Coyne’s second driver, Sting Ray Robb, tried and failed to bump his way into the top 30, it was Lundgaard’s turn to go again. The Indy GP polesitter did just enough to land 30th-fastest speed, bumping out Malukas.
Kanaan hit the track with 75 minutes to go and he was sensational — the 2013 Indy winner ran a 234.057mph opener, followed by two 233.3mph and a 232.663mph to jump into fifth, to ensure all four Arrow McLarens were in the top 10, and Kirkwood was out. That left Power on the bubble in the Fast 12.
Whatever TK could do, Rosenqvist could do even better. He turned two laps above 234mph, his third lap 0.4mph above Rossi’s third and even his fourth lap was well inside 233mph, resulting in an average of 233.947mph. Finally, Rossi was displaced from top spot, albeit by another McLaren.
Carpenter tried in vain, despite a very brave-looking run, to get back into the top dozen, and if the Turn 4 SAFER barrier had an extra coat of paint, he’d have hit it. He remained 13th.
Herta made a fourth attempt to better his average but couldn’t get it done; Pagenaud remained 22nd. Grosjean also fell short of improvement.
McLaughlin then went again and did improve but only to 14th while Penske teammate Power marginally improved, too, but stayed 12th. Then it was time for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s pair to run again. Stefan Wilson’s final attempt kept him 24th after a strange speed loss on lap three, while Hunter-Reay started the run in 18th and remained there.
Rahal made yet another attempt to get himself in the field but IndyCar waved it off after two laps, proving RLL had not yet found the magic bullet for the No. 15 car, and Harvey’s next waved-off run in the No. 30 showed he was in a similarly dire situation.
Malukas, by contrast, found a late turn of speed to jump into 23rd with a 231.769mph average, and the Dale Coyne Racing with HMD car was very safely in the field.
Bravely, Penske pulled Newgarden’s standing time by pushing him into Lane 1, but his wonderfully consistent run was only good enough for 17th, losing him a place.
Next car out was the second Coyne machine, the RWR entry of Robb, but he couldn’t quite muster the speed to guarantee his spot in the field, and neither could Lundgaard in his last gasp.
Sunday’s four-way fight for the last three starting spots will involve three RLL drivers – Rahal, Harvey and Lundgaard – and the Coyne/RWR car of Robb.
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