Tuesday, December 6, 2022

VeeKay Leads Saturday’s Rain-Impacted Qualifying as Fast 12 Finalists Decided; Positions 13-33 Set

Rinus VeeKay went quickest in Saturday's qualifying round.
Rinus VeeKay was fastest on Saturday’s qualifying bout at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

Rinus VeeKay took advantage of cool track conditions brought from an early draw to end Day 1 of qualifying for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

The 21-year-old Dutchman went out second overall and stormed to the third-fastest run in the event’s history after an electrifying four-lap average of 233.655 mph in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Pato O’Ward went out first on the day and put his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet second with a four-lap run at 233.037 mph. Directly behind the 23-year-old Mexican was  by teammate Felix Rosenqvist, who hit a 232.775 mph four-lap average for third.

Then came a run of Hondas from the Chip Ganassi Racing stable led by reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou in fourth, followed by 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Ed Carpenter will have an opportunity to contest a potential fourth Indy 500 pole tomorrow after ending seventh. The only driver/owner of the series was ahead of another CGR member in Marcus Ericsson, who ended up eighth.

Despite being an Indy 500 rookie, ex-Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean proved the best of the Andretti Autosport group by a wide margin and put the No. 28 Honda in ninth.

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was 10th, followed by 2018 Indy 500 victor Will Power.

Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato ended up in the 12th and final spot after being the center of most of the day’s drama. The 45-year-old Japanese pilot saw his first run voided after IndyCar officials penalized him for impeding Marco Andretti’s qualifying effort. Despite being forced to return for a second run in less favorable track conditions compared to his first, Sato managed overcame even finding the Turn 2 wall with the right rear of the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda before ending the four tricky laps with an average of 231.708 mph.

The top 12 qualifiers of Day 1 advance to the Fast 12 on Day 2 on Sunday, which will then be cut down to six drivers in a winner-take-all battle for pole for the 106th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 29.

The rest of the field, positions 13 – 33, are locked and set in their respective starting positions.

The first driver to narrowly miss out on advancing was Sato’s rookie teammate, David Malukas, who put the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda in 13th with a four-lap run at 231.607 mph.

Josef Newgarden, who was in the midst of voiding his original run by going out again before lightning (and then rain) halted the day’s running, ended up 14th. Santino Ferrucci helped wave the flag for Dreyer & Reinbold and put his No. 23 Chevrolet 15th.

Other notables included Alexander Rossi, who had a woeful qualifying bout and ended up 20th. Graham Rahal was the best of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing outfit in 21st.

After seeing his initial run impacted by Sato, Andretti returned and placed his No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport Honda in 23rd.

Colton Herta aborted his first qualifying attempt due to a mechanical issue and the team was forced to do a complete engine swap. Upon returning, the 22-year-old Californian put together a four-lap average run at 230.235 mph to end up 25th.

Scott McLaughlin took the gamble and removed his 15th-place pace on his first attempt in hopes of advancing into the Fast 12. However, he returned and struggled to find the speed in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet and was relegated to 26th.

Defending and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was also among the surprises after a difficult final of his four-lap run put him 27th in the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda – the exact same car he claimed victory with last year.

Lastly, the only car that did not hit the 2.5-mile superspeedway was Stefan Wilson in the No. 25 Cusick Motorsports / DragonSpeed Chevrolet, who were left repairing a gearing issue and doing an engine change that took the majority qualifying.

Up Next: Practice for the Fast 12 will be 12:30-2 p.m. ET, with live coverage on Peacock and the IndyCar Radio Network. Qualifying of the Fast 12 is scheduled for 4 p.m., with coverage on NBC and the IndyCar Radio Network.

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