INDIANAPOLIS – The first day of qualifying for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil was an emotional roller coaster. It had nail-biting four-lap attempts, rain delays that threw a wrench into strategies, last-minute bids to bump into the field and ultimate heartbreak for those left on the outside looking in.
The 33 cars and drivers that will start the race on May 27 were established in qualifying today. Two drivers – including Verizon IndyCar Series favorite James Hinchcliffe – will not be a part of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” this year as a result of the dramatic qualifications process.
“It’s part of what makes this race so special,” team owner/driver Ed Carpenter said of the bumping that occurred for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2011.
INDIANAPOLIS 500: Unofficial first-day qualifications results
Helio Castroneves was the fastest qualifier of the day with a four-lap run on the 2.5-mile oval at 228.919 mph in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. All three of his teammates – Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden – will join the three-time Indy 500 winner in Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout to determine the race starting order for the first three rows, including the Verizon P1 Award pole winner.
Joining the Team Penske quartet in the Fast Nine Shootout will be the Ed Carpenter Racing trio of Carpenter, Spencer Pigot and Danica Patrick. Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the fastest nine qualifiers and represent the only Honda drivers who will have a shot at the pole position as Chevrolet dominated the day.
At the other end of the spectrum, James Davison recovered from a crash in Friday’s practice to qualify the No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Chevrolet in the 33rd and final position. The 31-year-old Australian then nervously waited out the end of qualifying at 5:50 p.m. ET to stay in the field.
The fortunes weren’t so kind for Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann. Hinchcliffe had to wait to make a qualifying attempt until after a 1-hour, 50-minute delay for rain and wet track conditions. The first driver on the oval after qualifying resumed, Hinchcliffe posted a disappointing run of 224.784 mph.
Hinchcliffe was bumped out of the field by friend and former roommate Conor Daly with less than 20 minutes left in the session. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew rolled the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda into the priority qualifying line, but Hinchcliffe sensed a vibration in the car on the warmup lap and didn’t start the attempt.
After quick repairs, the car was rushed back into the qualifying line, but the gun signaling the end of qualifying was fired with Mann on track and Hinchcliffe – the 2016 Indy 500 pole sitter – next to go.
Mann, who’d been bumped earlier a Daly attempt, wasn’t able to muster enough speed on her final try to dislodge Davison from the field. The last driver to be bumped from the field was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2011, though he was later named as a replacement driver in a qualified entry.
The 6-hour, 50-minute qualifying session was halted twice for a total of 2 hours, 41 minutes by rain.
The drivers who qualified 10th through 33rd Saturday will each make one four-lap run in final qualifying at 2:45 p.m. Sunday – in reverse order of their qualifying speeds Saturday – to determine the grid positions for those cars.
They’ll be followed by the Fast Nine Shootout at 5 p.m. – also run in reverse order from Saturday’s speeds – to set the first three rows. Castroneves is a four-time Indy 500 pole winner. Only retired Team Penske driver and four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears has started at the head of the field more times (six) in race history.
Qualifying will stream live on WatchESPN from 2:30-4 p.m. Sunday, with ABC picking up the national broadcast from 4-6 p.m.
The 102nd running of the world’s largest single-day sporting event airs live at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.