July 21, 2024

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What to watch in Saturday’s Indy 500 qualifying

What to watch in Saturday’s Indy 500 qualifying

Qualifying weekend for the Indianapolis 500 is here. Evaluate the elements that need to be followed as the two-day process sets up the field of 33 using the primers below:

Chevy vs Honda

Every Indy 500 since the new 2.2-liter V6 formula debuted in 2012 has given us an annual moratorium in which the automaker has done a better job of finding horsepower, fuel economy and reliability gains, and Fast Friday gave us a solid indication of the underpinnings’ strength side The three.

Based on non-tow speeds from yesterday, Chevy is the team to watch after Chevrolet drivers ran first through sixth, with 500 winner Josef Newgarden leading everyone with a lap of 234.260 mph for Team Penske via AJ Foyt’s Santino Racing. Ferrucci at 233.280 mph.

Takuma Sato, first among Honda drivers, finished seventh at 233.139 mph for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Arrow McLaren’s Callum Ilott finished eighth for the Chevy drivers, and ninth through twelfth for the Andretti Global/Meyer Shank Racing Honda drivers.

Eleven of the top 16 drivers had Chevy engines. Of the 18 drivers, 13 of them owned Honda cars. Aside from the best single-lap non-drag performance, the Chevy team also produced eight of the top 10 four-lap qualifying simulation averages, including P1-5.

The difference between the best Chevy with Newgarden and the best Honda with Sato was only 1,121 mph, but much larger than anyone expected. In 2023, Honda finished the Fast Friday race on top by 0.563 mph over the top Chevy and went on to capture the pole.

Never say never, but it will take some major miracles for Honda to turn the tables on Chevy in Sunday’s P1 race. The question on Saturday is how many Honda cars will make it into the top 12 and have a chance to compete for the top spot.

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The lottery will reveal everything

Today’s first set of qualifying will tell us everything there is to know about the Chevy and Honda dynamic. First up is Andretti’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was ninth on Friday, best among his teammates, and second best for Honda.

In second place is Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who finished second in Fast Friday for Chevy. Third is Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Kevin Simpson for the Honda team. Then it’s a wall of seven Chevy drivers with Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Romain Grosjean, McLaren’s Kyle Larson, Grosjean’s teammate Agustin Canapino, McLaren’s Ilott, Penske’s Will Power and teammate Newgarden.

In the first 10 qualifying attempts, we will have three immediate contenders for pole position from Penske, a front row expert in ECR’s VeeKay, a strong duo from McLaren, and two midfielders from JHR. Only Kirkwood, in the relatively cool atmosphere of the early outings, will show what Honda has brought to the party.

The majority of Honda’s best hopes had a poor draw in qualifying and were scheduled to make their first outings in the afternoon heat as Mayer-Schanck’s Felix Rosenqvist (24th), Ganassi’s Alex Palou (25th), Scott Dixon (27th) and Andretti’s Colton Herta. (29) They will be gone long after they are preferred.

The speeds set by Chevy’s top cars early Saturday could continue for most of the day – if not all of it. Don’t be surprised if Honda’s late riders return for Happy Hour in an attempt to improve their averages.

Where is Ganassi?

The final three spots in the Indy 500 went to Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon 2021-22, Alex Ballou 2023), but the team missed the sharp end of the speed charts. It’s only qualifying, so there’s no need for their fans to panic, but when rookie Marcus Armstrong is the top team heading into time trials with a 23rd-best lap without a tow, something is clearly off within the five-car camp.

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Dixon and Palo (24th and 25th) still represent Ganassi’s best chances to break into the top 12, but when all five of its drivers fall between 23rd and 32nd with Simpson, it’s hard to ignore the dramatic year-to-year decline.

Who might be in trouble?

Only one driver will fail to qualify for the 108th Indy 500, and with IndyCar’s qualifying procedures that moved the top 12 to Sunday’s pole position and the slowest three — the final row — plus any additional entries through Sunday for a final chance at a qualifying session , we have a selection of drivers who woke up with legitimate reasons for concern.

Referring to the list of banned from tow, there is a sharp drop in speeds after Augustin Canapino finished in 26th place. The Argentine’s speed of 231.909mph looked like a shelf as the eight drivers below were clearly struggling for qualifying pace, starting with the RLL tandem of Pietro Fittipaldi (231.586mph) and Graham Rahal (231.236mph).

RLL’s Sato was fast and RLL’s Christian Lundgaard wasn’t bad (21st), but with memories of the team’s rough experience at last year’s Indy 500, it may be too soon for anyone at RLL to breathe. Having Fittipaldi in 27th and Rahal in 28th isn’t bad, but it’s too close for comfort after Rahal’s 2023 crash.

Ganassi’s Linus Lundqvist in 29th is paying the price for crashing Thursday and having an unimproved car to continue on. His compatriot Marcus Ericsson dealt with the same exact constraints as Andretti’s team had to build a new car for him, and like Lundqvist, countless hours of massaging the drag off the bodywork and mechanical components of their base cars were lost when crashes occurred.

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Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Connor Daly was a surprise 31st-place finish, and from there, Ganassi’s speed issues arose with Simpson 32nd. The fact that he is the third driver to take part in qualifying could be a major factor in preventing him from being relegated to the LCQ.

The slowest drivers were another surprise in Dale Coyne Racing’s Catherine Legge and Nolan Siegel, who were involved in a severe crash and will join other drivers who have had crashes and have been forced into unoptimized cars. Quinn’s cars have been fast at Indy for a long time, which makes their presence at the bottom of the chart all the more concerning.

With just 30 minutes of morning practice to regain his confidence and find some lost speed, Siegel is the only driver with a target on his back. The teenager is full of talent, and he will have to show it to be able to take part in the show on Sunday.

Beware of changes

We’ll close out another engine-related topic, which is all the engine changes we’ve seen over the past week since Indy GP. Honda lost two engines in the Ganassi Grand Prix cars and Chevy replaced two engines in the McLaren cars. Chevy pulled another McLaren car – Larson’s as a precaution – and Honda lost two more on Friday with two more Ganassi cars – Palo and Simpson – and a change in the No. 30 RLL Honda from Fittipaldi as the high frequency of kerblamos continues.

It’s not often we see engines fail in qualifying, but at the rate things are going, it would be surprising to get through the weekend without needing more changes.