This weekend’s qualifying for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race started with questions, albeit not the usual ones. The new format did away with the traditional Pole Day and Bump Day. And lets not forget the points for qualifying and the Fast 9, making starting position mean far more than pit selection.
When IndyCar turned up the boost for practice on Friday, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay both posted laps in the 231mph range and Marco Andretti laid down a 232.2mph lap. Of those, only Hunter-Reay’s was truly without any tow. There was no real clear favorite going into Saturday, now unaffectionaetly called “Qualifying – Day 1”, which doesn’t have much of a ring to it.
Qualifying – Day 1 (nee Pole Day)
Saturday morning made it apparent that most drivers were setting a run to get into the race and maybe do a bit of shakedown in preparation for Sunday. With no bumping to be had, the teams that weren’t serious contenders for the Fast 9 could make a single run and sit on their time or try to improve. Marco Andretti was one of those making multiple runs to try for the Fast 9, even withdrawing his time to get in the “priority lane”. The efforts paid off, as he was able to put together a 4-lap run with a 230.134mph average. 230mph was the speed for entry into the Fast 9.
It was hard to get really excited about Saturday’s runs. Aside from setting the Fast 9, it was just runs and data gathering. The real excitement was Sunday. I’ve been to oval races, and single-car qualifying is dull as dishwater. However, qualifying for Indy is intense, and when you have timing and scoring to follow along, even more so. Following the laps on timing, t became apparent just how dialed in Ed Carpenter Racing had their cars. Both Ed himself and teammate JR Hildebrand looked to be so much smoother through the corners, contributing to less speed scrubbed off.
- Carpenter: 230.661
- Munoz: 230.460
- Castroneves: 230.432
- Hinchcliffe: 230.407
- Power: 230.323
- Andretti: 230.134
- Pagenaud: 230.070
- Newgarden: 230.033
- Hildebrand: 230.027
- Busch: 229.960
The rest of the Day 1 qualifying results can be found here.
Other runs of note include Kurt Busch, who set a 229.256 early in the session, then made another run for a 229.960. That run had him in the Fast 9 until the afternoon when teams really started trimming out their cars. Busch had to catch a flight to Charlotte, so didn’t have a chance to make the 230mph club.
Additional props to Josef Newgarden who put Sarah Fischer/Hartman Racing into the Fast 9 and Jack Hawksworth for the fastest run of all the rookies.
Andretti Autosport put 4 cars in the Fast 9 (Andretti, Busch, Hinchcliffe and Munoz)
Ed Carpenter Racing has 2 cars (Carpenter and Hildebrand)
Penske has 2 cars (Power & Castroneves)
Sarah Fisher/Hartman Racing has 1 car (Newgarden)
Schmidt/Peterson has 1 car (Pagenaud)
There’s one team noticeably absent from the Fast 9: Ganassi. Of all Chip’s cars, Scott Dixon had the fastest run, but it was a comparatively slow 229.283mph. At one point during the TV broadcast, the camera turned to The Chipster who had a twisted look of disgust, frustration and befuddlement on his face. It was apparent that he didn’t have a clue why they were so slow, which is atypical for that team. Despite Andretti claiming half the spots in the Fast 9, there’s a nice mix of other teams. this race fan believes that will bode well for race day.
Qualifying – Day 2 (nee Bump Day)
Sunday’s qualifying format was pretty simple. Everyone that qualified on Saturday made one run to set their position on the grid. The 10-33 group ran in the morning, and the Fast 9 was live in a TV window, which appeared to work out well. The streaming on ESPN3 was the same crew as the TV broadcast on ABC, so you had to put up with Scott Goodyear. The only negative was the hour plus of dead time between the end of main field qualifying (positions 10-33) and the Fast 9. It looks like the initial runs finished sooner than expected, so ESPN3 signed off until the ABC broadcast and IMS Radio was playing classic race broadcasts.
When the first group of qualifiers started, questions lingered.
How much downforce did teams take out of the cars to maximize speed?
Did Ganassi figure out their problems?
Would there be a 231mph qualifying run?
As things progressed, there weren’t many surprises…
Until the clouds came. In rapid succession, Juan Montoya threw down the second-fastest qualifying run of the weekend with a 231.007mph run. Scott Dixon followed suit with a 230.928mph run, finding the speed that TCGR had been lacking. It was in the clouds all the time.
The impressive runs made by some drivers led to speculation that pole might require a 232mph. Doug and I texted on Sunday, and he set the over/under for pole at 231.350mph. After seeing a couple of runs with the cloud cover, he wanted to revise that! As it turned out, clouds didn’t stick around for the Fast 9 running, so speeds weren’t as high as some had thought. I’m looking at you, Mr. Goodyear.
You can tell who was hunting for speed and who just had it. Many of the drivers had to push a little harder for their fast laps and either they couldn’t push that hard consistently or it wore the tires enough that 3rd and 4th laps would drop off. A couple drivers had some heart-stopping moments, namely Takuma Sato (not in the Fast 9) and James Hinchcliffe.
