Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Preview

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Things are about to get serious at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today is Fast Friday – the last day before qualifying and the first day with the turned-up boost. I’ve never been a fan of the turned-up boost for Fast Friday and qualifying. It’s an artificial gimmick just to attract attention to make it look like the cars are faster than they are. I think that whatever the drivers have been practicing with and what they will race with is what they should have for qualifying too. So there’s my annual rant on that subject.

The weather could play a major factor, which may ultimately not be a bad thing. The forecast for Sunday is worse than Saturday. There is no official contingency plan that I know of, but there are rumblings that if Sunday is a washout, they may just go with whatever speed the drivers set on Saturday.

Remember that under this new convoluted system, drivers officially qualify to make the race on Saturday, set the Fast Nine and the back row. Then they run for position within those three groups on Sunday – including the pole. If there were forty cars entered, Saturday qualifying would have some drama. This year, there are only thirty-three cars entered. About the only drama would be to either get into the Fast Nine or stay out of the last three.

But with an ominous forecast for Sunday – Saturday’s runs could take on added importance. That doesn’t mean it will – they could push Pole Day qualifying to Monday. I’m hoping that’s not the case. Most of us have to work on Monday. Hardly any people would be there, nor would many be able to watch on television – assuming a Monday rain date would even be televised.

But I’m thinking that the series/speedway officials will inform teams that Saturday’s final times will count if they are unable to run on Sunday. That would be fair and would allow everyone to put a little more emphasis on Saturday’s times.

It’s been an odd week of practice so far. Monday’s opening speeds were quicker than I expected, with Marco Andretti pacing the field at 226.338 mph. Tuesday it appeared everyone was working on race setups, so the speeds were down. On Wednesday, very few teams even went out due to the high winds which saw some gusts exceed forty miles per hour. Yesterday, Josef Newgarden had a hard crash in Turn One, when he actually missed the SAFER Barrier. He hobbled away and was cleared to drive, but I’ll bet he is sore this morning. Jay Howard set the fastest lap of the day and the month with a lap of 226.744. It was admittedly in a tow, but so was Marco’s on Monday. It’s still an impressive lap.

Buddy Lazier did get on track yesterday, in case you were worried that thirty-three cars may not show up. Let’s just hope Buddy doesn’t suffer any mishap through the weekend. I’m not sure his small team can absorb many repair bills.

So today, the teams will have their added boost and they’ll be focusing mostly on qualifying throughout the day – hence the name Fast Friday. I really have no clue who will win the pole this weekend. But just for kicks, I’ll make a guess – and that’s all it will be is a guess. I’m going to go with a hard luck driver this year who knows how to get around at Indianapolis. I’m going with Marco Andretti.

Susan and I are actually riding up together for the first time all season. The plan is to arrive onsite around 11:30 local time – about thirty minutes before practice starts. We will be at the track all weekend. Consequently, I’ll be posting here all weekend. Please check back throughout the weekend. Also, please follow us on Twitter for more photos and comments. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog, and Susan at @MrsOilpressure. I’ll post later today after we get to the track. Please check back later.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Preview”

  1. S0CSeven Says:

    With a massive field of 33 cars fighting for 33 spots, what happens if someone walls their car in late qualifying and the car is totalled?
    The car is in the race not the driver.

    Can Penske just whip out their nth entry and assume the spot from someone else or is there actually a point when 32 cars might actually be possible?

    • billytheskink Says:

      Well, Alex Tagliani started last year’s 500 without technically posting a qualifying time, he wrecked during Sunday’s session. Of course, he didn’t total the car. He also did complete a qualifying run on Saturday.

      If a car is totaled and can’t start and the team fielding the entry doesn’t have a backup there could be 32 starters, though I suspect efforts would be made to find a car for the wrecked entry to lease/borrow/use by Carb Day.

  2. Stay dry. It is wet there this morning.

  3. tonelok Says:

    IMHO boost needs to be cranked up all week for practice, qualifying and the race. I have to admit every year I have to check the qualifying rules and schedule because it changes every year so I feel like I’m on my heels trying to figure it out. I consider myself an interested fan so if I am having to get educated on the rules for qualifying, how do casual fans feel? IndyCar are you listening?

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    I am getting a bit concerned about the current weather pattern in the midwest and what that may mean for the 500. Here in Wisconsin we have had rain and strong winds on an almost daily basis with the same predicted for all of next week. Yesterday morning the wind blew my Menards tractor shelter (10′ x 10′ x 20′) into another time zone. I had to retrieve it upside down from a neighbor’s field. When faced with situations like this I often ask myself what would Red Green do? Those who know me well know that I have raised ordinary procrastination to an art form. I am reluctant to use up valuable bar time to turn it over right away. Anyway, I hope and pray that the forecast for race day is not one of those “30% chance of rain and strong winds” deals that make event planners, race teams, and race fans crazy.

  5. My pick for the pole is RHR or Ed Carpenter. I would like to see Alonso in the “fast nine” if we don’t get rained out.

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