INDIANAPOLIS — With just over an hour left in the opening day of Time Trials for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (May 28), Felix Rosenqvist laid down the third fastest four-lap average in the history of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The Swedish driver put up two straight laps of 234 mph to start his run and ended up holding on for a qualifying time of 233.947 mph in his No. 6 Dallara-Chevrolet. That took him from ninth to first with an incredible run to lead the day on Saturday and the No. 1 seed going into Sunday’s Firestone Fast 12 Shootout.
“I think it’s still a pretty big day for us,” Rosenqvist said. “I mean, we’ve been good here the last couple years. Today to have all the cars in the top eight, in this competition, it’s really hard. We saw with Tony today, even if he’s doing a perfect job, still things that can outside factors that can play in, it can become really difficult in this field.
“Super proud of the whole team for executing. That last run we did was just phenomenal. Almost in a 234 average. That was pretty mind-blowing how we found so much speed. We weren’t super happy on our first run, so we had two or three reasons to think we were going to go quicker. We kind of put them all together, wow, what a run.
“Team Chevy as well, great job. Yeah, just a fun time to be in Arrow McLaren right now. Everything kind of resets for tomorrow, but we definitely feeling good right now.”
He topped teammate Alexander Rossi (233.528 mph) who turned in his time as the eighth qualifier of the day. That’s why Rosenqvist’s time was as great as it was in the fact that Rossi dodged 75 other runs outside of Rosenqvist’s.
This is Rosenqvist’s second straight Shootout. He was in it last year in being third on Day 1 in May 2022. For Rossi, this will be his fourth Shootout appearance but first since 2020. He’s only qualified better than Row 3 just once (3rd in 2017).
Alex Palou’s 233.398 mph four-lap average held on from early in the day to be third quickest as he and both McLaren’s in front will be flocked with teammates on Sunday vying for the pole.
All four Ganassi’s are in it for the third straight year. What’s crazy is, Ganassi guys have missed the Fast Nine five times in the last 11 years, but they had also put all four cars in the Shootout every year since 2021. From 2012 through 2016 though, they failed to make the Fast Nine four times in a five-year span. They put two cars in the Shootout in 2017, two in 2018 but were shutout again in 2019. In 2020 Scott Dixon was their lone bullet in their chamber as he’d start second. Now, they know that all four cars will be coming from a Top 12 starting spot.
McLaren put two of their three cars in the Shootout last year and even with adding a car this year, put all four in this time around.
Tony Kanaan qualified three times but it was the last that got him in. The popular Brazilian driver who’s making his 22nd and final Indy 500 start, went 233.347 mph to bump his way back into the Shootout in turning in the sixth best time. Pato O’Ward, like Rossi, didn’t ever have to go back out as he stood on his 233.252 mph four-lap average from earlier in the day. That put him eighth.
Ganassi had Palou (3rd), Scott Dixon (233.375 mph) in fifth, Takuma Sato (233.322 mph) in seventh and Marcus Ericsson (233.030 mph) in 10th.
The other Fast 12 participants are Rinus VeeKay (233.395 mph), Will Power (232.719 mph) and the pair of AJ Foyt Racing cars (Santino Ferrucci and Benjamin Pedersen).
In regards to the Last Row Shootout, we know that it’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing vs. Dale Coyne Racing for the final spot.
RLL has three cars with Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey going against rookie Sting Ray Robb.
Rahal and Lundgaard each tried four times, including Lundgaard being the final qualifier, but didn’t make it in on each. Harvey tried three times himself.
Here are my main takeaways.
The storylines of this row is insurmountable. Callum Ilott’s car wasn’t even put together 24 hours ago. RC Enerson and Able Motorsports weren’t even an NTT INDYCAR SERIES team five days ago. Katherine Legge is the only female qualifier in the field.
Thing about that.
Ilott was a rookie last year, but witnessed what Indy is all about as a sophomore this week. It’s been a miserable visit to Indianapolis for him with being terrible in the test back in April, slowest on Opening Day (34th out of 34), 32nd quickest on Thursday and last again on Fast Friday.
