December 10, 2023

Indy 500: Rosenqvist tops first qualifying in McLaren 1-2

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Rosenqvist set the fastest four-lap average of 233.947mph around the 2.5-mile oval with just over an hour remaining of the six-hour session, boasting a quickest single lap 234.329mph.

“That was a phenomenal run,” he said. “I wasn’t super-happy with my first run, so we trimmed the car out but I had no idea we’d be so quick. That put a smile on my face.”

Alexander Rossi made it a McLaren 1-2, taking full advantage of a favorably-early draw inside the opening 40 minutes to set an average of 233.528mph, with a fastest single-lap of 234.177mph.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was third quickest with 233.528mph, which he set in much warmer track temperatures in the second hour of the session, following an overnight Honda engine change.

Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing) was fourth, ahead of Scott Dixon (CGR) who enjoyed his best run at the warmest part of the day, and was also forced to change his engine overnight.

Tony Kanaan, who starts his final race next weekend, rolled back the years with a 233.347mph effort to make it three McLarens in the top six.

Also making the Fast 12 were Takuma Sato (CGR), Pato O’Ward (McLaren), Santino Ferrucci (AJ Foyt Racing), Marcus Ericsson (CGR), top rookie Benjamin Pedersen (Foyt) and Will Power (Team Penske).

Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The battle for the last spot in the Fast 12

The primary target of the six hours of qualifying was to get inside the top 12 positions, allowing drivers to transfer into Sunday’s Fast 12 session to decide the first four rows of the starting grid.

Just after the halfway point of the session, Kanaan’s four-lap average tied to the 10 thousandth of a second at 2m34.7591s with Ed Carpenter for P12. But Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti) squeezed ahead of them both with 232.662mph for the vital transfer spot with 90 minutes remaining.

Kanaan’s late flyer of 233.347mph jumped him up to fifth, pushing Kirkwood out and putting Power on the bubble. “I’m too old for this man,” Kanaan quipped.

Carpenter ran again, almost brushing the Turn 4 wall on his way to 232.689mph, but just missed bumping Power. “I had one awkward downshift, but that’s how tight it is,” he rued.

Carpenter will start the Indy 500 from 13th on the grid, ahead of Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, Kyle Kirkwood (the fastest Andretti Autosport car), Conor Daly (ECR) and Josef Newgarden (Penske). Positions 13-30 are now set, and these cars won’t run tomorrow.

Katherine Legge, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

The battle to avoid last-chance qualifying

The drama at the bottom of the speed charts revolved around the quartet of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s cars, Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas and Sting Ray Robb, and Callum Ilott’s Juncos Hollinger Racing entry as they all toiled to avoid tomorrow’s back row shootout, which decides what driver goes home.

Having switched to team-mate Agustin Canapino’s test car for today, after team boss Ricardo Juncos declared his original car “unsafe”, Ilott dragged himself out of the drop zone at the halfway point of the session with the 27th best run. “Honestly it’s tough, I kinda wanna cry and maybe I did a little bit,” he admitted with relief.

Canapino himself came closest to crashing today, clipping the wall on the exit of Turn 1 hard enough to bend his right-rear suspension. “I had a big understeer with the wind, so my mistake,” said Canapino, who was safely in the field in 26th.

Malukas grabbed 30th with 90 minutes to go, dumping team-mate Robb and the RLL cars of Christian Lundgaard, Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey into the danger zone. But Lundgaard responded and bumped him back a few minutes later.

But with 13 minutes remaining, Malukas produced 231.769mph to leap to 23rd and consign Lundgaard into the bottom four with Harvey, Robb and Rahal. One of them will go home at the end of tomorrow.

Lundgaard got the final run of qualifying, but could not improve on his time, which meant Katherine Legge is guaranteed to start the race in 30th spot.

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