until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Who's at risk and who's flying after day one of Indy 500 qualifying

by Jack Benyon
11 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Penske looking set for redemption, rebounding after its St Pete disqualification disgrace; a driver who crashed in the morning overcoming all odds to have a chance at pole; and two major stars including a previous winner fighting to stay in the event.

That’s just a small snapshot of the first day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying.

Will Power set the fastest time as the Penske drivers only had to run once early on to establish their dominance, as Chevrolet held nine of the top 12 positions.

NASCAR crossover star Kyle Larson was sixth and has a chance to fight for pole tomorrow on his series debut, before hot-footing it over to North Wilkesboro for NASCAR's All Star Race.

On Sunday, the fastest six of today’s Top 12 will go through to a six-car pole shootout.

Top 12

1 Will Power 233.758mph
2 Scott McLaughlin 233.332mph
3 Josef Newgarden 233.293mph
4 Alexander Rossi 233.069mph
5 Kyle Kirkwood 232.764mph
6 Kyle Larson 232.563mph
7 Felix Rosenqvist 232.547mph
8 Santino Ferrucci 232.496mph
9 Takuma Sato 232.473mph
10 Pato O’Ward 232.434mph
11 Rinus VeeKay 232.419mph
12 Ryan Hunter-Reay 232.385mph

The drivers from 31th to 34th will also qualify again in Bump Day, and one driver will fail to qualify for the 33-car grid.

Bump Day

31 Katherine Legge
32 Marcus Ericsson
33 Graham Rahal
34 Nolan Siegel

The drivers in between won't appear again tomorrow because they have qualified.

Here are the stories of the day in more detail.

Penske delivers

The only thing Power got wrong on the first day of qualifying was predicting who would be quickest - on Friday he reckoned team-mate Josef Newgarden had the car to beat!

The Penske cars were 1-2-3 in practice and they backed that up in qualifying, with Power and Newgarden swapped places sandwiching the other Penske car of Scott McLaughlin.

None of the three has scored pole position in the Indy 500 before - even Power, IndyCar’s most successful qualifier with 70 poles - but they all ran among the first 10 cars to qualify and we didn’t see any of them again thereafter.

"I would like to have run in the heat, but Roger [Penske] didn't want us to go out," Power explained.

Alexander Rossi was the only driver that looked in the same zip code as the trio, as the only drivers to breach a 233mph four-lap average.

It’s hard to imagine anything robbing one of these aces of pole. But there might be one thing out of their control (more on that shortly).


Rinus VeeKay’s lowest start at the Indy 500 is fourth, in his rookie year, he’s been on the front row every year since. 

He started the day by crashing out of his first qualifying run, but by sheer will of his team and by driving with spectacular bravery as his Mum prayed in pitlane, he jumped from 28th to 11th with the penultimate lap of a six-hour qualifying day.

VeeKay had drawn a nice starting number of fourth for his first run - but his crash looked to have guaranteed he would be fighting on Sunday to get into the race in Bump Day. With two hours to go he was back out and put his car in the field in 28th.

It was a huge risk to go for the penultimate run of the session because, to do so, he had to pull his previous time. If he’d had a mechanical issue or crashed, he would have lost that 28th place and faced Bump Day on Sunday.

“Started the day with probably the biggest heartbreak there is,” he said afterwards. “I don’t know what the pole feels like but this is better.”

“This crew deserves 1,000 dinners and a lot of beer,” he added.

He’ll now go into tomorrow with the chance to fight for pole, not to get in the race.


From nowhere, sophomore driver Agustin Canapino - still relatively new to single-seaters after his switch from touring cars last year - looked set to jump from 21st to inside the top five in the last 20 minutes but a loss of power in his third lap led to a totally uncharacteristic and almost animalistic cry on the radio as he watched his time slip away.

Peacock TV cameras cut to his crew who were swearing and throwing their arms in the air.

