Andretti Autosport filled the top four positions in first Indianapolis 500 qualifying, with Marco Andretti leading the nine drivers who will fight for pole on Sunday, as Fernando Alonso took 26th and no Penske driver made the ‘Fast Nine’.
After 13 of the top 15 cars had been Honda powered in Fast Friday practice runs in qualifying conditions, it was obvious that the teams running its engines would have a huge qualifying advantage.
With qualifying starting at 11am, increasing heat in Indiana also put a premium on running as early as possible because tyre degradation across the four-lap runs became more intense as temperatures soared.
Marco Andretti has been near the top of the times in every session so far at the event this year, but he was the last of the frontrunning Andretti cars to set a time.
However, he caressed a tail-happy car magnificently to set a four-lap average of 231.351mph, which was enough to beat 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The only downside to Andretti’s day is that as the leader, he’ll go last in the shootout for pole tomorrow – meaning he could be at risk of higher temperatures than his rivals.
Hunter-Reay was top in the four-lap average runs from practice and credited a well balanced car for helping him to beat 2016 winner Alexander Rossi into second.
Rossi and his part-time Andretti team-mate James Hinchcliffe have run similar programmes and have been well suited throughout practice, and while Hinchcliffe couldn’t usurp Rossi, team boss Michael Andretti confirmed the team is now working on a deal to have Hinchcliffe drive full-time for it in 2021.
Scott Dixon put in four qualifying attempts, despite remaining in the fast nine throughout.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver and 2008 Indy winner set his best time with just over an hour and a half to go in qualifying, jumping from sixth to fifth in the order.
He also went out right at the last and looked rapid, but bailed out – perhaps to avoid going last in the Fast Nine shootout.
The story of the day was 19-year-old teenager Rinus VeeKay, the Dutch rookie taking sixth despite Chevrolet’s struggles.
The next car using Chevy power was 13th, with VeeKay’s team-mate and team owner Ed Carpenter – a three-time polesitter – in 16th.
VeeKay headed another rookie in Alex Palou, who steered his Dale Coyne Dallara-Honda into seventh after what has been a strong and consistent start to the season. He hadn’t competed on an oval before 2020.
It means two rookies will fight for pole, while four of the eight past winners in the field won’t.
Graham Rahal was the first car out and remained planted in eighth throughout the day, ahead of his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team-mate Takuma Sato – who came very close to being usurped from the pole group.
Both ex-Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) and Andretti’s Colton Herta came within one spot of kicking Sato out of the top nine, but fractionally failed.
The drivers outside of the top nine, from Ericsson down, will now start in those positions for the Indy 500 on August 23.
With only 33 entries this year, there is no need for a last row or ‘bump day’ session tomorrow.
Alonso crashed in practice on Thursday but was pleased with the work done in the following day’s session.
However like some of the bigger Chevrolet outfits, Arrow McLaren SP struggled in qualifying. Pato O’Ward was its top driver in 15th after a late improvement.
Alonso did not try a second attempt and settled for 26th, as he turns his attention to race pace – in which the team appears relatively confident.
The Penske team that took pole and won with Simon Pagenaud last year struggled, with reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden its best qualifier in 13th.
Winner in 2018, Will Power, was 22nd after a failed late try. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves was 28th while Pagenaud was 25th. Both did sighting laps with set-up changes in the final hour but decided against extra qualifying runs.
|1||Marco Andretti||Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian||Dallara DW12-Honda||38.901|
|2||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.004s||38.905|
|3||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.014s||38.915|
|4||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.027s||38.928|
|5||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.033s||38.934|
|6||Rinus VeeKay||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.04s||38.941|
|7||Alex Palou||Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.054s||38.955|
|8||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.09s||38.991|
|9||Takuma Sato||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.095s||38.996|
|10||Colton Herta||Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.098s||38.999|
|11||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.133s||39.034|
|12||Spencer Pigot||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with Citrone/Buhl Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.137s||39.038|
|13||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.179s||39.080|
|14||Felix Rosenqvist||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.186s||39.087|
|15||Patricio O'Ward||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.193s||39.094|
|16||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.193s||39.094|
|17||Zach Veach||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.236s||39.137|
|18||Conor Daly||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.237s||39.138|
|19||Santino Ferrucci||Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.242s||39.143|
|20||Jack Harvey||Meyer Shank Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.253s||39.154|
|21||Oliver Askew||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.27s||39.171|
|22||Will Power||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.28s||39.181|
|23||Tony Kanaan||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.373s||39.274|
|24||Dalton Kellett||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.421s||39.322|
|25||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.428s||39.329|
|26||Fernando Alonso||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.44s||39.341|
|27||James Davison||Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, Byrd and Belardi Auto Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||+0.443s||39.344|
|28||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.508s||39.409|
|29||Charlie Kimball||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.614s||39.515|
|30||Max Chilton||Carlin||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.693s||39.594|
|31||Sage Karam||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.729s||39.630|
|32||J.R. Hildebrand||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||+0.861s||39.762|
|33||Benjamin Hanley||DragonSpeed||Dallara DW12-Honda||+1.472s||40.373|