Felix Rosenqvist, McLaren, Indianapolis, 2023

Rosenqvist leads first day of Indy 500 qualifying, Rahal headlines last row shootout


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With Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi leading the way with near-record qualifying runs, the McLaren Indy team finished first and second at the end of the first day of qualifying for next weekend’s Indianapolis 500.

At the other end of the grid, four full-time entries, including all three full-time cars from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, must go through Last Chance Qualifying to ensure their place in the field.

All 34 teams and drivers had one guaranteed attempt to qualify for the race and then the remainder of six hours and 50 minutes to lock their way into the top 30 positions.

After all guaranteed runs were finished, Rossi stood at the top of the time sheets with a four-lap average speed of 233.528mph / 375.826kph. With his position in Top 12 qualifying secured, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 race winner had already changed out of his racing outfit as the afternoon of qualifying began to wind down.

Rosenqvist sat towards the bottom of the group of twelve drivers that would run on Sunday and looked to improve with an hour to go. He ended up posting a four-lap average of 233.947 mph / 376.500 kph, the third-fastest official qualifying run in the history of the Indianapolis 500 behind Scott Dixon’s pole-winning run from last year (234.046 mph / 376.661 kph), and Arie Luyendyk’s all-time record from 1996 (236.986 mph / 381.392 kph).

With Rosenqvist and Rossi first and second, 2013 winner Tony Kanaan in sixth and last year’s race runner-up Pato O’Ward in eighth, every Chevrolet-powered McLaren car made the top twelve and looks poised to compete for pole position tomorrow. Kanaan will be a sentimental favourite as he prepares for his 22nd and final Indy 500 start.

The only Honda powered-drivers to make the top twelve all represented Chip Ganassi Racing, led by 2021 runner-up Alex Palou in third, 2008 winner Scott Dixon in fifth, two-time winner Takuma Sato in seventh, and Marcus Ericsson – the defending Indy 500 winner – in tenth.

Rinus VeeKay was fourth-fastest in the Chevrolet-powered Ed Carpenter Racing #21 car, and Team Penske are represented in tomorrow’s second round of time trials by the 2018 winner Will Power, who was 12th.

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But the big surprise within the top 12 was AJ Foyt Racing: Santino Ferrucci qualified in ninth, and Benjamin Pedersen was the only one of four Indy 500 rookies that made it in, finishing with the 11th-fastest average.

Rahal is at risk of missing the race
These drivers will proceed to Top 12 qualifying which starts on Sunday at 19:00 BST, and the top six drivers from that session will proceed to Fast Six qualifying at 22:20 BST.

As the likes of McLaren, Ganassi, and Foyt could celebrate jobs well done for all involved – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are in crisis mode.

Second-generation team leader Graham Rahal, and his full-time team mates Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey were too slow to stay in the top 30 by the end of the day. Their opportunity to even participate in next week’s Indianapolis 500 will hinge on the results of Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifier which starts at 21:05 BST.

An average of 231mph was the minimum needed to make the top 30, and none of the three RLL full-timers put together a four-lap run quick enough to surpass that mark. Harvey did his best to salvage what he could after a terminal engine failure at the end of practice yesterday, but wasn’t fast enough. Lundgaard – who won the pole for the Indianapolis Grand Prix around the road course last week – spent most of his session either on the bubble or just below it beneath David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing, and he ended it just short of the mark needed to guarantee his starting spot.

Malukas saved his best for last and solidly got above the danger zone with 13 minutes to go, but Malukas’ rookie team mate, Sting Ray Robb, was the fourth driver that missed the cut and he’ll also need to go through Last Chance Qualifying to secure his spot on the grid.

Legge has qualified for next week’s race
It is a stark turn of fortune for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – who won the race with Takuma Sato just three years ago, and nearly won it with Rahal in 2021 – and also for the #51 Coyne entry co-owned by Rick Ware Racing, which made the Top 12 qualifying session last year with Sato driving.

Eerily, Rahal’s flirtation with missing the race entirely in 2023 comes on the 30th anniversary of his father Bobby missing the race as the three-time and defending champion.

