After a jam-packed day of qualifying Saturday, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is back in action today for Day 2 of Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Fans saw speeds top 232 mph Saturday, and each time a driver hit that top speed, the socially-distanced crowd in attendance emphatically cheered for the daring athletes. Also in play was hot weather conditions that made teams strategically decide when they should make another qualifying attempt and risk slick track conditions.
That strategy created a bottleneck at the two qualifying lines near pit road, ratcheting up the intensity as drivers fought for one last chance to lock themselves into the top 30 for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30.
Weather looks to play a pivotal role in qualifying yet again today. It is expected to be partly cloudy and near 83 degrees when Last Chance Qualifying starts at 1:15 p.m. (ET), with 44 percent humidity and 6 mph winds. The Firestone Fast Nine Shootout is expected to happen under partly cloudy skies at 3 p.m., as well, with highs near 85, 43 percent humidity and 7 mph winds.
The action starts today at 11 a.m. with Last Chance Qualifying practice, followed by Firestone Fast Nine Shootout practice at 11:30 a.m. Both sessions can be seen live on Peacock Premium. Then, Last Chance Qualifying will air live at 1:15 p.m. live on NBCSN and Peacock Premium. The Firestone Fast Nine Shootout will begin at 3 p.m. ET, with live coverage on NBC and Peacock Premium.
Here’s what you need to know to be ready for today’s qualifying sessions.
The Last Chance
Five drivers are vying for the final three spots for the Indy 500 on Sunday, May 30 in Last Chance Qualifying. During this session, lifelong dreams will be made, and hearts will be broken as positions 31-33 are set.
Those five drivers are: Simona De Silvestro, RC Enerson, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball and Will Power.
Each entry is guaranteed one qualifying attempt, with the initial order of Karam, Power, Enerson, De Silvestro and Kimball. After these drivers make a four-lap attempt, the field opens for “bumping,” and drivers can make multiple attempts until time expires. If multiple attempts are made, previous times are withdrawn and the most recent time remains eligible.
When the session ends at 2:30 p.m., the three drivers with the fastest four-lap averages will be in the field, and the other two will officially be bumped from “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Other Last Chance Qualifying Notes
- This is the third consecutive year Karam has been qualifying for the last row of the Indy 500. Each of the two previous times, he has started 31st.
- Team Penske hasn’t failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 it has entered since 1995, and it hasn’t put a car on the last row since Mario Andretti started 33rd for the organization in 1978. But there was a catch that year. Mike Hiss qualified the car for Andretti, who missed Indy qualifying to participate in the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix. Hiss qualified the car eighth, but the driver switch forced Andretti to start from the rear of the field.
- Kimball has never qualified on the last row (his worst starting spot is 29th, last year), but he has a history of working his way up from deep in the field.
- Enerson’s Top Gun Racing and De Silvestro’s Paretta Autosport teams are making their first attempts at the Indianapolis 500. While the situation isn’t ideal, the last time an underdog team was put in their shoes was 2019 with Juncos Racing, and that team bumped two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso from the field.
Who is No. 1?
Perfect laps will take the fastest drivers of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to the top. The nine fastest drivers from Saturday’s qualifying session will have their times reset for today as they vie for the NTT P1 Award for pole position, but only one driver will go down in history as an Indianapolis 500 pole winner.
The qualifying order for today’s Firestone Fast Nine is based on Saturday’s times, slowest to fastest. Each entry is guaranteed one attempt. The session will not open to more attempts once each driver has made a four-lap attempt.
That order is: Marcus Ericsson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alex Palou, Helio Castroneves, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Colton Herta and Scott Dixon.
The Firestone Fast Nine Shootout is brimming with potential pole winners, but none look more poised to be the fastest driver than Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda. Dixon is trying to earn his fourth Indy 500 pole. Rick Mears holds the record with six.
Other Firestone Fast Nine Shootout Notes
- This is the first time Castroneves will qualify in the top 10 since 2017.
- This is the sixth consecutive Firestone Fast Nine Shootout appearance for Ed Carpenter Racing, which put Carpenter and VeeKay in the session.
- Carpenter is aiming for his fourth career Indianapolis 500 pole position, which will tie him for the second-most poles in “500” history.
- This is Ericsson’s first Firestone Fast Nine Shootout appearance.
- Palou and VeeKay only qualify in the top nine – both drivers are in the Firestone Fast Nine Shootout for the second straight year ahead of their second starts in the race.
What Do These Results Mean?
A driver’s starting spot in the Indianapolis 500 matters.
Since 2017, the winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has started inside the top five, when Takuma Sato won his first Indy 500 from the fourth starting position. Sato started third on his way to his second win last August.
This isn’t a recent trend, either. Since 2003, just six race winners have started outside the top 10.
That trend could end this year, though. Drivers said last week in practice that aerodynamic changes mandated by INDYCAR should create even more passing and competition in this year’s race.
The farthest back any Indy 500 winner has ever started is 28th, and it has happened twice. Ray Harroun won the first Indy 500 in 1911 from that starting position, and Louis Meyer also earned his third and final 500-Mile Race victory from that spot.