McLaren Drivers Put On A Show in Day 1 Qualifying at Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 21 2023

Alexander Rossi helped lead the McLaren charge during Day 1 Qualifying at Indy on Saturday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

McLaren teammates Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi pegged the “fun meter” during an historic day of qualifying Saturday for the 107th Indianapolis 500, setting the stage for a 230-plus mph shootout today against Chip Ganassi Racing for the NTT P1 Award.

Rosenqvist turned the third-fastest four-lap/10-mile qualifying run around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway _ a blistering 233.947 mph _ at 4:42 p.m. (EDT) Saturday to lock-in P1 among the 12 drivers who will compete for pole position today. Only two-time Indy 500 champion Arie Luyendyk’s all-time record run of 236.986 mph set in 1996 and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon’s pole run of 234.048 mph last May were faster.

“Super-proud of the whole team for executing,” said Rosenqvist, a 31-year-old native of Sweden whose earlier qualifying attempt in the No. 6 Chevrolet was clocked at 233.099 mph. “That last run we did was just phenomenal. Almost in a 234 average. That was pretty mind-blowing, how we found so much speed. We weren’t super-happy on our first run, so we had two or three reasons to think we were going to go quicker. We kind of put them all together. Wow, what a run.

“Yeah, just a fun time to be in Arrow McLaren right now. Everything kind of resets (Sunday), but we’re definitely feeling good right now.”

Teammate Rossi, winner of the landmark 100th Indy 500 for Andretti Autosport in 2016, ended the day second overall at 233.528 mph in the No. 7 Chevrolet. “An amazing team day,” Rossi said. “I don’t have enough to say about the whole group. To get four cars in the top-12 _ I can’t put into words how challenging that is. It’s really special to be a part of. (Sunday) is going to be an amazing day, and hopefully one of us can be on-pole.”

Katherine Legge made history at Indy on Saturday.

Open-wheel veteran Tony Kanaan, winner of the 2013 Indy 500 for KV Racing Technology-SH Racing, was sixth at 233.347 mph in the No. 66 McLaren Chevrolet in what is being billed as the popular Brazilian’s final NTT IndyCar Series start.

“We started the day a little bit more conservative,” said Kanaan, 48. “We just kept digging. I need to thank definitely my teammates for it. They’re all-in. They kept supporting me, asking me, ‘You got to do it again, you got to do it again.’ We finally on the last run nailed it. Great team effort. It was nice. It was unexpected, especially I don’t think I’ve ever done that many qualifying attempts in this place. I guess because it’s my last one they kept sending me out, so it paid off.”

In addition, native Mexican Pato O’Ward _ runnerup to 2022 Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson of CGR _ qualified eighth at 233.252 mph in the No. 5 McLaren Chevy.

“Saturday qualifying for the Indy 500 is, I think, the coolest day in motorsports,” said Gavin Ward, race director at Arrow McLaren INDYCAR. “It can go either way on you. Today was a good day. We wanted to give each of our cars a shot at the pole, and we’ve got that _ all four in the top-eight and the two quickest of the day. (Sunday) is the day that counts, though. Strong day for the team. Let’s have some fun.”

Indeed, while McLaren momentarily put the brakes on Chip Ganassi Racing’s three-day stay atop the practice speed chart, CGR methodically placed its four drivers in the top-10. Spaniard Alex Palou, the 2021 series champion, led the Ganassi juggernaut in third at 233.398 mph in the No. 10 Honda.

“It was a good day,” Palou said. “It was tough for the crew, making some changes late to the car. But the speed today was really good. We were a bit worried about the draw that we had. The field is really tight and starting 20th wasn’t ideal. But honestly, it was really good. We qualified third and we’re in the Fast 12. It was the target for today and hopefully we can make a couple of changes and be ready to fight for the Fast Six.”

Dutchman Rinus VeeKay was fourth at 233.395 mph in the No. 21 Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing, with six-time series champion and native New Zealander Dixon fifth at 233.375 mph in the No. 9 CGR Honda. Two-time Indy 500 champ Takuma Sato of Japan was seventh at 233.322 mph in Ganassi’s No. 11 Honda, with reigning 500 winner Ericsson 10th at 233.030 mph in the No. 8 Honda.

“As usual, a pretty stressful day,” said Ericsson, a 31-year-old native of Sweden. “Our first two attempts were OK but not perfect, and with the competitiveness of the field you need to be as close to perfect as possible. The No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda crew did a really good job to get the car in the window. The last attempt was really solid and I expect the same for (Sunday). It’s a new day, where all four Ganassi cars will be out there, which is impressive. It shows the strength of the organization.”

Saturday was not a good day for the Rahal family at Indy.

The 107th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is set for Sunday, May 28. Positions 13-30 in the traditional 33-car field were determined Saturday. Qualifying action will continue today during Firestone Fast Six runs for the pole position as well as the drama surrounding Last Chance Qualifying.

