Power heads Indy 500 qualifying, Rahal outside looking in again

Honda threw the first punch in qualifying for the 108th Indianapolis 500 but it wasn’t good enough to drop Chevrolet, which went on to post the three fastest speeds on Saturday and nine of the best in the Fast 12 which will go on to vie for pole position on Sunday.

It was Team Penske owning the day for Chevrolet with Will Power (233.758mph), Scott McLaughlin (233.332mph) and Josef Newgarden (233.293mph) blitzing the field with Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi taking fourth (233.069mph) ahead of Honda’s leading representative in Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood (232.764mph).

Arrow McLaren’s Kyle Larson was an impressive sixth (232.563mph) and had Meyer Shank Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist in seventh with his Honda-powered car (232.547mph) and Chevy’s Santino Ferrucci in eighth with his A.J. Foyt Racing entry (232.496mph). Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Takuma Sato was a major outlier for the Honda-powered team in ninth (232.473mph), and the Fast 12 was finished with Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (232.434mph), a hard-charging Rinus VeeKay who overcame a morning crash to leap into the pole group with the last run of the day in the Chevy-powered car (232.419mph), and another pleasant surprise with Chevy’s Ryan Hunter-Reay at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (232.385mph).


“I wouldn’t have trimmed any more than that,” Power said after using a low-downforce package to clear the rest of the field by a decent margin. “It’s tough in [Turns] 3 and 4. I thought we were spot on for that run. It was pretty comfortable, but loose. We wanted to get a time on the board so we didn’t have to run again.”

With the start of qualifying beginning at 11 a.m. ET, three qualifying attempts were completed with Kirkwood, McLaughlin, and Kyffin Simpson before the first adversity of the day arose when VeeKay became the fourth driver to crash this week. The team leapt into action to prepare a backup car for VeeKay, who was seen and cleared by IndyCar Medical.

Romain Grosjean was next to run and was frustrated to post the slowest speed so far at 231.5mph, well off of McLaughlin’s 233.3mph. Larson was next and had to abandon his run when an unexpected cut in power from a turbo plenum fire curtailed his outing.

The next big movement took place with Power who fired to P1 with an average of 233.758mph and he was immediately followed by teammate Newgarden who went to P3 with a 233.293 to give Penske a 1-2-3 after eight qualifying attempts had been completed.

Nolan Siegel, using a backup Dale Coyne car after suffering a big crash on Friday, ventured out and was slow as expected, lapping between 226-227mph, which was well below Grosjean’s 231.5mph.

Echoes of RLL’s slow cars from 2023 resurfaced when Christian Lundgaard made the team’s first run and was only faster than Siegel, averaging 231.465mph. Marcus Ericsson, who crashed on Thursday and was forced to use a spare car, was even slower than Lundgaard with a 230.603mph performance.

The slow runs continued as Coyne’s Katherine Legge, the 17th driver to complete a run, clipped the Turn 4 wall on her final lap, kept her foot buried in the throttle, and recorded a 230.244mph average, giving Coyne the bottom two speeds.

RLL’s fortunes didn’t improve with their second runner, Pietro Fittipaldi, whose average of 231.100mph, was the fourth slowest of the 19 who’d completed their outings.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist, with the ambient temperature close to 80 degrees F, was quick with a 232.547mph average to place fifth—second among Hondas behind Kirkwood, who went first in optimal conditions.

IndyCar then announced Callum Ilott’s qualifying run was voided after the left-rear wheel offset was found to be illegal during the post-run technical inspection. Rule 14.14.6 was violated.

Alex Palou, the 2023 Indy 500 polesitter, produced a 232.306mph in his Ganassi car, which was good enough for seventh at that point in time. RLL’s Sato, the quickest Honda on the no-tow list from Friday, was fast again and went to ninth at 232.140mph.

Ganassi’s Scott Dixon went straight into qualifying after an engine change was performed on his No. 9 Honda and he registered the 17th-fastest speed in the heat of the day. Foyt’s Sting Ray Robb found himself on the ninth of 11 rows in the No. 41 Chevy, and after the run, the team found an incorrect setting on the car that would lead them to apply a correction and send him out later in the day, netting him 20th. Colton Herta did well to move into the fourth row.

Sato tried to improve his speed just after 3:20pm. and he was successful, motoring forward three positions to ninth. VeeKay got out in his repaired No. 21 Chevy, and with no break in the action to turn practice laps, the ECR team decided to use a qualifying attempt to have him circulate at a slower speed to confirm the car’s handling and repaired items were ready to go hard in a third attempt.

VeeKay went back out and secured an uncomfortable 29th. Rahal, who was bumped out of the top 30, made a second attempt but wasn’t able to break out of the Last Chance Qualifying group for the 31st and slower cars. Legge did the same with her No. 51 Coyne car and, like Rahal, wasn’t fast enough to claim one of the locked-in spots inside the top 30.

Into the qualifying line again and again for Graham Rahal, shades of the events one year ago repeating. Josh Tons/Lumen

RLL’s Lundgaard, in 27th, was next to try to improve his speed but went 0.3mph slower and kept his faster average. O’Ward was back to better his 19th-place position and rocketed to 10th. DRR’s Hunter-Reay was the driver to knock Ganassi’s entire team out of the fast 12, dropping Palou from the mix, and Dixon—like many in the bottom half of the runners—tried to go faster but his car didn’t have the performance to offer.

Juncos Hollinger’s Agustin Canapino was on the verge of cracking the Fast 12 but had a plenum fire in the Chevy-powered car and remained on the eighth row. Rahal, Legge, Siegel, and Ericsson all gave it their best to avoid the LCQ, but they’re set to return—along with those in the Fast 12—to settle their business on Pole Day/Bump Day where one of the four slowest will be done for the event.


Story originally appeared on Racer