Pagenaud Leads Field on Fast Friday; Qualifying Format Breakdown

This article was originally published on MTAF Wheels, which is now dark. Thank you for enjoying it here through the Live Full Throttle Archives. 

It is upon us, folks. Qualifying weekend for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500!

We ended Fast Friday with Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud topping the leaderboard with a 230.698 mph. When asked what kind of speeds we might see in qualifying day 1 tomorrow, he explained that if it is warm again like it was today, we should see top averages at 230 mph, but if it ends up cooler like it was on Thursday, we could expect those numbers to jump up to 233 mph.

Sage Karam of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams spoke with similar sentiments, estimating the pole speed around 231 mph on Sunday. Karam also discussed what he sees as the biggest difference between running Indy Lights and IndyCar: the traffic. He noted how the Indy Lights field ran nose to tail in the Freedom 100 back in 2013 for essentially, the entire race. Karam won the Lights Championship that season and had something pretty poignant to say when comparing the racing in MRTI to that of IndyCar,

“Passing in this series (IndyCar) is truly an art.” – Sage Karam

Gabby Chaves from Bryan Herta Autosport, agreed with those comments. Chaves is the most recent Lights Champ and he placed P7 in today’s practice with a best lap speed of 229.891. He was the second quickest Honda on track, with only Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport ahead of him in P4.

The oval kits seem to be equalizing the field with Chevy only at a slight advantage. The field is not nearly as split as we’ve been used to seeing with road courses and street circuits this season. Keep in mind, these are the results racing in practice only. Occasional passing occurs but we have yet to see how these new oval kits will handle in full field traffic. Of course, there is only one way to see how that works… and that is at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on May 24th. But who will be in that field, what order will they be taking the green, and who will be bumped from the pack? Well, that’s why we are here this weekend!

In case you need a refresher course on how the new qualifications process works, the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been gracious enough to provide us with a simplified version of the segments. I’ve broken it up so you can take a close look at each one. If you have any questions at all, please reach out to me on Twitter and I would be happy to answer those inquiries.

Qualifying Day 1:

Saturday May 16th – Otherwise known as “Bump Day”. We will have a legitimate bump occur this year since there are 34 entrants and only 33 grid positions in the Indy 500.


Qualifying Day 2:

Sunday May 17th – Pole Day is now home to the newly branded “Fast Nine ShootOut”.


Qualifying Lanes:

This is a good reference if you are watching from home or even from the front stretch grandstands.