Katherine Legge

Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated with practice in preparation for next Sunday’s 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Tuesday’s opening day practice lasted 23 minutes before rain began to drench the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading to a premature end of the session. Day 2 was hindered Wednesday, with more rain delaying the start a little over five hours, with a green flag at 3:05 p.m. ET. The session extended an hour but stopped short by 64 minutes due to rain, coming to a conclusion at 5:56 p.m. ET.

Unfortunately, the Fast Friday forecast also is looking damp. So, Thursday’s practice laps take the upmost importance. Get ready for the fast and the furious during that session, scheduled for 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ET., with live coverage on Peacock.

Not only is practice critical for developing qualifying and race setups for the cars, but an underrated aspect is the allure of the qualifying draw to determine the lineup for how the 34 cars will attempt their four-lap qualifying runs beginning at 11 a.m. ET Saturday.

Friday’s Qualifying Order Draw at 6:15 p.m. ET is determined by the last completed practice session’s speed chart. So, if Fast Friday’s six-hour practice is a wash, Thursday’s practice session determines the order each entry is drawn.

According to many drivers in Gasoline Alley, charging to the top of the speed chart Thursday is a must. The drivers want to be among the first to draw for qualifying order because that will give them a better chance to have a more favorable position in the qualifying line when track and air conditions may be cooler.

That’s why drivers over the years look for good luck charms to pick for them.

“Well, I think my wife's (Karly) going to draw for me,” said Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who was quickest Wednesday with a top speed of 229.493 mph. “I don't want to do it anymore. She's pregnant, so we've got two chances, or two minds, I guess. So, we'll see. I'll leave it up to her, and if it's bad, doesn't matter, I've had basically four bad draws in four years, so it doesn't really matter if it's good.”

That draw has been an underrated determining factor on who advances to the Sunday qualifying shootouts.

In 2020, the first season of the aeroscreen, five of the first 12 cars to make a qualifying attempt made the Fast Nine Shootout, including four of the top six qualifiers. In 2021, five of the first 10 cars to make a qualifying run on the first day of qualifications made the Firestone Fast Nine Shootout, including, three of the top four.

In 2022, seven of the newly expanded Fast 12 Shootout drivers were among the first 13 qualifiers in the initial line, including five of the top six.

Last year, seven of the 12 in the Fast 12 Shootout had a top-14 qualifying draw.

“This weekend is going to be huge because if you look at the temperature rise as the day goes on, it's big,” said Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “There are certainly days where qualifying draw is paramount.”

The 2.5-mile track is temperature sensitive. Having a good qualifying draw, allowing a driver to make a four-lap qualifying run early, is pivotal because the air and track temperature usually is cooler earlier in the session. With the range of temperatures forecasted Saturday climbing from the mid-60s at the start to mid-70s midday, drivers with an early qualifying draw could have a significant advantage.

Larson Passing Down ‘500’ Passion to Kids

Mike Larson, Kyle Larson’s father, grew up an avid NTT INDYCAR SERIES fan and is a longtime Indianapolis 500 supporter. Even though his son took a different racing path into NASCAR, Kyle Larson shares that passion.

Now that Larson is attempting to qualify the No. 17 Hendrickcars.com Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren/Rick Hendrick in the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, will the passion get passed down to another generation through Larson’s three children?

“I think Owen (oldest child) kind of understands how big this is, but Audrey (middle child) thinks I’m crazy,” he said. “Owen, I think, he gets how cool these cars are and how big this race is. I’m sure Audrey does, as well, once we get to the race next week.”

His third child, Cooper, is too young to grasp the significance. But Owen, who also races, is fond of the journey his dad is embarking through this month.

McLaughlin Hopes To Turn Month of May Blues

Approaching last Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott McLaughlin had 53 NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts to his name, with 47 outside the Month of May. His average finishing position in those races, including three summer starts on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course, is 7.36.

But the six Month of May starts for McLaughlin are a different beast. His average finish in three Sonsio Grand Prix starts and three Indy 500 starts is 17.83.

Maybe his fortune is turning this month. McLaughlin climbed from a 13th-place start to finish sixth last Saturday in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet.

“That was nice,” he said of the result. “That gave me a lot of confidence, especially after the start we had. To come back through to be sixth to the end, I thought that was like a win for us Saturday.”

Could that lead to a better 108th Running of the Indianapolis presented by Gainbridge in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet?

McLaughlin said the difference between being a true NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship contender or not is being better at both the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course in May and the 2.5-mile oval.

His three “500” finishes are 20th, 29th and 14th, respectively.

“You think you're ready every year, and I felt like I was really composed last year,” he said. “But I think you've got to change your intensity level for this week and this month. You can't just be blase and go, ‘I know what to expect.’ This place changes all the time. It's a different animal. So, I'm very focused right now and ready to get going.”

That showed Wednesday. McLaughlin led the rain-delayed and rain-interrupted practice at 229.493 mph in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet.

McLaughlin has been successful on ovals outside of Indianapolis. In four career Texas Motor Speedway starts, McLaughlin has two runner-up finishes among his four top-10 results. At short ovals Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway, McLaughlin has six top-five finishes in seven combined starts.

Legge To Take On Pikes Peak

Acura and Honda Racing Corporation USA (HRC US) announced Wednesday it will enter a new Acura Integra Type S DE5 in this year’s The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 23, with Indianapolis 500 veteran Katherine Legge driving in the Time Attack 1 category.

Legge, who will attempt to qualify for her fourth Indianapolis 500 this weekend in the No. 51 e.l.f Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR, will add Pikes Peak to an impressive list of “firsts” for the 43-year-old British native.

Legge is a multiple race winner in IMSA competition, holds the record for the fastest qualifying run for a woman in Indianapolis 500 history, set in 2023, and was the first woman to lead in Champ Car (2006) and American Le Mans Series (2013) competition.

“This is a race that I’ve wanted to compete in since I first heard of it, which is for as long as I can remember,” Legge said. “The legacy of this event is enormous, and so many famous drivers have tackled the mountain: the Unsers, the Dallenbachs – including my friend Paul – Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Michèle Mouton. I can’t wait to get there. It’s magical and something I’m not taking lightly.”

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of America's longest running motorsports competitions. Since 1916, drivers from all over the world, in a wide variety of vehicles and from multiple motorsports disciplines, race against the clock as they take on the 156-turn, 12.42-mile mountain course, starting at 9,390 feet and climbing to the 14,115-foot summit.

Odds And Ends

  • Kyle Larson enters the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as one of the betting favorites. “Yeah, that's crazy,” Larson said of his odds. “That doesn't make any sense. I think people are wasting their money, but maybe not. I guess I hope not to get people to waste their money on me. It would be great to win. I just think that’s crazy.”
  • Arrow McLaren driver Callum Ilott noted he had a special FaceTime call following his World Endurance Championship victory in the 6 Hours of Spa last Saturday – from legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady, who is an investor in Ilott’s WEC team, Hertz Team Jota.
  • Helio Castroneves showed off a special helmet design that he’ll wear inside the No. 06 Cliffs Honda for Meyer Shank Racing this month. The helmet mimics the colors of good friend and former teammate, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who died suddenly in December.
  • Romain Grosjean was perplexed by the 7:45 a.m. ET media session today at IMS. He said race car drivers like to sleep in. “Today, I was in my bed like six minutes ago,” he said. Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Armstrong said it was a long day. He got up at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and said he didn’t strap into his car to practice until 4 p.m.
  • Chevrolet-powered drivers produced five of the top seven speeds Wednesday, with all three Team Penske drivers landing in the top four.