The same problems from April’s test followed his No. 77 Dallara-Chevrolet over to May. The car just wouldn’t go straight. It was sketchy. With it feeling this way on Friday, they decided enough was enough. Might as well change cars.
Some pondered if it was far too late. Why not swap them out earlier? Well, you can’t turn back time and if they went forward with the car that they had, they’d be the one looking on the outside in on Sunday night.
The team only turned 31 laps in the test, 80 laps on Opening Day, 71 laps on Thursday and seven laps on Friday. That’s 189 total laps and 3 mph from the next closest car.
“Last year was the first experience for me at the 500. There was no Bump Day. It was quite an easy process. Made life a lot more relaxing,” said Ilott.
“48 hours ago, I even put bets that I wasn’t going to make the race basically because you just knew it wasn’t going well. At that point then it becomes a pit of a panic, desperation. For sure for me, I was probably the first to be quite desperate as soon as I drove the car on Wednesday. But we had time to work with it.
“Coming into today, I was really confident. Honestly I just knew if we just got a clear couple of runs, the car had pace.”
They remarkably changed the car overnight and were ready for the morning practice session. The best four-lap average they could do was 224 mph.
Ilott went out early and wasn’t fast enough. He was only 227.720 mph on his first run. That was bumped. He went out again. They jumped nearly four mph over the course of four laps in qualifying with a four-lap average of 231.182 mph.
The speed put him 27th and he’d only lose one more spot the rest of the way and will start next Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 28th.
“I don’t know where to start with that. It’s been a tough week, a tough month actually from the open test,” Ilott said. “We changed chassis middle of yesterday. I was kind of given an almost impossible task from what some people said. Just tried to keep the confidence high.
“The first run wasn’t great. I don’t think my engineers would even look at the video because they were scared to watch it. We just managed to turn the car around into something that was fast, managed to scrape four laps out of it.
“So yeah, super special. In some ways it’s kind of one of those never-give-up situations, prove people wrong on that side. At the end of the day kind of feels like a win even though you’re 27th or something. That’s life sometimes.”
For Enerson, they just stuck to their own pace all week. They didn’t take part in April’s open test, was 30th, 28th and 33rd on the speed charts this week and had 4-lap average from Friday which was good enough for 33rd. Enerson only had to qualify once on Saturday. He went 231.129 mph in his No. 50 Dallara-Chevrolet. He now knows that he’ll be starting on the Middle of Row 10 next Sunday.
For Legge, what an emotional roller coaster she was on. Her four-lap average of 231.070 mph seemed good early. Then drivers behind her started getting bumped one after another.
First Ilott (227.720), then Graham Rahal (228.526 mph), then Sting Ray Robb (229.955 mph), then Jack Harvey (230.098 mph), Helio Castroneves went faster, then Christian Lundgaard (230.522 mph) and finally David Malukas (230.779 mph) were all bumped out.
Lundgaard was back in but only at 230.859 mph. Legge was back to 29th. With 13 minutes left in the day, David Malukas bumped his way back in convincingly at 231.070 mph. Legge was down to the bump spot.
Rahal, Robb and Lundgaard each had another shot. Rahal was waved off. Robb was waved off. Lundgaard was the last driver as the gun went off after his opening lap. It wasn’t good enough. Second lap wasn’t either. Legge was safe.
For the first time since 2021 we have a female in the Indy 500. For the first time since 2013, Legge is in it.
Dismal Week For RLL Cars
Eight days after Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing took the pole with Christian Lundgaard, a fourth place start by Jack Harvey and eighth place opportunity with Graham Rahal for the GMR Grand Prix, they’re facing the very real possibility that one of those three won’t be racing in the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 eight days from now.
All that momentum. All that talk. It was all for not. There’s a very real risk that one of the Rahal cars will be left on the outside looking in tomorrow night.
Bobby Rahal was famously bumped from the field in 1993. 30 years later, his son may be left out. Having Katherine Legge in is nice and all, but it comes at the expense that a full-time car won’t make the race and it could be one of RLL’s.
