Good Morning From Qualifying Day at IMS

Good morning from a currently pleasant Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is currently 66° on its way to a high of 84°. While yesterday certainly had a buzz about it, it doesn’t compare to the tension felt by some of the teams today. Many cars that seemed fast earlier in the week, suddenly find themselves frantically searching for speed – especially those with Chevy power.

I’ve seen where some are speculating that the Chevy teams, most notably Team Penske, are sandbagging. I’m not buying it. With the added boost, yesterday was the day to show your hand. I think the Chevy teams are in trouble – at least for qualifying.

Friday night’s draw for qualifying spots didn’t help Chevy’s chances. The fastest car from yesterday, Scott Dixon, drew the desired first qualifying spot. In fact, the first eight spots were drawn by Honda-powered cars. Some Hondas that need a little help, got advantageous draws; like Marco Andretti (second), Ryan Hunter-Reay (third), Helio Castroneves (fourth) and James Hinchcliffe (sixth). The earliest a Chevrolet- powered car to make an attempt will be Josef Newgarden, who drew ninth.

Some of the Chevy teams that are really struggling got no help from the draw. Sébastien Bourdais will be the thirty-fifth car (out of thirty-five) to make an attempt. His Foyt teammate, Charlie Kimball, drew thirty-fourth. Simona De Silvestro will go just before Kimball. All three of those drivers were near the bottom of the speed charts yesterday and all three have Chevys.

That’s not to say that going early guarantees a car to start up front, and certainly a late qualifying does not automatically relegate you to the back of the field. There is supposed to be more cloud cover today than yesterday, and that will bring sporadic cooler temperatures throughout the day. Cooler temperatures mean faster cars. With multiple attempts allowed throughout the day, there will be three battles going on at once.

There’s the fight to get into the Firestone Fast Nine, which allows the nine fastest cars from today to battle for the pole tomorrow. Those nine cars are also locked into the first three rows. Then there is the jockeying for position between positions ten through thirty. Those cars are guaranteed a spot in the race, but they can work to improve their time and position throughout the day. Finally, there is the battle to avoid being in Sunday’s Last Row Shootout. That is not where you want to be.

That is where the slowest five cars from Saturday will fight it out for seventy-five minutes for the remaining three starting spots, and decide which two cars will go home. After that, the fastest nine cars will run for the pole and the starting positions within the first three rows. It’s all a little convoluted and seems a little contrived to a traditionalist like me, who only knew one format for decades – until they started tinkering with the format ten or fifteen years ago. There will be a lot of drama and intrigue over the next couple of days, nonetheless.

There will be a practice session at 9:30 EDT, split into two groups before qualifying starts at noon. Hopefully, no one will stuff their car into the fence in practice. That could essentially ruin an entire month – even for a good team. If you have Peacock, you can stay on it all day, practice included. If you don’t, you’ll miss practice and then jump around between NBC and NBCSN.

Practice is just about to get started, so I am heading out. Please check back throughout the day, in case I post something midday. If I don’t, I will still post a wrap-up at the end of the day on what all transpired. In the meantime, you may follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog for comments, photos and videos. Please check back later.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “Good Morning From Qualifying Day at IMS”

  1. Ron Ford Says:

    Have you located your tenderloins yet? I have saved a couple in my freezer for the day of the race.

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