Rainy weather delayed Saturday morning’s practice and qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but the skies cleared, and 31 drivers completed their qualification attempts for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
After misty conditions caused a brief hold-up of the morning’s practice session, the famed 2.5-mile oval was opened to the 33-car field, where a handful of cars turned laps, led by Gabby Chaves (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet) at 228.160 mph and Graham Rahal (228.007). In all, just 51 total laps were recorded for the session.
Heavy rain started at the track just as first-day qualifying was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Heavy rain and lightning persisted until after 1 p.m. Safety trucks started circulating the oval at 1:30 p.m. as the track-drying process began. Shortly before 3:30 p.m., INDYCAR announced that qualification attempts would begin at 4:01 p.m., with each entry being permitted one attempt at the four-lap qualification run to set the groups for Sunday’s second day of qualifying.
IMS president Doug Boles announced that the track would remain open past its normal 6 p.m. closing time to allow all entries one four-lap attempt once the track is open for qualifying.
Drivers took their turn in the order below at the four-lap qualification run in attempt to qualify for the 500-mile race
Once Qualifying started the intensity and focus on pit road was ratcheted to another level. Crews made their final adjustments to give their cars and drivers the best chance to be apart of Sunday’s “Fast Nine” qualifying group that will have a chance at pole position.
For a good portion of qualifying Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon sat in the top spot (230.333 MPH) and was very pleased with his time trial. “We got a pretty good run out of that. It’s going to cool off a bit, which is going to help the people going out later. I think TK (Tony Kanaan) and I should make the fast nine.”
Fast Friday’s fastest driver Sebastien Bourdais posted the two fastest laps of the day before losing control in Turn 2 on his third lap and making heavy contact with the safer barrier.
The four-time Indy-car champion did not lose consciousness in the incident, and was awake and alert when the Holmatro Safety Team arrived to his car. After visiting the IU Health Emergency Medical Center, Bourdais was taken by ground to IU Health Methodist Hospital for further observation where it was revealed he had a fractured pelvis and hip. No replacement for Bourdais has been announced.
The biggest surprise of the day was rookie driver and Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso making the fast nine in his Andretti Autosport McLaren Honda. Alonso was very confident after his sixth place qualifying effort.
“It has been a fantastic week of running, a fantastic week of different experiences, every lap feels different. Today we had one attempt so that creates stress for everybody. But as I said hopefully there will be more speed tomorrow.”
At the end of the evening the man on top of the charts was Indianapolis’ own Ed Carpenter who averaged 230.468 MPH over a four lap stretch. Ed who has sat on the pole twice at Indy (2013 & 2014) is always a force to be reckoned with at Indy.
Carpenter said “It kind of feels like 2013 right now because I wasn’t expecting that. I thought I could maybe run a 230 lap, but to run four of them, I’m really proud of the team. The two previous pole I won here I didn’t have the fastest car, but we had the best four laps.”
Day two of qualifying will take place Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where positions 10-33 will be settled and followed by 1-9. Faster times will be recorded with more sunshine beaming down on the track during the sessions making ideal conditions.