Simon Pagenaud’s hot streak in Indianapolis continued on Sunday.
After winning the IndyCar Grand Prix on the road course last weekend, Pagenaud delivered once again for The Captain. Simon became the first Frenchman to earn pole position for the race since Rene Thomas 100 years ago. It is the 11th career pole for Pagenaud, and the 18th Indy 500 pole for Team Penske.
Ed Carpenter appeared to have his fourth Indy 500 pole in the bag, until Pagenaud hit the track. Simon had a blistering four-lap average speed of 229.992 mph, just 0.07 seconds faster than Ed’s run. It wasn’t all bad for Carpenter though, as he and his team took the next three positions. Both Carpenter and Spencer Pigot will join Pagenaud on the front row, with Ed Jones on Row 2 with Rookie sensation Colton Herta and defending winner Will Power. Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, and Alexander Rossi will start from Row 3 next Sunday.
Qualification Results for the 103rd Indianapolis 500
While the shootout for pole position is always the highlight of Pole Day at Indianapolis, it was what happened before that had everyone talking. There were six drivers going for the final three spots on the grid, and there were some high profile names in that group. Two of the big names – Sage Karam and James Hinchcliffe both made it into the field on Sunday. The intensity picked up during the final qualifying attempt.
With Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton and Patricio O’Ward already bumped out, the final spot in the field came down to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, and Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser. When Kaiser crossed the yard of bricks, he narrowly edged out Alonso for the 33rd starting position. Alonso and McLaren’s struggles at Indianapolis were apparent from the very start, and they were unable to figure it out. To their credit, both Alonso and the McLaren team were gracious and respectful all month long, even after they were sent home.
It was a remarkable Cinderella story for Ricardo Juncos and his team. Entering the week of practice, the car was painted all white, as they had just lost the second sponsor in just a matter of weeks. Still, Ricardo and the team pushed on, and were opening eyes during each day of practice. They were consistently in the top ten on the no tow charts, and showed they had the speed to make the race. Their setback came on Friday when Kaiser crashed. The team spent all night and all morning preparing the backup car, and their efforts paid off.
Hinchcliffe avoided missing the race for a second consecutive year, which shouldn’t come as a major surprise. They have had speed all month and they too suffered a setback after his crash yesterday during his qualification attempt. It seems whatever was troubling Karam is now behind him, as the team has his car back to where it has been in previous years. Sage appears to have his confidence back, and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the field come race day.
It has been a rough month for Carlin and McLaren, as they just never seemed to get the setups they needed. Hopefully they, along with McLaren and Alonso, will be back next year. There were rumors that they received setup information from Team Penske and other aid from Andretti Autosport, but those rumors were later squashed. As for the rest of qualifying, it is the closest field in Indianapolis 500 history. The time separating Pagenaud’s run and that of slowest qualifier Pippa Mann is 1.8932 seconds, breaking the previous record of 2.1509 seconds in 2014.
There will be one more practice session tomorrow from 12-2, and that will be the final on-track activity until Carb Day.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Well, I’m glad we got to run today. I really wanted to because I thought that would be a great opportunity. I’m super pumped for Team Penske, winning the pole with Simon (Pagenaud) is great. I’m not sure what happened with the No. 2 car, but we just lost speed. It was still great to get a run and I can’t wait to get the Shell V-Power Chevrolet into race conditions. I have all the faith in everybody that we are going to have a great race car. I’m excited for next weekend and now we will focus on that.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Indy, she likes a dramatic day, huh? It’s crazy how it played out. I’m obviously thrilled for the team and all our partners, Honda, Arrow, everybody. I know a year ago I was watching everybody else go out for fast nine, and we weren’t in the show and it sucks. I feel bad for those guys. We’ve got to get back to work tomorrow. We’ve had a really strong car in race trim, so I’m bummed that I wrecked that one, but hopefully it all translates well to the new car and we get back to group running. We’ve got a good rocket ship on our hands. It was deja vu all over again. I told Sam (Schmidt, team owner) before we went out that we are going to try to not do this next year, try not to have it be so dramatic. Again, I just can’t thank everyone at Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda enough. It’s great that all the Hondas got in; that’s obviously a big plus for us as a group. So now it’s just whatever happened, happened and we have to put our eyes forward.”
