INDIANAPOLIS — In his second qualifying run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, Felix Rosenqvist put the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series field on notice that he was a threat for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 pole.
The Swedish racer averaged 233.947 mph around the two-and-a-half mile oval in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, turning the third-fastest qualifying run ever at IMS. Only Arie Luyendyk’s record-setting run in 1996 and Scott Dixon’s pole run in 2022 were faster.
“I think it’s still a pretty big day for us. I mean, we’ve been good here the last couple years,” Rosenqvist said. “Today to have all the cars in the top eight, in this competition, it’s really hard. We saw with Tony [Kanaan] today, even if he’s doing a perfect job, still things that can outside factors that can play in, it can become really difficult in this field.
“Super proud of the whole team for executing. 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.”
Teammate Alexander Rossi was second fastest, averaging 233.528 mph. 2021 IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou was third fastest, 233.398 mph.
In a day where 12 drivers were locked into Sunday’s pole shootout and 30 of the 33 starting drivers were locked into the field, there were many surprises through the field. Both AJ Foyt Racing cars made the Top 12 shootout with Santino Ferrucci ninth fastest while rookie driver Benjamin Pedersen was 11th fastest. That would be a surprise since Ferrucci is 22nd in points and Pedersen is 27th.
Also a surprise was the performance of Team Penske. After Josef Newgarden was fastest at April’s open test, the two-time IndyCar Series champion could only qualify 17th after a last ditch-effort to get the No. 2 Chevrolet into the Fast 12 shootout. 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power posted the 12th fastest time, the only Team Penske entrant fast enough for the shootout.
All four Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas qualified for the Fast 12 shootout with Scott Dixon fifth, Takuma Sato seventh and Marcus Ericsson 10th to join Palou in the Sunday afternoon session.
The bottom of the time sheets detailed a lot of struggle for two teams in particular. Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas and Sting Ray Robb were both on the outside looking in until Malukas started his fourth qualification attempt of the day.
The Chicago native qualified the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda 23rd, locking into the Top 30 with an average of 231.769 mph, bumping Christian Lundgaard from the Top 30.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was now in trouble. All three of their full-time drivers were on the outside looking in, as was Sting Ray Robb. Between Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, Lundgaard and Robb, one of those four drivers will leave Indianapolis without a car to drive in the big race on May 28th after the Last Row Shootout.
Rahal was bumped after his first attempt, and all of his subsequent attempts were not fast enough to make the Top 30 cutoff. Lundgaard was in the Top 30 until the final 20 minutes and none of Harvey’s last two runs were quick enough for the Top 30 either.
There was a bright spot in the Rahal team camp as Katherine Legge qualified 30th, the only one of four RLL drivers to lock their way into the field. Legge also became the fastest woman in Indianapolis 500 history with her average of 231.070 mph in the No. 44 Honda.
The 10th row had two other pleasant surprises, too. Juncos Hollinger Racing changed the chassis on Callum Ilott’s No. 77 Chevrolet and the car was ready for the Saturday morning practice session. Ilott’s first attempt was just a way for the team to feel the car’s capabilities, and the second run of 231.182 mph was fast enough for 28th position.
“It’s been a tough week, a tough month actually from the open test,” Ilott said. “We changed chassis middle of yesterday. I was kind of given an almost impossible task from what some people said. Just tried to keep the confidence high.
“The first run wasn’t great. I don’t think my engineers would even look at the video because they were scared to watch it. We just managed to turn the car around into something that was fast, managed to scrape four laps out of it.”
Qualifying 29th was RC Enerson in the No. 50 Abel Motorsports entry. The part-time entrant was the final team to announce a car for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 and their car ran for the first time on Wednesday morning. Enerson’s sole attempt averaged 231.129 mph, good enough for the middle of the 10th row.
Sunday afternoon will have practice for both the Top 12 and Last Row Shootout challengers before the Top 12 qualifiers begin their session at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Last Row Shootout begins at 4:00 p.m. ET where each car will have at least one guaranteed attempt to qualify in the hour session.
The fastest six cars from the Top 12 Shootout will advance to the Firestone Fast Six, where they will requalify to set the first two rows of the 2023 Indianapolis 500 field.