Grid positions set for the 2024 Indy 500

13 Colton Herta 232.316mph
14 Alex Palou 232.306mph
15 Callum Ilott 232.230mph
16 Marcus Armstrong 232.183mph
17 Ed Carpenter 232.017mph
18 Kyffin Simpson 231.948mph
19 Marco Andretti 231.890mph
20 Helio Castroneves 231.871mph
21 Scott Dixon 231.851mph
22 Agustin Canapino 231.847mph
23 Sting Ray Robb 231.826mph
24 Christian Rasmussen 231.682mph
25 Tom Blomqvist 231.578mph
26 Romain Grosjean 231.514mph
27 Linus Lundqvist 231.506mph
28 Christian Lundgaard 231.157mph
29 Conor Daly 231.243mph
30 Pietro Fittipaldi 231.300mph

For the team that knocked Fernando Alonso out of the 2019 event, this was a goliath-killing too far for Juncos Hollinger Racing. Someone tripped David over during the battle.

Canapino's team-mate Romain Grosjean was desperate to run in the closing stages as he sat 25th. But he didn’t get out for a final run and dropped one place to 26th.

Juncos wasn't the only team to struggle with a loss of power.

These issues might be the only thing that can cost Penske pole. A momentary power loss tomorrow would be critical as the Top 12 and Fast Six fights for pole only feature one attempt for each driver.

GM's vice president, performance and motorsports Jim Campbell says the marque will have dynos around the world running overnight and the usual team at the track pouring over the data. At least no engines were harmed in these incidents, he confirmed. "We feel terrible," he added.

After Pato O’Ward and Kyle Larson had the problem early on, rookie Christian Rasmussen was tracking to move into the Top 12 or very close when the issue hit him in the closing stages. His team-mate Ed Carpenter was in a similar situation and Conor Daly was fighting to avoid Bump Day when the issue struck him. Canapino’s issue appeared to be the same.

According to sources, Chevrolet attempted some sort of calibration change late on but it didn’t appear to totally fix the issue. It still didn't stop nine of the Fast 12 being Chevrolet-powered.

No doubt Chevrolet will be looking to see if certain conditions or something teams are doing is partly to blame. It’s an issue more prevalent on road and street courses - it cost O’Ward a win at St Pete in 2023 - but doesn’t regularly strike on ovals.

The knowledge of these issues made VeeKay’s gamble to go for the late run and pull his time an even more critical risk. Praise to him and his crew for having the guts to call it.

Honda didn’t escape without issues either.

Alex Palou and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi and Graham Rahal - strong on the no-tow times on Saturday - all needed engine changes over Fast Friday and the first day of qualifying.

Ganassi's returning drivers in Indy 500 quali

Saturday 2023

Palou 233.398mph (3rd)
Dixon 233.375mph (5th)

Saturday 2024

Palou 232.306mph (14th)
Dixon 231.851mph (21st)

Ganassi has taken the last three poles and managed laps in the 234mph range the last two years, but isn’t in that window last year and has gone backwards.

There’s a harder tyre and some tweaked aero parts, but paddock sources seem to insinuate the Honda package isn’t as strong as Chevrolet’s with qualifying boost.

However, Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti and Felix Rosenqvist of Meyer Shank made the top seven, so it can’t all be down to the engine package.

A host of late improvements bumped Palou - the last Ganassi in the Top 12 - out of the action, meaning none of its five cars will be out competing on Sunday.

More on Rahal shortly...

McLaren’s rollercoaster day

Out of its four cars, by the end of the guaranteed on-track qualifying runs, McLaren didn’t have a single car in the race!

Larson was first out and on his second lap a plenum event caused him to abort his first Indy 500 qualifying run in one of the most anticipated debuts at this race in its history, given Larson’s popularity and reputation for racing in lost of different series sometimes driving three times a week.

Callum Ilott was next and was the only McLaren driver to deliver four laps and did so in a respectable time that was in the top 10, until the run was disallowed because a left-rear wheel non-compliance.

