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Day 1 Qualifying At Indy Includes Rain, Surprises

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2022

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will compete for the pole at the Indy 500 on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Led by Dutchman Rinus VeeKay’s four-lap/10-mile average of 233.655 mph for Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet powered the three fastest qualifiers during Saturday’s opening day of qualifying for the 106th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

VeeKay is now three-for-three in terms of achieving historic milestones during time trials for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” He started fourth in his first Indianapolis 500 in 2020, the best qualifying result by a teen-ager in event history. In 2021, VeeKay became the youngest front row qualifier in 500 history when he started third. As of Saturday, the 21-year-old owns the third-fastest average speed in the race’s rich history.

“It’s a good start,” said VeeKay, driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. “It shows we have a good car and confidence for tomorrow. We can definitely challenge for pole. I’m excited for the chance to do two more runs and hopefully put an ECR Chevrolet on pole again. Great job by my team _ car was awesome.”

Meanwhile, all five of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Honda-powered entries placed in the top-12 and will advance to the final two rounds of qualifying Sunday, including the Fast Six that will determine the NTT P1 Award for pole.

“I think Ganassi is definitely our biggest rival out there for challenging for pole,” said VeeKay, who has recorded three top-10 finishes in five NTT IndyCar Series races this season, including his first podium three weeks ago on the Barber Motorsports Park road-course in Birmingham, Ala. After starting from pole, Rinus took the checkered flag in third.

Positions 13 through 33 at IMS were set during Saturday’s session, which was interrupted twice by rain and lightning for a total of two hours, 14 minutes and cut short by 60 minutes.

The second round of qualifying, for the 12 fastest drivers, is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The six fastest drivers from that round will advance into the Fast Six, scheduled to start at 5:10 p.m., and turn another four-lap qualifying run for the pole and its $100,000 prize.

Live coverage of the last two rounds of qualifying will be broadcast at 4 p.m. on NBC, with the INDYCAR Radio Network also providing coverage.

Joining VeeKay at the top of the Scoring Pylon at the 2.5-mile oval were Arrow McLaren SP teammates Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. O’Ward, a native of Mexico, was second-fast at 233.037 mph in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Sweden’s Rosenqvist averaged 232.775 mph in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou of Spain led a trio of Honda-powered Ganassi drivers in the next positions. Palou placed fourth at 232.774 mph in the No. 10  CGR Honda, with 2013 Indy 500 champion and native Brazilian Tony Kanaan fifth at 232.625 mph in the No. 1  CGR Honda.

Indy 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, was sixth after averaging 232.398 mph in the No. 48 CGR Honda.

“It’s pretty awesome, and I’m just so thankful to be part of the group,” said Johnson, referring to his teammates. “Watching them prepare literally since they left here last year and continually thinking of this race, and it being a motto to win here before the championship. To be a part of it, to live it, to now be here experiencing it is really cool.”

Three-time Indy 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter _ VeeKay’s boss _was seventh with a four-lap average at 232.397 mph in the No. 33 Chevrolet after topping the morning practice with a single lap of 234.410 mph. That was the fastest trip around the 2.5-mile IMS oval since 1996.

Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing was eighth at 232.275 mph in the No. 8 CGR Honda, with Indy 500 rookie Romain Grosjean of France leading Andretti Autosport in ninth at 232.201 mph in the No. 28 Honda.

A trio of Indianapolis 500 winners rounded-out the drivers advancing into the Round of 12.

Scott Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion and winner of the 2008 Indy 500, was 10th at 232.151 mph in the No. 9 CGR Honda. The native of New Zealand was followed by 2018 Indy 500 winner and current series point-leader Will Power of Australia in 11th at 231.842 mph in the No. 12  Team Penske Chevrolet.

Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato placed 12th at 231.708 mph in the No. 51 Honda entered by Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.

But “Taku” was forced to make a second attempt after his first run of 232.196 mph was disallowed when INDYCAR officials penalized the native of Tokyo for qualifying interference and failure to follow instructions, affecting another competitor. While slowing on his cooldown lap after his first attempt, Sato was judged to have impeded the qualifying attempt of the next driver, Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport.

Sato recorded a hot lap of 232.789 mph during “Fast Friday’s” practice in a simulated four-lap qualifying run in the last hour of the six-hour session.

Rookie David Malukas, at 20 the youngest driver in the field, just missed the cut to advance to Sunday, ending up 13th and behind Dale Coyne Racing teammate Sato at 231.607 mph in the No. 18 Honda.

While Chevy powered the first three drivers on the speed chart, Honda struck back with a 7-5 edge among the top-12.

There was a common thread among VeeKay, O’Ward and Rosenqvist besides their twin-turbocharged V-6 Bowtie engines. All three drew low numbers in the qualifying order Friday night and made their attempts in the first 15 minutes of activity, when the track temperature was just 85 degrees. Air and track temps continued to climb until the first rain arrived, dropping grip and speeds. By 12:30 p.m., 90 minutes into qualifying, the oval’s asphalt temp was reported at 107 degrees.

Practice for the 12 remaining qualifiers is scheduled from 12:30-2 p.m. Sunday, with live coverage on Peacock Premium.

Championship points for the 2022 IndyCar Series will be awarded for those who advance to the Top-12 session. The Indy 500 pole-winner will receive 12 points, the second-fastest will receive 11 and points awarded will decrease by one-point increments down to 12th-fastest (one point).

(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 (1997) 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 and Ford Racing).

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Results of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying Saturday for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 02:34.0730 (233.655 mph)
2. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 02:34.4820 (233.037)
3. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 02:34.6558 (232.775)
4. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 02:34.6565 (232.774)
5. (1) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:34.7555 (232.625)
6. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 02:34.9070 (232.398)
7. (33) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:34.9076 (232.397)
8. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 02:34.9890 (232.275)
9. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 02:35.0378 (232.201)
10. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:35.0716 (232.151)
11. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:35.2784 (231.842)
12. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.3679 (231.708)
13. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 02:35.4356 (231.607)
14. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:35.4541 (231.580)
15. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 02:35.5019 (231.508)
16. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 02:35.6590 (231.275)
17. (11) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.7684 (231.112)
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:35.8451 (230.999)
19. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 02:35.8707 (230.961)
20. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.9713 (230.812)
21. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.0022 (230.766)
22. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.2064 (230.464)
23. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.2875 (230.345)
24. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 02:36.3002 (230.326)
25. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 02:36.3620 (230.235)
26. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 02:36.4167 (230.154)
27. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 02:36.7741 (229.630)
28. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 02:36.9269 (229.406)
29. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 02:37.2628 (228.916)
30. (6) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:37.4655 (228.622)
31. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 02:38.5531 (227.053)
32. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:38.6944 (226.851)
33. (25) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, no time (no speed)

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2022
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