After INDYCAR updated the qualifying procedure for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil to accommodate a field of exactly 33 entries, the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series took to the track more than three hours behind schedule for qualifications with James Hinchcliffe setting the fastest speed and moving on to the Fast Nine Shootout to fight for the pole position.
Morning rain at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway delayed on-track activity with practice originally scheduled for 8 a.m. EDT not getting underway until 12:37 p.m. The shifting timetable moved qualifying to 2:20 p.m. with Tony Kanaan making the first attempt of the day.
Kanaan’s four-lap average of 227.679 was quickly surpassed by Simon Pagenaud’s average of 230.102 mph on the second run of the session. By the end of the first round of qualifying attempts, Pagenaud’s speed placed him fourth fastest on the speed chart.
Josef Newgarden’s first attempt with an average of 230.229 mph ranked him second at the conclusion of the initial runs while Carlos Munoz, the 26th qualifier, laid down the third-fastest average speed, averaging 230.175 mph over four laps.
Pippa Mann was forced to abandon her attempt after completing her warm-up lap when she spun and made light contact with the SAFER Barrier on the outside of Turn 2 before sliding into the grass and coming to a stop against the wall on the early part of the back straightaway. The No. 63 Honda sustained damage to the front wing and nosecone and the right rear corner after what was found to be a rear wing failure. Mann did not return for another attempt, but was checked, cleared, and released from the care center.
Conor Daly, teammate at Dale Coyne Racing to Pippa Mann for the race, had his car pulled from the qualification line for precautionary reasons once the team hypothesized that Mann’s incident was caused by a malfunction of the rear wing.
Through the first round of attempts, Townsend Bell’s initial four-lap run held up as the fastest with an average speed of 230.452 mph.
Helio Castroneves was the first to exceed Bell’s speed, averaging 230.500 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet to eventually finish the day fourth fastest.
The fastest average was laid down by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Honda when the Canadian driver announced his presence with a first lap at 231.221 mph and ended the run with a 230.946 mph average.
Ryan Hunter-Reay made it into the top nine on his final attempt, bumping teammate Marco Andretti out with a four-lap average of 230.805 mph, the second fastest overall.
Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Bell, Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, Munoz and Pagenaud will join Hinchcliffe in the Fast Nine Shootout, giving Honda five chances at the Verizon P1 Award to Chevrolet’s four.
Sunday’s on-track activity will begin at noon with practice for positions 22-33 followed by positions 10-21 at 12:45 p.m. and the Fast Nine Shootout participants at 1:30 p.m. Qualifying to lock in positions 10-33 will start at 2:45 p.m. followed by the Fast Nine Shootout at 5 p.m.