Lundgaard was only 32nd, 27th and 32nd across the three days. He was 30th on the four-lap average on Friday and the best he could do on Saturday was 231.056 mph. Luckily, that’s tops among the four outside right now.
Jack Harvey was 28th, 21st and 31st this week and was 32nd on the four-lap average. He blew an engine with 10 minutes remaining in Friday’s practice too. Harvey’s best four-lap average on Saturday was 230.098 mph which was 32nd.
Graham Rahal was 23rd, 12th and 33rd on single lap speed and 31st on the four-lap average chart. He just had no speed on Saturday (228.526 mph). That was last (34th).
In the open test, RLL went 23rd (Rahal), 26th (Lundgaard), 28th (Harvey) and 31st (Katherine Legge). Last year, they had 2 of the bottom 3 qualifiers (Lundgaard 31st, Harvey 32nd) and earlier this season in Texas, they qualified 24th, 27th and 28th out of 28 cars.
They’re in very serious trouble here.
Sting Ray Robb went 229.955 mph in his No. 51 Dallara-Honda on Saturday. Where this is big is for Leaders Circle money. Missing the race would be a massive loss for one of these four teams.
Robb’s No. 51 entry sits 26th in entrant points (-9) to 22nd (the last spot for money). Harvey’s car is +2 on the entrant points spot. Rahal is +35 and Lundgaard +60.
AJ Foyt Racing Sneaks Both Cars In
Arrow McLaren Racing has all four cars in the Fast 12 Shootout. Chip Ganassi Racing also has all four of their cars in it too. Ed Carpenter Racing is back in the Shootout for the 11th straight year. Team Penske has Will Power. The final two spots?
Both to AJ Foyt Racing.
Santino Ferrucci qualified late in the opening line with a four-lap average of 233.147 mph. That was solidly in. So was rookie teammate Benjamin Pedersen who went 232.739 mph as the 11th qualifier of the day. That stood the test of time and advanced both to Sunday’s Shootout.
“Yeah, I think it’s a pretty impressive feat for the team,” Ferrucci said. “To see the 14 up the front, my teammate right there as well who went earlier in the day, it’s been pretty awesome. To see us up there is pretty sick, man.”
In Pedersen’s case, his time is the second fastest ever for a rookie here.
As that’s shocking enough, for Ferrucci, it’s impressive that he’s in the Shootout in a sense that he told me on Tuesday that he hated qualifying here.
“I’ve always hated qualifying,” Ferrucci admitted. “I was shaking after my first qualifying run. I was happy it was done. So I just I don’t know. It doesn’t matter me I’ve just I’ve never started well here. I’ve never qualified well here I’ve got a 23rd to 19th and a 15th in qualifying and all the top 10 finishes so yes, I would much rather start on the outside row five or six then have to manage being upfront. When we got up from the Dryer car, started 15th last year and we stayed up front all day till the very end, so it’s one of those things where we can definitely do it. My focus is always race car.
“I’m not afraid to pass people I’m not afraid to you know, be on the limits in the pits.”
What happens now that we know that the worst he’s going to start is 12th next Sunday?
“I’m still never a fan of qualifying,” he admitted even after the fact that he’s in the Shootout. “I’m a racer through and through. Getting these four laps out of the way was amazing for us and the team to be as fast as we are. It’s incredible, a major feat. To have to go out and do it again tomorrow against once again the same super competitive top 12, obviously it’s something that I’m looking forward to as a team because it’s something new for everybody.
“Personally as a driver, yeah, it’s definitely something I’m happy to check off the list, happy I don’t have to pass as many cars come Sunday. But, yeah, I’m more looking forward to the race than anything else.”
What’s scary to the field is, Ferrucci admits that his actual “race” car is better than this qualifying setup.
“I actually feel a lot more comfortable in the race car than I have been in the qualifying car. To be in the Fast 12 and have a shot at pole tomorrow I think is huge.
“Our car definitely has some more in it. It’s getting really tight up top there. Inches are going to make the difference. I’m excited to see what we can do tomorrow.”
