By: Spencer Neff
May 22, 2021
The anticipation and intensity that coincides each year with Indianapolis 500 qualifying returned in spades for Day 1 of setting the field for the 105th running of the race.
On Saturday, positions 10-30 would be locked in.
The five hours and 50 minutes of allotted time would also determine the nine drivers with the quickest four-lap averages who would fight for the pole on Sunday afternoon.
The slowest five drivers would be forced to run in the “Last Row Shootout” before then.
Here is a recap of how the day played out.
Dixon fastest in the field, Power to be among “Last Row Shootout” contenders
After posting the quickest lap on Friday and drawing first to qualify for Saturday, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was among the early favorites for the pole.
The points leader delivered, posting a four-lap average speed of 231.828 miles per hour. The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner stayed atop the speed chart all day and looks for his fourth “500” pole tomorrow.
Honda-powered engines will have seven of the nine pole contenders tomorrow. Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Colton Herta and Dixon’s teammate Tony Kanaan completed the provisional front row sweep.
Kanaan won the pole for the 2005 race while Herta’s best start was fifth in 2019, his rookie season.
Representing Chevrolet tomorrow, the Ed Carpenter Racing duo of Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay turned the fourth and fifth-best times of the day. Carpenter will look for his fourth pole in this race.
VeeKay, who was the only driver to make his way into the Top 9 on his second attempt, started fourth in his 2020 debut.
Making his first start with Meyer Shank Racing, 3-time “500” winner Helio Castroneves ran sixth and will look for his fifth pole in the race.
The provisional Row 3 starters include Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson, putting all four Ganassi entries into pole contention.
Last year, Palou qualified seventh as a rookie for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh. Ericsson made his best qualifying effort in last year’s race as well, starting 11th.
Splitting the CGR duo will be 2014 race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, who previously qualified third for this race in 2012 and 2016.
Just missing out on the Fast 9 was Hunter-Reay’s teammate and 2016 race winner Alexander Rossi, who will start 10th next Sunday,
After initially qualifying 19th, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Ed Jones will start 11th, the same spot he started in when he finished third during his 2017 debut.
On his first attempt, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey dealt with a bad vibration resulting from a malfunctioning right-rear tire. Later in the day, he would qualify 20th, matching his previous best from 2020 as well.
The only other driver to improve their qualifying position during a second attempt was Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist, who moved up to 14th from 18th, tying his previous best Indianapolis 500 start from last year.
Late in the session, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett withdrew his previous attempt, which had him placed 30th.
Although he completed his four laps at a lower speed than his prior run, Kellett became the 30th driver qualified. With Paretta Autosport’s Simona de Silvestro unable to run a quicker speed as the gun sounded at 5:50 p.m. local time, Kellett locked himself in 30th.
In addition to de Silvestro, 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power of Team Penske did not make the Top 30 along with A.J. Foyt Racing’s Charlie Kimball, Dreyer and Reinbold’s Sage Karam and RC Enerson.
Enerson and Top Gun Racing are looking to make their first race and have Enerson as the third rookie in the field. Those five drivers will run to fill out the 11th row on Sunday, with the slowest two drivers going home.
Also of note, the current field average speed is 230.565 mph, which would beat the record set in 2014 (229.382).
Palou crashes during second attempt
After qualifying seventh in his first attempt, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou decided to make a second four-lap run.
During the run, the driver of the No. 10 broke loose and made heavy contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 2. Luckily, the Barber Motorsports Park winner climbed from his car unassisted.
The frustrated Palou was checked, released and cleared to drive after his mandatory visit to the infield care center. Luckily, Palou’s spot in the Fast 9 held up and he will run his repaired Dallara-Honda for the pole on Sunday.
Tomorrow will set the first three rows and the 11th row for the “500”. At 11:00 a.m., the five drivers in the “Last Row Shootout” will be given 30 minutes for practice. Afterward, the Fast 9 will be given 30 minutes of practice as well.
The 75-minute “Last Row Shootout” will begin at 1:15. Each driver is guaranteed one attempt and the session will be open for unlimited attempts once that is done.
At 3:00, the 45-minute “Fast 9” session will begin. Each driver in that session will have one attempt for the NTT P1 Award.
Once both qualifying sessions have been completed, teams will revert to race-day level of boosts. At 5:00, the Field of 33 will have a two-hour practice session, the last before “Carb Day” on Friday.
Stay with IndyCar1909.com for all the latest regarding the Indianapolis 500 and check out our social media accounts for photos and videos from IMS this week.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR