by Mary Champion
Speedway, Ind., May 20 – The original plan for Saturday qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway literally went down the drain when heavy rain, that had been expected, fell on the track just as qualifying was scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m.
When the track officially opened for practice at 8:00 a.m., it was several minutes before any car took to the track. In the entire practice session, which ran from 8:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m, only eight cars took advantage of the track time. This was due to poor weather conditions, as it was quite foggy and dark at the track.
A total of 51 laps were run in the practice session with Gabby Chaves running the most laps (12) and setting the quick time of the session at 228.160 mph. Rookie driver Jack Harvey, who crashed late in practice on Friday, was back on track and ran seven laps checking the car out.
The only other drivers to take advantage of the practice session were Graham Rahal, Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Buddy Lazier and Sage Karam.
It was three hours after the rain began when track drying started at 2:00 p.m. in preparation for each car to make one four-lap qualifying run. This run determined which nine cars are fastest and will be eligible to run for the pole in Sunday qualifying.
Once today’s runs are completed, the top nine qualifiers are guaranteed to start in the top nine for the race and the rest of the field will start in positions 10-33 next Sunday.
Track drying was competed and qualifications started at 4:00 p.m. and the final car to qualify took the checkered at 6:57 p.m., one hour later than the normal track closing time of 6:00 p.m.
Pippa Mann was the first car out to qualify on the green track that had all the rubber washed off in the day’s heavy rain and ended up with the slowest four-lap average speed of the day at 219.282 mph.
Qualifying speeds were down from the fastest practice speeds mainly due to much cooler weather and a green track.
The first driver to post a speed over 230 mph was Tony Kanaan with a speed of 230.007 mph. The next driver out was Will Power, who promptly surpassed Kanaan’s speed with an average of 230.072 mph.
The fastest speeds of the day were in the 230 mph range until about two-thirds of the way through the qualifying line when Sebastien Bourdais, who had the fastest practice speed of the month with a lap over 233 mph, took to the track.
Bourdais had posted two laps in excess of 231 mph when disaster struck. As he went through Turn Two on his third lap the car bobbled and the went straight into the outside SAFER Barrier, hit the barrier and flipped violently coming to rest on it’s wheels.
The Holmatro Safety Crew reached the badly damaged car before the front wheels stopped turning to attend to Bourdais. They carefully extricated him from the car and placed him in an ambulance. The ambulance did not stop at the infield care center but took him directly to Methodist Hospital where he was reported to be awake and alert.
There was a further delay while a massive amount of debris was removed from the track and repairs were made to the SAFER Barrier.
When the track finally went green, the next car out was that of defending “500” winner, Alexander Rossi, who turned in a four-lap average speed of 230.248 mph.
Shortly after Rossi qualified, Takuma Sato got everyone’s attention when he turned in the fastest four-lap average so far with a speed of 230.382 mph.
As the qualifying line neared the end, Ed Carpenter, who has twice won the pole for the race, turned in what proved to be the fastest four-lap average of the day at 230.468 mph.
Barring a complete and total wash out of tomorrow’s activities, which is unlikely given the weather forecast, all today’s speeds established was who the top nine are that will have a chance to win the pole tomorrow, and what drivers will be in positions 10-33 in the starting line-up as today’s speeds will be erased.
When the qualifying line was finished the top nine who will run for the pole on Sunday are Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, JR Hildebrand, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Fernando Alonso, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti.
31 cars completed qualification attempts today as Bourdais did not complete his run and Zach Veach, whose car was heavily damaged on Friday and was not yet repaired, did not make a run.
Indianapolis 500 Day 1 qualifying
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Results of first-day qualifying Saturday for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit- engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:36.2036 (230.468)
2. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:36.2621 (230.382)
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:36.2953 (230.333)
4. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:36.3822 (230.205)
5. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:36.4208 (230.148)
6. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.4727 (230.072)
7. (29) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 02:36.4985 (230.034)
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:36.5170 (230.007)
9. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.5737 (229.924)
10. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 02:36.7147 (229.717)
11. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 02:36.7173 (229.713)
12. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 02:36.7700 (229.636)
13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:36.8405 (229.533)
14. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.9382 (229.390)
15. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:37.0562 (229.217)
16. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:37.3183 (228.835)
17. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:37.4139 (228.696)
18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:37.4495 (228.645)
19. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:37.5097 (228.557)
20. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:37.6232 (228.393)
21. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:37.9342 (227.943)
22. (77) Jay Howard, Honda, 02:37.9965 (227.853)
23. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 02:38.2850 (227.438)
24. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:38.4856 (227.150)
25. (50) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:38.6641 (226.894)
26. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 02:38.6779 (226.875)
27. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:39.3539 (225.912)
28. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:39.4225 (225.815)
29. (11) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 02:40.9798 (223.631)
30. (44) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:42.5820 (221.427)
31. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:44.1724 (219.282)