by Mary Champion
The first day of qualifications for the 100th Indianapolis 500 has arrived.
The big day was originally scheduled to begin with practice at 8:00 a.m. and qualifying at 11:00 p.m. but, unfortunately, the weather had other plans for The Speedway. Overnight and early morning rain left the track very wet and drying it took several hours.
Because of the rain, the schedule was reset to have limited practice sessions.
In the first practice, rookie Max Chilton did a half-spin and made a hard left front contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. The car then made secondary contact with the left rear causing heavy damage to the car. Chilton was checked out by the medical staff and cleared to drive.
Qualifying began at 2:20 p.m. and, because of the late start, was extended to 7:00 p.m.
There was one incident during qualifications.
On the first lap of her qualifying run, Pippa Mann spun and hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. The car came to rest on the inside of the corner. Mann was unhurt and cleared to drive but the car suffered damage on the front wing, nosecone and right rear corner.
The original qualified line was completed with 29 cars completing qualifying attempts with Townsend Bell holding the fastest four-lap average at 230.452 mph.
The track was then opened for practice.
The practice session ran from 4:59 p.m. until 5:41 p.m. when cars were presented for qualifying attempts.
Initially, those attempting to better their qualifying speed chose to take the option of entering the track from Lane 2, which meant the driver would be able to stand on their initial time if they were unable to better it, but all drivers using that option bettered their speeds.
In the middle of these attempts Conor Daly, whose car was pulled from the qualifying line after his teammate Pippa Mann crashed, made his initial qualifying run.
Because all previous drivers electing the Lane 2 bettered their initial qualifying times, from this point on, teams elected to re-qualify from Lane 1, which meant they would withdraw their previous speed in an attempt to get into the “Fast Nine” giving them a chance to qualify for the pole on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the strategy backfired on one driver. Gabby Chaves withdrew his initial time but waved off his second qualifying attempt on the second lap. He was not able to re-qualify, so, in effect, he did not post a qualifying speed.
The final qualifier of the day, Aleshin, made a quick move to get on the track just as the closing gun sounded. The run was just good enough to get him into the Fast Nine and bump out Alexander Rossi.
When the final gun sounded, James Hinchcliffe was on top of the speed chart with a four-lap average of 230.946 mph.
Joining him in the Fast Nine were Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Townsend Bell, Josef Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz and Simon Pageaud.
Sunday, everything starts all over again as all times from Saturday are erased but the positions established by the Saturday qualifying times stay the same.
Three practice sessions are scheduled on Sunday from Noon until 2:00 p.m.
From 2:45 to 4:45 P.M., each car that qualified in positions 10-33 on Saturday, going in order from slowest to fastest, will get one qualifying attempt.
Fast Nine qualifying will be from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. with each car getting one attempt to determine positions one through nine in the field.