WILL POWER: “No clue what happened to our speed today. It was easy to drive, but it was slow. I really could not tell you why. It’s unfortunate because we were so close to the top speed yesterday. We’ll study our data pretty hard tonight to see where the speed went. The Verizon 5G Chevrolet was amazing to drive, so much so that I was really dumbfounded when I heard what the times were. Starting sixth is not bad, but I really want a pole here. It’s coming, man. It took a few years to win the race, so it may take a few years to win the pole.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “It was a pretty solid run in the No. 18 SealMaster car. The higher you start, the better it is. We should’ve been a little faster if I had downshifted like I was supposed to, but not a huge deal. We knew with the weather conditions that it was going to be a little tricky to extract more out of the car because the air was denser. At the end of the day, the goal was to get the car in and not make any mistakes. We did that, so at least I feel at peace with myself compared to yesterday. We’ll just try and execute in the race and have a solid day next Sunday”.
ED CARPENTER: “I was hoping one of the three of us was going to get the pole, but finishing 2-3-4 is the next best thing. I’m really proud of the whole team to give us the cars we had, which put us in the position to go out and qualify the way that we did. I’ve said every year, the poles are a credit to the team and their work in the offseason in building the cars. More than anything, the consistency to have all three cars stacked together is special compared to how the other teams are more spread out. Huge thank you to Chevrolet, Preferred Freezer Services, Lineage, SMC, Direct Supply, Autogeek, WeatherTech and Scuderia Corsa with special thanks to Giacomo (Mattioli). It’s been a good month, and hopefully, we can have another couple days of practice to fine-tune the race setup and do what we came here to do – win the Indy 500.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “Yeah, it’s sweet. Starting front row in the Indy 500 is a real honor, and like Ed (Carpenter, team owner) said, a testament to our team. I wouldn’t say I was doing the rain dance all day. I think as race car drivers we love driving Indy cars at the limit and you definitely get a chance to do that here in qualifying. Any chance we get to put four laps of qualifying together here is exciting in the car. So, unfortunately, it was a little short, but like Ed said, great day for the team. (We’re starting) 2, 3, 4, and I think all of us were pretty happy with our race cars Wednesday and Thursday, so we have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be confident about heading into next weekend.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Obviously, it’s my whole team behind me that prepared me to here. It’s a team effort, but obviously, super happy for France. I think this sport is a sport that I know France would really enjoy, and they do, so this can only help gain the recognition over there and in Europe. So obviously, also having (Fernando) Alonso here was great for that. But it’s a team effort. I can’t take this for myself. This is truly what Team Penske does, and they give us the best equipment. Quite frankly, I’m at the very, very end of it all, so I’m just very honored to drive this No. 22 Menards Chevy, which honestly, was incredible today.”
ROGER PENSKE: “I think when you look at Simon’s (Pagenaud) run today, it was amazing to see the consistency over 230 mph, which looked like (Rick) Mears was qualifying there back in the old days. But I just want to congratulate him in front of all of you. We had four good cars. He was strong all month, and I think when we had to execute, there was certainly one guy that was going to get on the pole, and that was Simon. All month they’ve been on the ball, and of course, the momentum coming off the road course win, you’ve got to think about that, too. A combined couple of weeks here has been terrific. Now we have to go on and get the big one.”
