That was just absolutely crazy.
Come on, you know I had to! Last year I watched qualifying from my couch at home, and this year I joined Host Mike and Jess at the front of the qualifying line. Let me just say, it was a much different experience. As the last hour ticked on, the intensity and tension was so thick as car after car made its way to the front of the line.
Here we go.
Spencer Pigot is your provisional polesitter. When I looked at the draw and the weather conditions, I felt like the drivers who were hitting the track in the first hour had an advantage, and many in the Fast Nine came from that timeframe. In fact, three members of the Fast Nine were among the first four cars out. Pigot turned a four-lap average of 230.083 mph and will be joined in tomorrow’s shootout (weather permitting) by Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and Ed Jones, who were sixth and seventh, respectively.
Bumping. You wanted it, and you got it! A total of seven cars were bumped in and out of the lineup, and a sleepless night awaits those who will make one run in the Slow Six for a chance to fill out the last row of the race. The biggest story was two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso will be part of that group. Alonso made five qualifying attempts but was bumped out by Graham Rahal, who withdrew his time with less than five minutes to go and requalified in the 17th starting position.
Alonso wasn’t alone. James Hinchcliffe, who was bumped from the race a year ago, crashed his primary car on his first qualifying attempt. He later made three attempts in the backup car but couldn’t find the speed. Five-time Indy 500 starter Sage Karam will also have to qualify Sunday, and will be joined by Max Chilton, Pato O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser.
Deja vu for Pippa Mann? Not this year. Mann, who was bumped from the race last year, seemed solid for most of the day with a 227. 244 effort, but as the clock ticked down she slid in the lineup until she was on the bubble in the final minutes. She held on and is locked into the outside of Row 10 for next Sunday’s race. How close was it? The difference between Mann’s qualifying run and Alonso’s final run was .0136 seconds, or several feet or so. Congrats to Mann, as well as her strategist, John Cummiskey, who gave me my start in this crazy business three years ago as part of his USF 2000 team.
Rookies impressed. Colton Herta was the highest-qualifying rookie in the fifth position, while Marcus Ericsson qualified 13th, Santino Ferrucci was 23rd and Felix Rosenqvist will go off in the 29th position. Also impressing were one-off drivers Jordan King and Ben Hanley, who both put in strong runs to end up solid in the field in 26th and 27th, respectively.
Awaiting tomorrow is a one-shot, one-opportunity effort at both the front and the back of the field. The slowest six drivers will fight it out at 12:15 EDT, while the Fast Nine will follow immediately after. If weather washes out the entire day, the Top 30 spots are locked, and the Slow Six (I’m trademarking this as soon as I hit send) will fight it out on Monday.
Which takes us to…
Predictions! Let’s prognosticate about the first and last rows of the field. I have Jones winning the pole, Will Power starting alongside in the middle of Row 1, with Herta taking the outside.
My Row 11 picks are Alonso, O’Ward and Hinchcliffe.
Photo credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar Media