5:02 PM — We may have missed slightly on the first forecast of rain this morning, but we didn’t miss the second time. Once the track was reopened for qualifications, the green flag was out for about 12 minutes before a much heavier rain pushed through and ended the day.
During the short session, Sage Karam returned to the track and posted a 230.464 mph average, about a half mile per hour better than the 229.905 mph average he had posted early in the afternoon.
Unfortunately for Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, the move to withdraw and requalify his car backfired. Big time. McLaughlin’s team withdrew his previous speed of 231.543 mph, but Scott was only able to muster a 230.154 mph average on his second run. The gamble dropped the second-year driver from 15th provisionally (outside of Row 5) to 26th (middle of Row 9).
With the track not gaining nearly the speed expected in spite of much better conditions, Josef Newgarden was forced to take the track as his time had been withdrawn as a result of entering Lane 1. Newgarden was on track and ready to take the green flag when INDYCAR threw the yellow flag due to lightning in the area. It was a huge stroke of luck for Newgarden, who will have his previous time reinstated and will start in the middle of Row 5.
At 4:48 pm, INDYCAR finally pulled the plug on the day, and rows 5 through 11 are now set for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Tomorrow will set the first four rows and determine who will lead the field to green from the pole position. With temperatures predicted in the mid 60s with overcast skies and moderate winds, the possibility for massive speeds look promising. We’ll find out when practice and qualifying kicks off at 12:30 PM EDT.
That’s going to do it for today from IMS. It’s time to listen in on some post-qualifying press conferences and then make our way over to Dawson’s on Main for dinner. Thanks again for joining along today, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!!
3:42 PM — Well, that was interesting. In spite of my dire predictions, the heavens cleared themselves, and all 33 entries received their one guaranteed chance to present themselves for a qualification attempt. Unfortunately for a few drivers, they were not able to take advantage of those guaranteed chances.
Just before qualifications began, INDYCAR announced the #6 car of Juan Montoya had failed technical inspection and would not be allowed to take advantage of his 9th-position in the qualifying line. However, the failed technical inspection counted as Montoya’s one guaranteed attempt. Luckily for Montoya, he was able to present for a second time after the original line ran through and posted an average speed of 228.622 mph, currently good for the middle of Row 10.
The early runs shortly after 11:00 yielded the fastest qualifying runs in over 25 years. Currently on the provisional pole is Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus Veekay, whose run of 233.655 mph is the third fastest qualifying run in Indianapolis 500 history, behind only the record run of Arie Luyendyk and the 1996 pole position run of Scott Brayton.
Though Chevrolet currently has a lock on the front row, parity throughout the Top 12 is the name of the game as both Chevrolet an Honda occupy six positions in the first four rows. Honda holds the entire second row while rows 3 and 4 are split with three entries for each manufacturer.
By about 1:00, the clouds had thinned considerably, and the sun made its first appearance of the day, quickly raising track temperatures by over 20º. When the cars of Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, and Ed Carpenter made runs that many thought would be vying for the the top position, the track had slowed and none of them were able to back up their fast speeds from the morning practice. Currently, Dixon, Palou, and Carpenter sit tenth, fourth, and seventh, occupying the inside positions of rows 4, 2, and 3, respectively.
At around 1:25, the original qualifying line had run to completion, and cars were permitted to begin withdrawing their times to make additional qualifying attempts. In spite of exercising their guaranteed presentations, the entries of Colton Herta, Juan Montoya, Takuma Sato, and Stefan Wilson did not post times the first time through for various reason, so each were eager to actually get an official speed on the board. Herta had an issue with his Honda engine midway through his first qualifying run and had to abort the run. Takuma Sato actually posted a time but it was disallowed when he ran his slowdown lap in the middle of the racing groove and interfered with Marco Andretti’s warmup lap. And Stefan Wilson had a gearbox issue in morning warmup and his team could not make necessary repairs before his spot in line came up.
At 2:13, sprinkles moved across the south end of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and INDYCAR official waved off the attempt of Sage Karam, who had taken to the track but not officially started his qualification attempt. Shortly thereafter, the rain increased for a short time and qualifications were put on a weather hold. Thankfully the heavy rains never arrived and drying crews never “lost” the track. However, lightning has been detected in the area and qualifications have yet to resume.
When we return to qualifying, IF we return to qualifying, Sage Karam will return to the front of qualification “fast” lane with the cars of Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden immediately behind him, their times having been officially withdrawn but still showing on the T&S charts in the event they are not presented an opportunity to take to the track still this afternoon.
10:23 AM — Welcome back for the first day of qualifying for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500. While the skies are overcast and the humidity is up, the winds are down and the track is currently dry while the NTT IndyCar Series is racing against time and the radar to get qualifying to a significant point of completion before rains are likely to move in by mid-afternoon.
This morning has already seen the two thirty-minute practice sessions run to completion, and fans have been witness to the fastest speeds recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1996. Ed Carpenter topped the speed charts with a stunning lap of 234.410 mph, the fastest lap of this century and the fastest recorded (though unofficial) lap since Eddie Cheever set a race-day track record of 236.103 mph in 1996. Scott Dixon also joined Carpenter in the 234 crowd while “rookie” Jimmie Johnson just barely missed out with a speed of 233.961 mph.
As has been the case in the last several years, several of the top teams elected to refrain from this morning’s practice, so we have no speeds from either Team Penske or Arrow McLaren SP. When/If they take the track today, they will be doing so in somewhat uncharted conditions with little guarantee of multiple attempts to secure a spot in the Top 12.
As I write this looking out to the west over the front straightaway of IMS, the skies have gotten extremely dark and threatening. Current radar shows a storm cell that has popped up to the southwest of Indianapolis and is, unfortunately, heading this way. IF qualifying gets underway at 11:00 as currently planned, it seems unlikely the Series will be able to run fully through the qualifying line before rain arrives.
To that end, INDYCAR and IMS officials yesterday said that getting through the line will be an all-or-nothing proposition today. Unlike days of yesteryear, IMS will not allow the line to run to completion on a second day. If rain interrupts the proceedings today, all times will be wiped out and the entire process will start anew tomorrow. (That brings up an interesting hypothetical question we likely don’t need to worry about for a few more years, but what would happen to a track-record speed recorded during a qualifying session that gets officially wiped out?)
It really is a shame the weather has not cooperated again as both yesterday and today were looking to have good-sized crowds in attendance. As it is currently, I can see only a spattering of fans currently dotting the Paddock Penthouse sections on either side of the Yard of Bricks.
I’ll be back with more update when or if qualifying actually gets underway at 11:00AM EDT.