Will Power, Penske, IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2021

Power at risk of not starting Indy 500 after first day of qualifying


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The first day of time trials to set the field for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 created drama – and some confusion in the final minutes – as 2018 race winner Will Power of Team Penske headlines the list of five drivers who will have to re-qualify in order to secure one of just three remaining spots on the 11th row tomorrow.

Power will join Simona de Silvestro, driving for the Penske-supported upstart Paretta Autosport, in the Last Row qualifying shootout – and veterans Charlie Kimball, Sage Karam, and rookie RC Enerson. All five drivers will have multiple attempts to qualify during a 75-minute session which begins at 1:15pm local time, with the slowest two drivers being bumped from the starting field of 33.

The tense final minutes of qualifying saw Canadian sophomore Dalton Kellett hold on to the 30th and final guaranteed grid position of the day, shortly after Power attempted to bump his way back into the top 30 with a four-lap average qualifying speed of 229.228 mph, just short of Kellett’s run of 229.250 mph. In the final five minutes, Kellett made one more run, withdrawing his initial run to requalify with an average of 228.323 mph.

However, because Kellett was already classified in 30th position at the time that he attempted to re-qualify, he will hold onto his position on the outside of the tenth row, despite clocking in with an average that was slower than the fastest runs of Power, Kimball, Karam, and De Silvestro, who were all outside the top 30 at the time they made their final attempts to qualify.

Dixon led a Honda-heavy Fast Nine
On the opposite end of the field, six-time and defending IndyCar champion – and 2008 Indy 500 winner – Scott Dixon set the benchmark right from the start of time trials. His four-lap average of 231.827 mph was not surpassed over the next six hours, securing a position in the Fast Nine Shootout to determine the pole position for next Sunday’s Indy 500, where all nine drivers will have one attempt to set the fastest four-lap average and secure pole, beginning from 3pm local time.

Also joining Dixon are his three Chip Ganassi Racing team mates; 2013 winner Tony Kanaan, Marcus Ericsson, and Alex Palou – who crashed at turn two during the third lap of his second qualifying run. Palou was uninjured, but did not return to the track for the remainder of the afternoon as his crew began working to repair his primary car.

Colton Herta was second quickest with a four-lap average of 231.648 mph. He’ll be joined by his Andretti Autosport team mate, 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, as well as three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves, driving an Andretti-supported Meyer Shank Racing Dallara/Honda. The only Chevrolet-powered runners to make the Fast Nine were Ed Carpenter and team mate Rinus VeeKay.

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Pietro Fittipaldi was the fastest rookie in the field with a 13th place result, faster than 17th place Scott McLaughlin, who ended the day as the fastest of four Team Penske drivers. Josef Newgarden and 2019 Indy winner Simon Pagenaud qualified 21st and 26th, respectively.

Rounding out the list of nine previous Indy 500 winners were 2016 winner Alexander Rossi who qualified 10th, two-time and defending champion Takuma Sato was 15th, and two-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya was 24th.

Drivers advancing to the Fast Nine shootout

Scott Dixon 231.827 mph
Colton Herta 231.648 mph
Tony Kanaan 231.639 mph
Ed Carpenter 231.616 mph
Rinus VeeKay 231.483 mph
Helio Castroneves 231.164 mph
Alex Palou 231.145 mph
Ryan Hunter-Reay 231.139 mph
Marcus Ericsson 231.104 mph

Drivers not yet qualified

Will Power
Simona de Silvestro
Charlie Kimball
Sage Karam
RC Enerson

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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4 comments on “Power at risk of not starting Indy 500 after first day of qualifying”

  1. High drama for tomorrow.

  2. I really dislike the current qualifying format. I just think it just lacks a lot of the tension, drama & jeopardy Indy qualifying used to have with the more traditional format.

    I hate how they can all run multiple times now, How they have the ‘low risk’ line, The fast 9 shootout, The last row shootout, How the 2 days are formatted & how the broadcaster can dictate the session now ends at 5:50 rather than 6pm.

    Saturday should be pole day, Sunday should be bump day. Once you complete a run you shouldn’t be allowed to have another go unless your either bumped or withdraw the qualified time/car & if bumped they should only have 3 attempts to get back in with that car with wave off’s.

    All the changes were made to try & force drama for TV but in reality all it’s really done is take away most of the elements that actually used to make Indy qualifying as thrilling & tense as it often was.

    1. @stefmeister I too long for the days of proper Pole Day and Bump Day, and I agree the current sessions are often lacking the tension of the old ones. But for me, the reasons are more the low entry count, the lack of chassis competition, and that the speeds themselves are no longer rising.

      If today had been a traditional Pole Day, would the proceedings have been more exciting? I don’t know. Of course, the pole drama wasn’t helped by the fastest car going out first in the fastest conditions. With the hot mid-afternoon temps, no one was likely to try to requalify to challenge Dixon. But if they had to withdraw their time to do so, I’d imagine we’d have seen even less running. The only reason Palou went out was he was worried about getting bumped out of the Fast Nine, and we saw how that ended.

      At least with the current format, we saw some “bumping” today for P30, and we get to see another round of pole attempts tomorrow, plus bumping among the cars for which it matters. As an attempt to get the most drama out of a depleted field, it’s arguably a success. There just aren’t enough quality entrants to keep trying to bump in under the traditional format.

  3. This does remind me of when penske fail to qualify for the indy 500… will it happen again?

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