Indy 500 Q1 – The dream for Penske, the nightmare for Rahal and Ericsson

Team Penske finished in the first three positions on the first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, after 6h50 more than intense for their opponents!

Published on 19/05/2024 à 00:27

Michael Duforest

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Indy 500 Q1 – The dream for Penske, the nightmare for Rahal and Ericsson

© Penske Entertainment: Walt Kuhn

We knew that Team Penske would be tough to beat this Saturday in qualifying for the Indy 500. In less than two hours, that proved to be the reality, with the three best runs of the day, made by Will Power, Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden. We will find the three drivers of “Captain” Roger Penske on Sunday for the Top 12 qualifications. Three McLaren will also be there, despite a difficult day for the Oranges.

Quite simply, no first run will have counted for McLaren! Pato O'Ward and Alexander Red did not show up when their turn came, the team making adjustments in the garage. Kyle Larson suffered an electronic problem on the last lap of his first run, and Callum Ilott's was canceled due to an irregularity on one of the rear wheels.

Rossi was the first of the group to qualify, and he finished in fourth position. Kyle Larson joined him, the champion NASCAR 2021 finally finished sixth, comfortably in the Top 12. Pato O'Ward had to try three times to qualify, after two minor mechanical problems during his first attempts. Many Chevrolet engines have experienced small plenum fires, which force the driver to completely remove their foot from the accelerator before being able to regain speed. The Mexican is finally tenth, and will be able to come back tomorrow to improve his position. Only Callum Ilott did not qualify for the Top 12, and he will start 15th.

Meyer Shank (Rosenqvist), Foyt (Ferrucci) and Dreyer & Reinbold (Hunter-Reay) each managed to place a car in the Top 12. For the three other teams represented in this second phase, the day was contrasting to say the least ! Kyle Kirkwood, fifth, was the best Andretti driver this Saturday. Colton Herta was also in the twelve before being eliminated 10 seconds from the goal by Rinus VeeKay. He is therefore 13th, six places ahead of Marco Andretti, who will start at Indianapolis for the 19th time.

Ericsson and Rahal on reprieve

Ultimately, it was the only former winner of the event in the team who had the most difficult day. Victim of an accident on Thursday, Marcus Ericsson failed to place among the first 30, and will therefore have to go through the Bump Day test on Sunday. This one-hour session will determine the last three qualified for the event, the Swede therefore runs the risk of being eliminated... Just like Graham Rahal, who already experienced this mishap last year! Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will therefore have to battle once again in this final session, but this time with just one car, and not three.

The contrast with 2023 is however striking, since if Christian Lundgaard (28th) and Pietro Fittipaldi (30th) barely move into tenth row, Takuma Sato qualified in the Top 12! The two-time winner of the event set the ninth time, and is third in a Honda clan struggling this month in pure speed. The last member of the first 12, Rinus VeeKay experienced the ups and downs of Indianapolis in just seven hours! The Dutchman actually lost control and hit the wall during his first attempt, shortly before 18 p.m. French time.

After several runs aimed at regaining confidence and checking that everything was going well with his rebuilt car, the Dutchman put out a crazy run to take 11th position a few seconds from the goal! He will thus be able to try to continue his magical series, since he has always qualified in the top 4 of the Indy 500 since his debut in 2021. His teammates Ed Carpenter and Christian Rasmussen will start 17th and 24th.

Ganassi with absent subscribers

The big surprise of these qualifications also comes from Chip Ganassi Racing. While the team managed to place its four cars in the Top 12 last year, it had to settle for a 14th place for Alex Palou as its best result. The Spaniard was the reigning poleman, but he was never really in the fight for the Top 12, notably after an engine problem on his Honda unit. Marcus Armstrong (16th) and Kyffin Simpson (18th) had the luxury of being ahead of Scott Dixon, ultimately 21st on the starting grid, while he was hoping for a sixth pole at Indy. Linus Lundqvist (27th) completes a terrible day for Ganassi.

Romain Grosjean will start his third Indianapolis 500 from 26th place on the grid, four positions behind his Juncos Hollinger Racing teammate Agustin Canapino. The Argentinian was however in the process of placing himself in the Top 12 at the end of the day, before also experiencing a problem with his Chevrolet engine, depriving him of an improvement. The positive point for both drivers, however, is to already be qualified for the Indy 500!

Which is not the case for Rahal and Ericsson, nor for Katherine Legge and Nolan Siegel, the Dale Coyne Racing teammates. On Sunday, after a one-hour session, the slowest of these four drivers will be eliminated from the event. This means a very studious night for the engineers, very active for the mechanics, and very stressful for the drivers...

Indy 500 – Q1 – Ranking

(Pietro Fittipaldi is qualified 30th, in place of Ericsson)

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