Ferrucci also notes this year he can get back to taking more risks as a full-time driver. Last year with DRR, it was just a one-race deal. He babied the car because of that. This year, this is his ride and his ride only. He’s going to go back to the old Ferrucci approach of being overly aggressive.
“You know, last year the team did really save me a bit,” he said. “I didn’t have the greatest restarts which is kind of unusual. I was definitely taking more of a step back being on a you know, just a one ride time to deal because I really needed to finish. So, this year you know I can go a little bit more out ahead of my skis per se and really be aggressive but also just being comfortable. So starting in the back for me people make mistakes trying to push the frontier early and I just you know I’m more of the last 75 laps kind of guy.”
That’s music to the ears of his boss, AJ Foyt.
Ferrucci is just a younger version of AJ Foyt. Brash. Doesn’t care what people think about him. Fast. Races anything. Makes everything that he does race in competitive. He’s raced sprints, he’s raced midgets, he’s raced an INDYCAR a NASCAR, you name it. He also likes to work on his own cars just as his new boss.
Foyt sees a lot of himself in this young racer too and now the 24-year-old is back in Indy Car with a potential to bring AJ Foyt Racing back from the ashes and into the national limelight again.
Ferrucci lives in Texas. That’s where Foyt lives. That’s where this 14 car resides. Ferrucci’s lucky number?
Ferrucci’s favorite driver he idolized growing up?
Now, he’s in the 14 car at Indy.
“Yeah, it’s cool. I mean, I idolized Tony (Stewart) growing up,” Ferrucci says of driving the 14 car here this month. AJ is a bit before my time so it’s kind of cool to see it come full circle and I’m really good buddies with Chase Briscoe who’s also in the 14 car in NASCAR. So for us, it’s kind of cool, at least for me. It’s really cool.
“I saw Tony, actually right after I had signed with AJ. And he was really happy and I was really happy . Yeah, it’s definitely a full circle aha moment for me in my lifetime but ya know, I’m it’s I definitely want to get that that sixth win for him and my first in this in this car be so freakin special.”
Has McLaren Passed Team Penske Here?
Roger Penske bought the Speedway in late 2019 and turned the ultimate flex up to a whole new level. See, his parking space is located just outside of the media center in the shadows of the pagoda. Everyone else’s space is known through initials. Mark Miles’ is MM. Doug Boles’ is DB. Penske’s? It’s 18. Not RP. The 18 stands for Indy 500 victories.
At the time, he had won two straight Indy 500’s. A third seemed likely in the very near future. But, as we sit here today, he’s 0-for-3 and surprisingly hasn’t even been close. He’s 0-for-4 in the GMR Grand Prix too.
Heading into last year’s Month of May, Team Penske was off to a successful start to the 2022 season and everyone was talking about them being the ones to win last year’s Indy 500. They had won each of the 1st 3 races, started on the front row in 4 of the 5 and have taken 6 of the 15 podiums spots available.
They were once again, nowhere to really be found in Indy.
That included another winless Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
They failed to lead a single lap a year ago here and now have led a grand total of 19 over the last 3 years (600 laps). They finished 13th (Josef Newgarden), 15th (Will Power) and 29th (Scott McLaughlin).
Penske qualified 13-22-25-28 in 2020, finished 5-11-14-22. They’d lead a grand total of 16 laps that day. A year later, they’d qualify 17-21-26-32 and finish 3-12-20-30 with just 3 laps led all day.
This was going to be their year right? They looked vastly improved during the week of practice and had all three cars in the top 12 of the four-lap average report from Fast Friday including 3rd and 4th respectively.
However, they once again only got one car through to the Fast 12 Shootout and that’s Will Power taking the 12th and final spot. Scott McLaughlin (232.677 mph) starts in the Middle of Row 5 (14th) and Josef Newgarden (232.402 mph) will roll off in the Middle of Row 6 (17th).
McLaren meanwhile, put two of their three cars to the Shootout last year and finished 2-4-11. All three ahead of the top finishing Penske.
