Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing has finished the first day of qualifying for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 as the fastest driver. The American completed his qualifying run, averaging at 230.083-mph, early in the day, with the closing hours of the day almost exclusively dedicated to those trying to fight their way into the field.
At the end of the first day of qualifying, positions ten through thirty on the grid for next Sunday’s race have been locked in. The Fast Nine, led by Pigot, will re-qualify and fight it out for pole position tomorrow, weather permitting. Meanwhile, the slowest six drivers today – Fernando Alonso, James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam, Patricio O’Ward, Max Chilton and Kyle Kaiser – will fight it out for the final three spots on the grid in the Last-Row shootout tomorrow.
Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway always provides drama, especially when drivers are faced with the prospect of being eliminated from the field.
At the other end of the spectrum, many of the faster drivers at the end of the day had a rather relaxed first day of qualifying, many of whom only completing one qualifying run.
By the end of the six hours of qualifying, Ed Carpenter Racing, as many expected, topped the time-sheets. However, the driver who was fastest may have been surprising. American Spencer Pigot set the fastest run in his #21 Chevrolet, with his average speed of 230.083-mph over his four-lap run ultimately being his only run of the day.
Of course, pole position is not set yet. That should come tomorrow during the Fast Nine qualifying session. However, there is a threat of rain tomorrow in Indianapolis and, if the session is rained out, today’s results will decide the pole position.
The gap between Pigot in first-place and Team Penske‘s Will Power in second-place could not have been much closer. Just 0.003-mph separated the pair, with Pigot and Power the only drivers to lap in the 230-mph range during the day. As it stands, Power’s Penske team-mate Simon Pagenaud currently holds the third-fastest time, which would see him start from the final spot on the front-row should he remain in third after tomorrow.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship-leader, Josef Newgarden, ended the day with the fourth fastest time, just ahead of the first driver that made multiple runs during qualifying. That driver was Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta, who had already found himself in seventh place after a stunning first lap in some of the worst track conditions during the heat of the day. He would complete another run later in the day to secure the fifth-fastest time, the best performance by a Honda during the day.
Pace-setter Pigot’s team-mates, Ed Jones and Ed Carpenter, both made the Fast Nine, meaning that all three Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets have made the pole position shoot-out for the second year in a row. Completing the top nine that will fight for pole position tomorrow are Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi and Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais.
Missing out on a spot in the Fast Nine by just three-hundredths of a second was Marco Andretti. He is the first driver locked into his qualifying position in tenth place, closely followed by his team-mate Conor Daly, who was elated with eleventh-place for his one-off appearance this year. On the flipside, twelfth-placed Helio Castroneves was rather disappointed not to make the top nine, but many drivers have won from much deeper in the field than twelfth on the grid.
Marcus Ericsson put in a solid qualifying run to take thirteenth-place on the grid, putting himself as the second-highest placed rookie after fifth-placed Herta. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson driver qualified just ahead of 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and thirteenth-placed James Davison; who impressed in the #33 car.
Davison qualified ahead of a host of fellow one-off entries. Further back, Oriol Servia took the #77 Team Stange Racing Honda to a solid nineteenth-place on the grid, just ahead of the sole Carlin inside the top thirty; Charlie Kimball.
A run in the final half an hour of the day saved Dreyer & Reinbold Racing‘s J.R. Hildebrand from the Last-Row shootout tomorrow. He jumped all the way up to twenty-first with a fantastic final run, putting himself just ahead of former Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in twenty-second.
British drivers Jack Harvey, Jordan King and Ben Hanley will line-up nose-to-tail in positions twenty-five through twenty-seven next Sunday. It was a fantastic performance in particular for Hanley in the #81 DragonSpeed Chevrolet, putting in a giant-killing performance late in the day to save himself from having to qualify again tomorrow.
The final three drivers locked into the field had a nerve-wracking final few minutes of qualifying as the track slowly got faster as the temperature dropped. Zach Veach will start twenty-eighth ahead of rookie Felix Rosenqvist in twenty-ninth; who put in a decent run to rebound from his hard crash in practice earlier in the week.
The final locked-in position went the way of Clauson-Marshall Racing‘s Pippa Mann; who avoided the Last-Row shootout by just one-hundredth of a second. After the heartbreak of failing to qualify twelve months ago, Mann was emotional for an entirely different reason today; exclaiming her pride with the new team, Clauson-Marshall Racing, after they secured their spot in the 500.
The final six drivers on the time-sheet will all take part in the Last-Row shootout tomorrow. In the session, the fastest three drivers will make it onto the grid, whilst the slowest three will be bumped from the field and will have the devastating consequence of having to watch next weekend’s race from the sidelines.
The thirty-first driver today, missing out on a locked-in spot by just one-hundredth of a second, was McLaren Racing‘s, Fernando Alonso. After a torrid few days of practice, which included a hard crash on day two, Alonso and McLaren have been struggling to find speed in the #66 McLaren Chevrolet. Alonso was visibly frustrated throughout the day and will now have to refocus to make sure he makes the race after tomorrow’s shootout.
For the second year in a row, 2016 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe is under threat of being eliminated from the field. James suffered a hard crash on his first qualifying run early in the day, losing control at turn two and slamming the outside wall. The car briefly turned over during the crash, but James was thankfully able to walk away under his own power, albeit with a limp.
The Arrow Schmidt Peterson team immediately went to work preparing the back-up #5 car, with the team bringing in mechanics from their other cars to help with the build. After an amazing effort, Hinchcliffe would return to the track a few hours later, but without the speed of his primary car. He set the thirty-second fastest time and will have to fight for a spot in the field tomorrow.
Thirty-third was Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam, who has struggled with confidence and speed in his #24 Chevrolet for the last few days. Just behind him, in thirty-fourth place, was Carlin’s Patricio O’Ward, who could not find enough speed in his #31 Chevrolet back-up car following his crash earlier in the week. Despite being in a back-up, he still managed to run faster than team-mate Max Chilton, who also faces the prospect of elimination tomorrow after setting the thirty-fifth fastest time.
The final driver in the Last-Row shootout tomorrow will be Juncos Racing‘s, Kyle Kaiser. Similar to the likes of O’Ward, Rosenqvist, Hinchcliffe and Alonso ahead of him, Kaiser was still lacking speed following his transition to a back-up car after crashing in practice yesterday. After showing impressive speed earlier in the week, it would be a massive shame to see Kaiser eliminated after the conclusion of qualifying tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s on-track action will begin with a practice session, followed by the Last-Row shootout for the slowest six drivers. After the final three drivers have claimed their spots on the grid, the fastest nine drivers from today will return to the circuit to fight it out for pole position for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 – Qualifying day one results:
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