SAGE KARAM: “We haven’t had a lot of good days this week. And the team has stuck with me and they have picked me up when I was down. And vice versa. I had a wrestling coach tell me that it doesn’t matter who you are wrestling, the rank, the bracket or anything. It’s all about whose better in those six minutes at that time. We didn’t have it yesterday. But I knew that we just needed to be better than the guys who we were up against today for four laps. I feel like I won the race and I just qualified for it. I was so happy to get this thing in today. I didn’t want to go another sleepless night and be thinking about it. You look at the guys in the last chance six now. There were big names and big teams. We’re a strong one-off race team. And we knew it was not going to be an easy task. I wish I could have run those four laps yesterday. We would be well up the field. But that how Indy works. There are so many doubts at this place. When you can do something special, it really feels great. I had some doubts in the last couple of days. But today really shows that the DRR WIX Filters team has produced when things are on the line. Now, we’ll continue our race setup program on Monday. The race setup is very good. I am confident for next Sunday.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “Our run was great. There are things out of our control right now that are preventing us from going fast here at Indy that need to be addressed. We will deal with them this week. At the end of the day, I don’t think we had anything for the Chevys. We didn’t end up the fastest Honda, which was our goal and I think it is something that the whole No. 27 NAPA Andretti Honda boys earned. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, it is 500 miles and we need to focus on building a good race car. There were much more dramatic things that happened today than us not qualifying fifth or sixth. We are grateful for that and happy to be in the show.”
KYLE KAISER: “It felt like we qualified on pole when I came in, to be honest. It was pretty wild. I didn’t really know right away. Everybody keeps asking, when did you know. I had no idea. I had somewhat of an idea because I got to see the laps, but I heard it was really close. And I came across start finish and first thing I asked was are we in, did we make it, and I just heard screaming, so that was a good sign. But the last 48 hours, like Sage (Karam) said, has been an absolute whirlwind. It’s been crazy. We had really good pace with our main car, but obviously we had an incident, and it’s been just an uphill battle since then. I have to give the team pretty much all the credit here because they’ve been working super long nights. I think they had 40 straight hours of work trying to get that car together, getting us ready to practice the next day at 8:00 a.m., just an unbelievable effort. Obviously, the backup car didn’t have the same pace as our main car, but we didn’t give up. This was just an amazing battle from their end, just looking for every little thing we could do, no matter what it was, sanding the car, just changing pieces, just doing everything possible to try and get the speed out of it, and even yesterday when I don’t think we had a perfect first run, the balance wasn’t quite what we were hoping, it was very difficult conditions, we rallied, we got the balance right later in the day with our other two runs even though the speed wasn’t there, which I think paid off today. We felt like we didn’t need to go out this morning. We had the balance where we wanted it, we got the data we needed yesterday and kind of stuck with our guns, and it really paid off.”
ED JONES: “It was a good day. I qualified fourth for the Indianapolis 500. It’s great for myself, Scuderia Corsa and Ed Carpenter Racing. Having three cars at the front is really positive. Of course, you always want to be on pole, but regardless, it’s great to be up front. It will give us a great chance for the win next Sunday and that’s what it’s all about.”
FERNANDO ALONSO: “Well, I didn’t spend much time with the team yet. I’ve been only in my motorhome and talking with friends or family and following the Fast Nine Shootout. Once you are not anymore in, you try to start relaxing a little bit. It has been a very long qualifying, nearly 56 hours of qualifying from yesterday morning. Yesterday, we were 31st instead of 30th. Today, 34th instead of 33rd by a very small margin, and unfortunately, not fast enough in any or both days. I’m disappointed now. Obviously, it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves and we were not quick enough. I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully, we’ll see a nice show next Sunday, with everyone safe. I will be enjoying from the TV, unfortunately.”
COLTON HERTA: “Another great day for the No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda. I think that was our max like yesterday. We said we’d be happy with fifth place because we didn’t think we had enough for the four guys in front of us. Everyone is just so competitive and quick, but you can win from anywhere here. It didn’t matter if we started fifth or 25th, I was going to be happy either way. The guys have been working so well together and we’ve made it in the show really nicely. So I’m really excited to see what happens next.”