Pole position for the Indianapolis 500 has always been a big deal. The toughest four laps in motorsport to claim the honor of leading the field is on everyone’s radar. The day started very sunny and warm. Things would not be so sunny for Ryan Briscoe who would trash his car in turn 2 during morning practice. The team would scramble to get the backup car ready in time for their qualifying run. Luckily for them the 6T car was scheduled to qualify 34th. So there was plenty of time to get it suited up to at least run.
As the time drew closer to qualify however, the track became very overcast and very windy. These conditions were very different from yesterday’s Fast Friday session and different from what the drivers and crews experienced this morning. The threat of rain showers would remain all day but would not play a role in setting the field for the race.
Alex Taglianicar on track and take an easy provisional pole position witha four lap average of 226.954. Alex has been getting it done all week and his run for pole would be no different. He would take that spot from Dan Wheldon who put up a blistering 226.300. Wheldon would end up P4 during the opening session. The big stories would continue to come from Sam Schmidt Motorsport as both Townsend Bell would go P3 early. His four lap average of 226.277 would be good enough for P5.
The true story came out of Andretti Autosporthowever. It started with a slow run from Marco Andretti and would follow shortly after by a bad run from Ryna Hunter-Reay as well. John Andretti, Mike Conway, and Danica Patrick all would suffer during the opening session. Each Andretti car putting themselves on the bubble as soon as their run concluded. Simply a miserable opening for Andretti and one they will want to fix tomorrow or face not making the field. Marco would use his second attempt early and the other AA cars would follow suit. John Andretti would be the next and yet again it would not be enough to pull himself into the field of 24. He would however on his last run let it all hang out and place himself 17th by days end. The Andretti Austosport varsity squad is on the outside looking in at this moment. Lots of work to do tomorrow.
The off track antics from Scott Speed would continue as he would not even attempt a qualifying run. Speed who was set to run late in the opening session would not make his attempt. His teammate Ho-Pin Tung would be the 13thcar on track and would pay dearly with a punishing hit to the outside wall in turn 1. A disaster result for Tung as he was in the field before the crash ruined his day. Tung would be transferred to the hospital for precautions as the impact was severe. There is no “T” car for the Chinese driver and the tub did not look in the best health. Reports are a minor concussion and he is currently no cleared to drive. About a 99% chance we will not see a Dragon car in the field.
A brief rain delay would come in and wash out the rest of session one. The top nine are the only ones with a guranteed spot. Realistically, most of the top 24 are safe. However there are no gurantees and if today was any indication, we are in for a few surprises tomorrow.
The fast nine would finally kickoff at around 5:30 eastern and that is when the true fireworks would go off. Buddy Rice would be first on track. a 225.786 for the Panther crew. Oriol Servia would then put up a real flyer with a 227.168. He would remain on pole for most of the session. Ed Carpenter showed promise on warmup but was not able to keep the car in line long enough. Townsend Bell would also make a run at Serviabut fell short with a 226.8. All eyes then turned to Ganassi and Dario Franchitti. The Scotsman looked to slot in P2 until an issue with the car would see his run conclude early on lap four. Early reports are that he in fact ran out of gas. If that is the case, heads will roll at Ganassi. Dixon followed Franchitti and put up a new pole position time of 227.3. He would run out of fuel coming back into the pits which indicates that Ganassi was running very very light. All eyes would then turn to Alex Tagliani. The man who had been so fast in so many practice sessions this week had a real shot at pole. Alex did not disappoint and put up a blistering 227.472. The crowd erupted as Tags came across the line to take P1. Sam Schmidt Motorsports in their tenth year of existance stormed to pole position and will lead the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 next weekend.
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