On Saturday, McLaren had all four cars in the Shootout while Penske has one. Has McLaren passed Penske in the pecking order among the Chevrolet camp?
“I think there’s no doubt that they’ve done a tremendous job,” Josef Newgarden told me. “They’ve just excelled. We fell short today. There’s no hiding it. We did not do a good enough job. I can’t speak highly enough about Chevrolet. I think they’ve been tremendous this whole season, particularly tremendous today.
“You can see that by evidence of everybody that was up there. We weren’t missing anything from that side. They’ve been a great partner for us.
“We seem to be able to figure out most situations, but for whatever reason this cruel mistress, she’s just tricking us. I don’t understand how so. I think all of us don’t fully understand it.
“You don’t stop working. I think for us, we’ve just got to continue to put in the work and not have an ego about it. We weren’t good enough, let’s figure out why. Indy is not easy. This is not an easy place to just succeed. I don’t care how many Indy 500s you have, what team you are, there are no guarantees when you show up here.
“We don’t have an ego about it. We have to work hard, come back, do a better job.”
Newgarden says that they’ve not left a single stone unturned in the fight back to the top at Indy.
“Look, there’s no place to hide,” he says. “We’re just not fast enough. We really weren’t. It’s unfortunate. I feel terrible for our team because I’m front and center of being able to witness the amount of effort that has gone into this place. It is just not from a shortage of effort.
“We’re obviously just missing something else. I don’t know how we’re missing it. We’ve worked hard, all of us collectively. We’ve tried to have no ego about it. It’s just not enough.
“I think we’re still short. Unfortunately the weird thing was I think we were more in the mix yesterday. I think the wind plays a big factor into that. Maybe we’re missing something in these type of conditions that we saw today.
“Any way you want to slice it, we just weren’t good enough. We’ve got to go back and really assess again. Unfortunately we’ve been doing that every single year here. What’s most important now is we’re going to focus on the race. I do believe with how tight the field is, as Tony talked about, there’s opportunity anywhere. If you qualify for the race, there’s opportunity anywhere to win this event. We have to put our focus to that now and be able to collect ourselves after the 500 and see what we can do better. I have strong confidence we have great race cars and can be in the fight on Sunday.”
Newgarden has won everything but this race. The 26-race winner in INDYCAR competition is 0-for-11 in this race with just five total Top-10 finishes in it. 3 of those 5 top 10 results were in the top 5 however, but Newgarden has yet to drink the milk here.
Power is one that has won the race (2018).
Scott McLaughlin is the relative newbie. He’s only 0-for-2 here but is eyeing his first top 10 on the 2.5-mile oval. He was 10th in the test.
“There’s always room to grow,” McLaughlin said. “It’s been an up-and-down few years, but obviously last year was fantastic in terms of my development, and then this year having a win already before coming to Indy is a nice feeling.
“But as the guys have said, I think as a team, I think we’ve really worked together well between the three drivers, between the engineers, between everybody that’s behind the scenes and put in the hard work to make sure we get speed.
“But also, it’s not just here. It’s all the other tracks, as well. I think we’ve really worked together and the camaraderie in the team has been great.
“From a personal perspective, there’s always times where I can find a bit more of myself, and I’ll continue chipping away at that. New stuff will pop up every year, doesn’t matter if it’s third, fourth or the tenth year.
“I feel like I’m in a good place right now, feel comfortable in the car, feel comfortable here at this place, and hopefully that bodes well for the rest of the month.”
They come to the Indy 500 reeling off of a disappointing GMR Grand Prix which saw them qualify 12th, 13th and 16th and have just one car even finish in the top 10. That comes after winning 2 of the previous 3 races and having 2 of the 3 podium finishers in the race prior at Barber.
Andretti Cars Struggle
It was a disappointment for the Andretti Autosport cars on Saturday. They won’t have a single driver in the Shootout and will only start 15th (Kyle Kirkwood), 19th (Romain Grosjean), 21st (Colton Herta), 24th (Marco Andretti) and 26th (Devlin DeFrancesco).