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Rows four through ten settled

Thirty drivers are guaranteed to start the 107th Indianapolis 500, with positions 13 through 30 locked in after today’s full-field qualifying.

Past Indy 500 winners in the field are led by 2014 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay in 18th upon his return to the speedway, and four-time winner Hélio Castroneves in 20th. 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud qualified in 22nd.

Ed Carpenter missed the top 12 cut line, and will line up 13th – next to recent IndyCar Series race winners Scott McLaughlin 14th, and Kyle Kirkwood 15th as the fastest driver from Andretti Autosport. Josef Newgarden withdrew his time in the final hour for one last push to make the top 12, but he went marginally slower on his last attempt and slid from 16th to 17th.

Newgarden failed to reach the top 12 shootout
Both McLaughlin and Newgarden surrendered their guaranteed runs at the start of the session in order to make further adjustments to their cars during the day, but both still ended the day mired in the middle rows for next weekend’s race.

Ten-year Formula 1 veteran Romain Grosjean qualified 19th for his second Indy 500 start, two positions ahead of F1 aspirant Colton Herta in 21st.

Along with David Malukas, Callum Ilott also had drama throughout the weekend. He switched to a backup chassis yesterday that did its first laps in practice earlier this morning. Ilott’s first run was too ragged and inconsistent to make the field, but his second run got him in the field in 28th.

His Juncos Hollinger Racing team mate Agustin Canapino had his own dramatic moment, when he clipped the wall out of turn one and broke his right-rear suspension. Canapino avoided a crash and held on to qualify 27th.

Three hard-working, Indy 500-only entrants secured their starting places as well: Stefan Wilson, younger brother of the late IndyCar star Justin, was 25th fastest; eleventh-hour entry RC Enerson and Abel Motorsport made the race in 29th, and Katherine Legge held on from the bubble position to qualify 30th in her first Indy 500 start in a decade – along with being the only RLL driver that qualified for the race after day one of time trials.

Indianapolis 500 qualifying results

16Felix RosenqvistMcLarenChevrolet
27Alexander RossiMcLarenChevrolet
310Alex PalouGanassiHonda
421Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet
59Scott DixonGanassiHonda
666Tony KanaanMcLarenChevrolet
711Takuma SatoGanassiHonda
85Pato O’WardMcLarenChevrolet
914Santino FerrucciFoytChevrolet
108Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda
1155Benjamin PedersenFoytChevrolet
1212Will PowerPenskeChevrolet
1333Ed CarpenterCarpenterChevrolet
143Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet
1527Kyle KirkwoodAndrettiHonda
1620Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet
172Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet
1823Ryan Hunter-ReayDreyer & ReinboldChevrolet
1928Romain GrosjeanAndrettiHonda
20106Helio CastronevesMeyer ShankHonda
2126Colton HertaAndrettiHonda
2260Simon PagenaudMeyer ShankHonda
2318David MalukasCoyne/HMDHonda
2498Marco AndrettiAndrettiHonda
2524Stefan WilsonDRR/CusickChevrolet
2629Devlin DeFrancescoAndrettiHonda
2778Agustin CanapinoJuncos HollingerChevrolet
2877Callum IlottJuncos HollingerChevrolet
2950RC EnersonAbelChevrolet
3044Katherine LeggeRLLHonda

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Author information

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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  • 5 comments on “Rosenqvist leads first day of Indy 500 qualifying, Rahal headlines last row shootout”

    1. NBC cut off qualifying @ 1630 (EDT) hours to air a preview of Sunday’s horse race.

    2. Abies de Wet
      21st May 2023, 13:30

      Great stuff Mclaren…

    3. Sam Crawford
      21st May 2023, 13:43

      Do Andretti always struggle in the Indy 500?

      1. Andretti have been struggling all around for several years now. No idea why.

    4. Yellow Baron
      21st May 2023, 14:30

      For all the talk of F1 being a spectacle, it’s Indy car that keep delivering as he greater spectacle. Especially watching on TV .

    Comments are closed.