O’Ward had pulled out of 23rd in line because McLaren felt it needed to make changes to set-up for the conditions, and Rossi left the line because he was the last driver to run, and decided to stay in his garage to keep his car cool rather than let it bake for hours on pitlane.

The bad luck continued when a loss of power from a plenum event - like Larson - for O’Ward on his first run left him needing to improve.

"We have our meeting in 20 minutes [about it]. It's certainly an area for concern. But I don't have an answer," Rossi said after qualifying when asked about the plenum event.

"I'm not equipped enough from an engineering standpoint to answer it, but I know it's a fairly random event.

"There's no rhyme or reason why it happens. It's kind of something we need to figure out for sure."

Luckily things looked up from there!

Rossi’s first run was good enough for fourth and being the first non-Penske. Larson followed with the sixth-fastest time, continuing to impress with his 'almost horizontal' laid-back approach to the event. Nothing appears to phase the 31-year-old NASCAR champion.

“Never in 21 years was I that relaxed,” said McLaren's sporting director and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan of Larson, who had a right to be worked up after his previous issues but just took everything on the chin.

Things were more complicated for O’Ward and Ilott, who both had to do two runs to get into the window of where they wanted to be. On O’Ward’s first, he said the team had identified something that should put him in the top 12, and he managed just that with the next run.

Ilott wasn’t as lucky, missing out on the Top 12 by just 0.0039s over 10 miles and four laps, before being bumped down further later in the session. 

He'll start 15th.

2022 winner fighting for his life

Marcus Ericsson came close to being a double 500 winner last year but might not even make this event.

“This event has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” he said, calling today the second of the two.

 "I can only blame myself. I crashed our primary car on Thursday and put us in a difficult spot. I think the team has done a really good job at building up the backup car and really putting in a lot of work yesterday to try and dial it in.

"Again today they were out there pushing all day to try and find speed and get me out there for new runs. Very thankful of that. But of course it's very frustrating, very disappointing. Yeah, tough couple of days."

After a crash on Thursday at Turn 4 when he dipped the front-left wheel onto the no-go concrete down low and crashed, he’s in a back-up car and it just doesn’t have the speed. It’s not a car that’s been worked on for six-to-12 months in prep for the 500 - it’s been hastily thrown together and it’s lacking.

He did more attempts than anyone - five - but will be joining the other cars in Bump Day.

Those other cars are a single Rahal car - down from three last year - and two Coyne entries.

31 Katherine Legge
32 Marcus Ericsson
33 Graham Rahal
34 Nolan Siegel

Nolan Siegel crashed on Friday which meant a huge rebuild similar to Ericsson and he struggled even more, while Katherine Legge’s sister car looked unruly all day.

Graham Rahal was bumped out of last year’s race and is at risk of another ignominious miss.

Rahal’s car needed the fresh engine and he tried four runs, including the last of qualifying, but he said the car “didn’t pull” and there’s not much he could do in that scenario.

It will be a busy night for all of these drivers.

While Rahal is trying to fight to get in the show, his team-mate Takuma Sato has a chance to fight for pole! Returning to the team for the first time since 2022 after spells with Coyne and Ganassi, 2017 and 2020 winner Sato has almost exclusively worked on qualifying set-up earlier this week and it has paid off with his usual flare.

The fight for 12th

Amid the Chevy plenum events inside the last two hours Ryan Hunter-Reay pulled off a staggering run to jump his Indy-only Dreyer & Reinbold car into the Top 12.

Hunter-Reay bumped out last year’s pole winner Palou with his run, jumping from 23rd on the grid to what would eventually be 12th after VeeKay jumped in and bumped out Colton Herta.

Palou will start 14th, ahead of Ilott, both of whom may have been able to fight for a top 12 space had they got chance to go again.

Sunday schedule

Fast 12 practice: 1130-1230
Last Chance qualifiers' practice: 1230-1330
Fast 12 qualifying: 1505-1605
Last Chance qualifying: 1615-1715
Fast Six qualifying: 1725-1755

All times ET (GMT-4)

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