The 12 fastest drivers from Saturday will participate in Top-12 Qualifying from 2 to 3 p.m. (EDT, live on Peacock and INDYCAR Radio Network), with the six fastest from that session competing for pole during Fast Six Qualifying from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m. In between those two sessions, the four slowest drivers from Saturday will vie for the final three spots in the field during Last Chance Qualifying from 4 to 5 p.m. NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network will broadcast the last two sessions live from 4 to 6 p.m.

Participants in Top-12 Qualifying: Rosenqvist, Rossi, Palou, VeeKay, Dixon, Kanaan, Sato, O’Ward, Santino Ferrucci (233.147 mph in the No. 14 Chevrolet fielded by A.J. Foyt Enterprises), Ericsson, rookie Benjamin Pedersen (232.739 mph in the No. 55 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet) and two-time/reigning series champion Will Power (232.719 mph in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet).

Last Chance Qualifying will “feature” frustrated Rahal Letterman Lanigan drivers Christian Lundgaard of Denmark (231.056 mph in the No. 45 Honda), Jack Harvey (230.098 mph in the No. 30 Honda) and Graham Rahal (228.526 mph in the No. 15 Honda), along with rookie Sting Ray Robb (229.955 mph in the No. 51 Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing).

“It’s a disappointing day to not be able to find more speed and sneak in there,” said Rahal, the son of 1986 Indy 500 champion/team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “We’ve just got to put our heads down and try to find the speed necessary to sneak into the bottom three. It’s going to be tight. Jack and I are very equal, it seems.”

Rahal made four attempts Saturday in a bid to secure a spot in his 16th Indy 500. Harvey, of Great Britain, made three attempts in an effort to qualify for his seventh Indy 500.

“It’s been a weird week,” Harvey said. “The first two days started out very good and then our lack of speed reared its head on Fast Friday. Sometimes you don’t know where you stack-up until everyone is out there on the same program. We’ve worked very hard to find the speed but have not been able to make a big enough impact yet.”

Meanwhile, RLLR’s Katherine Legge of Great Britain made history with her qualifying run in the No. 44 Honda, turning the fastest single qualifying lap and four-lap averages by a female driver in Indy 500 history. Legge’s fastest lap of 231.627 mph broke the record of 230.201 mph set by Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland in 2021; Legge’s four-lap average of 231.070 mph eclipsed the mark of 229.439 mph set by Sarah Fisher in 2002 and secured the final locked-in starting spot of the day at 30th.

On-track action is scheduled to start today with Top-12 Qualifying Practice from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by Last Chance Qualifying practice from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., with coverage of both sessions on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

History was made Saturday almost as quickly as the 34 cars circled the famed oval under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. Besides Rosenqvist’s epic run and Legge’s history-making laps, Pedersen’s four-lap average was the second-fastest ever by a rookie, topped only by the 233.100 mph turned by Tony Stewart in 1996 under the Indy Racing League banner. The first lap of Pedersen’s run _ 233.297 mph _ was the fastest by any Indy 500 rookie.

Ironically, in 1958, A.J. Foyt Jr. was the fastest rookie qualifier at IMS with an average of 143.13 mph. Foyt started 12th and finished 16th in the No. 29 Dean Van Lines Kuzma/Offy after spinning out of the race’s 42nd edition on Lap 148 of the scheduled 200.

“The vibe, everything A.J. presents being right over my shoulder with running on-track is very special,” said Pedersen, a 24-year-old Danish-American and graduate of the INDY NXT program. “Honestly, the car is just working fantastic. The team has put so much effort into this event and into giving us a great car. And, you know, the engineers and everyone on the team just really, really delivered so hats off to them. I’m just doing my part and driving the race car but it’s really a true full-team effort. And without a good car it’s hard to go anywhere; I’m just very grateful.

“We only did two runs (Friday) and I just knew going into qualifying this thing’s gonna be hooked-up. And it was. I was actually the most relaxed on this run, because I just knew we had such a great car.”

The number of qualifying attempts in a single day was the final record to fall during the six-hour, 50-minute session. There were 84 qualifying attempts Saturday, shattering the mark of 73 set in 2019. Five drivers endured the pressure of four qualifying attempts in one day: Colton Herta (No. 26 Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport), Lundgaard, David Malukas (No. 18 Honda), Rahal and 

The conclusion of qualifying Sunday will lead into another two-hour practice booked for Monday, May 22. The event’s final, two-hour practice is set for Carb Day on Friday, May 26. Pre-event coverage on Race Day, May 28, will begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) on NBC, Peacock, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Green flag for the flying start is set to wave at 12:45 p.m.


