Qualifying Preview

Today is Fast Friday – the day that IndyCar allows an extra amount of turbocharger boost for extra horsepower for Qualifying Weekend. Reportedly, it will give the cars about one-hundred more horsepower. This is my annual chance to rant on how contrived I feel this is. If you are going to allow extra boost for three days, why not do it for the entire month? If that puts too much stress on the engines; how about just leaving it alone?

It just seems like a lot of manufactured drama to me. If the pole speed ends up being 235 mph, casual fans are going to wonder why the race speed is so much lower than the qualifying speeds. Hard-core fans understand that cars are set up differently for race trim and qualifying trim, but up until about ten years ago – we didn’t have to put added boost into the equation. OK, end of rant…

Old habits die hard. I’m old enough to remember when practice started on May 1, and the Month of May was truly that – an entire month of track activity. Even though practice has been trimmed down to four days, and we lost Tuesday due to rain – I still fall into the habit of referring what happened Wednesday and Thursday as “…all month”. As in “The Ganassi cars have been fast all month”. The translation of that is they were fast Wednesday and yesterday; which of course – they were. So if I refer to “the entire month” for the next ten days or so – that’s what I mean.

So with that said, the Ganassi cars have been fast all month. They are the only cars to break the 229 mph barrier. The cars of Arrow McLaren have been especially quick also, and have all been hanging around the Top Ten this week – although they were a little lower down the scoring pylon yesterday compared to Wednesday. The cars of Andretti Autosport and Team Penske have been curiously low on the scoring pylon so far. Five years ago, we would claim they were sandbagging. Given recent performance in the 500, however – I’m thinking these times may be truly representative of what they’ve got.

Some are surprised that Santino Ferrucci has been exceptionally quick. If you have been paying attention to what this team puts together for the Indianapolis 500, they usually have very good cars here. Benjamin Pedersen has not been terrible, all things considered. It is no surprise he doesn’t have the same pace as his teammate, but it doesn’t appear he will be one of those struggling to make the race on Sunday.

Which brings up the question that is going around here all week…who will be bumped? The obvious answer would be RC Enerson, simply because this team came together late and Enerson has never made the race before, having failed to make it in 2021. But as we learned when Kyle Kaiser and Juncos bumped out McLaren and Fernando Alonso in 2019 – the obvious is not always so obvious. And to be honest, Enerson showed a little speed yesterday.

If Enerson puts together four good laps, could it be Katherine Legge? She was dead last yesterday. I think she is a very good driver and her talent could be enough to carry a car that isn’t quite good enough, but talent can only take you so car without a good car underneath you. The Rahal cars were not overly quick on Wednesday, and were even slower on Thursday. How much can we expect from the fourth Rahal car after only three days of practice? Legge could be on the outside looking in when the gun goes off on Sunday. I hope that doesn’t happen, but a ten year absence can hurt.

Then again, it could be an IndyCar regular that slips up and doesn’t makew the race. After Wednesday, I was thinking Callum Ilott was a prime candidate to be bumped. He had a horrible Open Test in April and Wednesday wasn’t much better. But he and his Juncos Hollinger Racing team may have figured out just enough, because he was much better on Thursday. Before the Open Test, I wondered if his teammate, Agustin Canapino, would get the bump – but he was decent, just as he has been all year. But he struggled on Thursday and I’m wondering if he can sustain being decent over the next three days.

The Meyer Shank Racing cars have also not been spectacular – a reflection of how their season is going, although Simon Pagenaud was third quick yesterday. Helio Castroneves seems like a shadow of himself two years ago. Is it possible that the driver going for a fifth win, not make it on Sunday?

We should get some answers today. Weather may or may not be a factor. A cold front is supposed to go through, but it may wait and rain tonight after practice. Saturday is supposed to be pretty, but cooler – ideal weather for speed.

I don’t like having only one car not make it, but it does add a lot of intrigue heading into the weekend. It is pretty dull, when there are only thirty-three cars entered. I wish we could get back to the days of forty or more cars entered, but until we get a third engine manufacturer, that’s probably not going to happen. I’m just glad we have some semblance of bumping this year.

So who will wind up on the pole? I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say it will probably be a Ganassi or McLaren. I also think that when Scott Dixon went out first thing Wednesday and laid down a 229+ lap, he was making a statement. He is currently tied with AJ Foyt for second-most poles, with four. Rick Mears has the record with six. Scott Dixon has won the pole for the last two years, and is looking to make it three in a row on Sunday. I think he’ll do it. Scott Dixon will be on the pole when the green flag falls for the 107th Running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “Qualifying Preview”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you that adding horsepower for qualifying is totally contrived. And totally unneeded. I hope somebody one year comes to their senses and gets rid of it.

  2. Big Mac Says:

    Dixon has five poles already: 2008, 2015, 2017, 2021 and 2022.

    • That’s what laziness does for you. I thought about looking that up, but I got lazy. I had forgotten about 2015. That’s what happens when an old man relies on his memory.

  3. If I am not mistaken, many years ago, Formula One allowed teams to use more powerful engines and different tires for qualifying.
    I think this is just stupid.

  4. Mike Hull suggested a few years ago that that each car get a fifth engine penalty free just for qualifying and allow the teams to crank it up. I really liked that idea.

  5. Man I am tired of Ganassi being the only team at Indy, need some competition back at this track both on pole day and race day.

  6. I think NASCAR when I think of “Fast Friday”. Contrived is the best word for today. What’s the point of increasing boost for one day? Either all days or no days. Speaking of NASCAR when will they get rid of the IndyCar/NASCAR double header weekend? I make no effort to dislike NASCAR- they just have a knack , and do an excellent job of doing it for me.

    • billytheskink Says:

      To be fair, the increased boost gets used for 3 days.

      I don’t know if IMS’s use of “fast friday” predates the use of the term in NASCAR, but it has been officially used at IMS for about 30 years and was widely but informally used for decades prior to that.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Today should tell us more than the past few days about who might be bump bait. If anyone wrecks today, I would expect them to be in that category as well. I would be all but shocked if a non-Ganassi car won the pole, doubly so if a Honda does not win it.

    The added boost is contrived, but I have never really seen that as a bad thing. Indy qualifying is a show in itself, and is pretty much equivalent to two non-500 race broadcasts for NBC and the series. In practice, it really isn’t all that different from push-to-pass (which is not without its detractors, yes). Much like how drivers had fuel mix settings and “buttons” before P2P, teams would alter not only set-ups but also fuels (adding “pop”, as they used to say) and engines for qualifying. Like P2P, it’s a regulated version of something that has been a part of the sport for a long long time.

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