First out was JR Hildebrand, and his run really set the expectations for the rest of the pole runs, especially his teammate and car owner, Ed Carpenter. Hildebrand never had the speed on any of hos four laps, which led to speculation that whatever adjustments were made in the ECR garage (the former Panther garage, as I understand it) weren’t the right ones.
James Hinchcliffe, despite his bauble, was able to stay on the front row. All the Andretti cars looked strong on their qualifying runs. I’m sure all their cars will be contenders come race day.
It was Ed Carpenter who was able to keep his car smooth and consistently fast for four laps, though. Watching all the Fast 9 qualifiers, Ed’s car didn’t get upset. There were no wiggles and the back end never seemed to step out. His line was always laser-precise. His run bested Montoya’s, which was run during the brief cloud cover. This leads me to wonder how quick a run Ed could have made with the cooler ambient and/or track temperatures. We’ll never know, but it is good that the pole speed is the fastest of all 33 qualifiers, as it should be. All is right with the world and we have a full field for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile Race.
Your starting lineup for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race:
|1||20||Ed Carpenter||Indianapolis||Chevrolet||Ed Carpenter Racing||02:35.7992||231.067|
|2||27||James Hinchcliffe||Toronto||Honda||Andretti Autosport||02:35.9528||230.839|
|3||12||Will Power||Toowoomba, Australia||Chevrolet||Team Penske||02:36.0488||230.697|
|4||3||Helio Castroneves||Sao Paulo||Chevrolet||Team Penske||02:36.0812||230.649|
|5||77||Simon Pagenaud||Montmorillon, France||Honda||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton||02:36.1049||230.614|
|6||25||Marco Andretti||Nazareth, Pa.||Honda||Andretti Autosport||02:36.1526||230.544|
|7||34||Carlos Munoz||Bogata, Colombia||Honda||Andretti – HVM||02:36.4224||230.146|
|8||67||Josef Newgarden||Hendersonville, Tenn.||Honda||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||02:36.5946||229.893|
|9||21||JR Hildebrand||Sausalito, Calif.||Chevrolet||Ed Carpenter Racing||02:37.3938||228.726|
|10||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||Bogata, Colombia||Chevrolet||Penske Motorsports||02:35.8396||231.007|
|11||9||Scott Dixon||Auckland, New Zealand||Chevrolet||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||02:35.8930||230.928|
|12||26||Kurt Busch (R)||Las Vegas||Honda||Andretti Autosport||02:35.9913||230.782|
|13||98||Jack Hawksworth (R)||Bradford, England||Honda||BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian||02:36.1779||230.506|
|14||19||Justin Wilson||Sheffield, England||Honda||Dale Coyne Racing||02:36.3480||230.256|
|15||7||Mikhail Aleshin (R)||Moscow||Honda||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||02:36.4881||230.049|
|16||10||Tony Kanaan||Salvador, Brazil||Chevrolet||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||02:36.5750||229.922|
|17||11||Sebastien Bourdais||Le Mans, France||Chevrolet||KVSH Racing||02:36.6259||229.847|
|18||16||Oriol Servia||Pals, Spain||Honda||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||02:36.6905||229.752|
|19||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Fort Lauderdale, Fla||Honda||Andretti Autosport||02:36.7132||229.719|
|20||15||Graham Rahal||New Albany, Ohio||Honda||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||02:36.7756||229.628|
|21||18||Carlos Huertas (R)||Bogata, Colombia||Honda||Dale Coyne Racing||02:37.0328||229.251|
|22||63||Pippa Mann||Ipswich, England||Honda||Dale Coyne Racing||02:37.0521||229.223|
|23||14||Takuma Sato||Tokyo||Honda||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||02:37.0671||229.201|
|24||68||Alex Tagliani||Lechenaie, Quebec||Honda||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||02:37.1038||229.148|
|25||6||Townsend Bell||San Luis Obispo, Calif||Chevrolet||KV Racing Technology||02:37.1990||229.009|
|26||83||Charlie Kimball||Camarillo, Calif||Chevrolet||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing||02:37.2376||228.953|
|27||5||Jacques Villeneuve||St Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec||Honda||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||02:37.2400||228.949|
|28||33||James Davison (R)||Melbourne, Australia||Chevrolet||KV Racing Technology||02:37.2977||228.865|
|29||41||Martin Plowman (R)||Tamworth, England||Honda||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||02:37.3333||228.814|
|30||8||Ryan Briscoe||Sydney, Australia||Chevrolet||NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing||02:37.4028||228.713|
|31||22||Sage Karam (R)||Nazareth, Pa.||Chevrolet||Dreyer & Reinbold -Kingdom Racing w/CGR||02:37.5931||228.436|
|32||17||Sebastian Saavedra||Bogata, Colombia||Chevrolet||KV AFS Racing||02:37.8335||228.088|
|33||91||Buddy Lazier||Vail, Colo.||Chevrolet||Lazier Partners Racing||02:37.9501||227.920|