Day 1 qualifying results Saturday for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1.(6) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevy, 02:33.8810 (233.947)
2. (7) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.1569 (233.528)
3. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 02:34.2432 (233.398)
4. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.2449 (233.395)
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 02:34.2584 (233.375)
6. (66) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.2768 (233.347)
7. (11) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:34.2932 (233.322)
8. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.3394 (233.252)
9. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.4093 (233.147)
10. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 02:34.4866 (233.030)
11. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.6797 (232.739)
12. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.6932 (232.719)
13. (33) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.7128 (232.689)
14. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.7206 (232.677)
15. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Dallara-Honda, 02:34.7311 (232.662)
16. (20) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.8833 (232.433)
17. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 02:34.9039 (232.402)
18. (23) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 02:35.0837 (232.133)
19. (28) Romain Grosjean, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.1744 (231.997)
20. (06) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.2032 (231.954)
21. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.2055 (231.951)
22. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.2539 (231.878)
23. (18) David Malukas, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.3270 (231.769)
24. (98) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.3857 (231.682)
25. (24) Stefan Wilson, Dallara-Chevy, 02:35.4083 (231.648)
26. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.6061 (231.353)
27. (78) Agustin Canapino, Dallara-Chevy, 02:35.6287 (231.320)
28. (77) Callum Ilott, Dallara-Chevy, 02:35.7212 (231.182)
29. (50) RC Enerson, Dallara-Chevy, 02:35.7574 (231.129)
30. (44) Katherine Legge, Dallara-Honda, 02:35.7971 (231.070)


Winners (9) _ Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi.

Rookies (4) _ Agustín Canapino, R.C. Enerson, Benjamin Pedersen, Sting Ray Robb.

U.S. drivers (13) _ Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, R.C. Enerson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Sting Ray Robb, Alexander Rossi.

International drivers (21 from 14 countries) _ Agustín Canapino, Helio Castroneves, Devlin DeFrancesco, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, Jack Harvey, Callum Ilott, Tony Kanaan, Katherine Legge, Christian Lundgaard, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Benjamin Pedersen, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato, Rinus VeeKay, Stefan Wilson.

Engines (34) _ Honda 17, Chevrolet 17 (all cars use Dallara chassis and Firestone Firehawk tires).

Point Standings (top-15): 1, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 174; 2, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren, 168; 3, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 155; 4, Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport, 134; 5, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 133; 6, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 131; 7, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 127; 8, Will Power, Team Penske, 122; 9, Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 111; 10, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren and Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport, 108; 12, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport with Curb/Agajanian, 107; 13, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren, 97; 14, Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing, 92; 15, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 86.

Official NTT IndyCar Series entry list for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 28, with car number in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car name with engine supplier and team entrant:

  1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Nashville, Tenn., Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Christchurch, New Zealand, Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  3. (5) Pato O’Ward, Monterrey, Mexico, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  4. (06) Helio Castroneves-(W), Sao Paulo, Brazil, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
  5. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Varnamo, Sweden, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  6. (7) Alexander Rossi-(W), Nevada City, Calif., Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  7. (8) Marcus Ericsson-(W), Kumla, Sweden, Huski Ice Spritz Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  8. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Auckland, New Zealand, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  9. (10) Alex Palou, Barcelona, Spain, The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  10. (11) Takuma Sato-(W), Tokyo, Japan, Deloitte Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  11. (12) Will Power-(W), Toowoomba, Australia, Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  12. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Woodbury, Conn., Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  13. (15) Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, United Rentals Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  14. (18) David Malukas, Chicago, Ill., HMD Trucking Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with HMD
  15. (20) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  16. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  17. (23) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  18. (24) Stefan Wilson, Sheffield, England, DRR Cusick CareKeepers Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  19. (26) Colton Herta, Valencia, Calif., Gainbridge Honda/Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
  20. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Jupiter, Fla., AutoNation Honda/Andretti Autosport
  21. (28) Romain Grosjean, Geneva, Switzerland, DHL Honda/Andretti Autosport
  22. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Toronto, Canada, Sodexo Honda/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
  23. (30) Jack Harvey, Bassingham, England, Kustom Entertainment Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  24. (33) Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Ind., Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  25. (44) Katherine Legge, Guildford, England, Hendrickson Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  26. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Hedensted, Denmark, Hy-Vee Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  27. (50) R.C. Enerson-(R), New Port Richey, Fla., Abel Motorsports Chevrolet, Abel Motorsports
  28. (51) Sting Ray Robb-(R), Payette, Idaho, biohaven Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing
  29. (55) Benjamin Pedersen-(R), Copenhagen, Denmark, A.J. Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  30. (60) Simon Pagenaud-(W), Montmorillon, France, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
  31. (66) Tony Kanaan-(W), Salvador, Brazil, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  32. (77) Callum Ilott, Cambridge, England, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet/Juncos Hollinger Racing
  33. (78) Agustin Canapino-(R), Arrecifes, Argentina, Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet/Juncos Hollinger Racing
  34. (98) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., KULR/Curb Honda/Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian

Note _ All cars use the fourth generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR-12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.

(W) _Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner

(R) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year candidate



Sunday, March 5 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.: Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing

Sunday, April 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

Sunday, April 16 _ Streets of Long Beach: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport

Sunday, April 30 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske

Saturday, May 13 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing

Sunday, May 28 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, June 4 _ Streets of Detroit, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, June 18 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis., USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, July 2 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio. USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, July 16 _ Streets of Toronto, Peacock

Saturday, July 22 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, July 23 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 6 _ Streets of Nashville, NBC/Peacock

Saturday, Aug. 12 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 27 _World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill., NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 3 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 10 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif., NBC/Peacock

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 21 2023
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