The qualifying for the 104th Indianapolis 500 was run as normal over two days.
Even though the race has been moved from May to August, and no specators allowed into the circuit, the regular practice sessions and qualifyings will still be run almost with no change.
The qualifying however wasn’t as nerve-wrecking as for the last few years, since the NTT IndyCar Series only crawled its way onto 33 entries. There are 33 starting spots on the grid, and with the 31 cars confirmed with one and a half weeks prior to the first practice, the series gave som unofficial help to some teams, so they could enter a car.
The Saturday was for positions 10 to 33. The majority of the drivers only gave it one shot in the Qualifying, but a few tried to improve a little on their first shot.
There fortunately wasn’t any accidents, and the conditions for the drivers were very close at being equal for everybody.
There were both positive and negative surprises.
The positive was an Andretti Autosport 1-4 on the Saturday, with Marco Andretti fastest ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe. Scott Dixon at Chip Ganassi Racing was already in top 9 in his first go, but made his way into 5th ahead of the best – and only – Chevrolet driver in top 9, Rinus VeeKay. VeeKay did an awesome job for Ed Carpenter Racing, out qualifying his team boss by 10 positions, which was a huge surprise, since Carpenter himself is a bit of a Pole expected at Indy. Alex Palou at Dale Coyne Racing w/Team Goh was the other Rookie other than VeeKay in top 9, while the Rahal Letterman Lanigan drivers Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato were the last two in top 9.
Andretti driver Colton Herta and CGR driver Marcus Ericsson were right outside top 9, and even with their extra tries, didn’t manage to make it into top 9.
One of the big negative surprises, other than Ed Carpenter himself, was all Team Penske drivers. Josef Newgarden was P13, 2018 winner Will Power P22, lasts years winner Simon Pagenaud P25, and the triple Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves all the way back in P28.
Fernando Alonso had another guest appearance, but with the Chevy powered Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson, he only managed P26, while teammates Patricio O’Ward was P15 and Oliver Askew was P21.
Ben Hanley with DragonSpeed was the slowest of them all. While the fastest drivers on the Saturday did 231,351 Mph, it was only possible to do 222,917 Mph for Hanley – just over 3 Mph slower than the second slowest driver, JR Hildebrand at Dreyer and Reinbold Racing.
Sunday was the time for Fast Nine. They had the option of a morning practice before the qualifying, but only Sato and Rahal decided to practice a little with 13 and 10 laps respectively. Sato pushed quite a lot, while Rahal was a bit more gentle on the throttle.
The weather conditions had changed quite a lot compared to the day before, with cooler temperatures and stronger winds, which really could affect the cars in Turn 1 and 2.
Takuma Sato was the first driver out in the qualifying, and did 230 Mph on all laps of the quali.
Graham Rahal was the next driver out, and was slower on all laps, and even had to lift on his fourth lap, when he was close to hitting the wall in Turn 1.
Alex Palou put down an impressive first lap, but his average dipped so much over the four laps, that he was slowest of the three so far.
Rinus VeeKay was on his way to be faster than Sato, but the very final lap was a bit too slow, so put him in a close seond.
Scott Dixon was the first driver to post two laps in the 231 Mph range, and ended up the fastest of the 5 drivers so far.
James Hinchcliffe did 4 very secure laps, but the times got slower and slower, and ended up sitting fourth out of the six drivers so far.
Alexander Rossi had four very messy laps, where he had to lift several times, and he turned out to be slowest of all so far.
Ryan Hunter-Reay did very well at the start, with a very good first lap, but still ended up fourth out of the eight driver until that point.
Marco Andretti posted the fastest first lap of all, and followed it up by another good lap. It was starting to be very close on lap three, but he just made it, and took Pole Position.
This is the first time since 1987 for an Andretti to be on Pole – back then it was granddad Mario. His father, Michael, never had Pole at the iconic track.
The drivers have one more chance to test the cars later today, and then four days of PR work around the USA. They will return to the cars on Friday, which is the last possibility to test the cars ahead of the race, which will be run next Sunday.
The full starting grid for the Indianapolis 500 2020 can be found here.