Indy 500 qualifying: year-on-year differences, other notes

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The grid is set for this year’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 and as ever, there’s a series of differences but some similarities in comparing how the grid looked 12 months ago compared to how it will look six days from now.

The full grid shot took place earlier today. See a group photo from Andretti Autosport posted below:

Here’s some notes, stats, comparisons and other nuggets:

  • This is due to the pre-qualifying aerodynamic changes imposed by INDYCAR, but the field average speed is sizably down this year. Last year it was a record 229.382; this year it is 224.290, a full five mph down.
  • Five drivers who started in the top nine last year will start in the top nine again this year. They are Will Power (2015-second, 2014-third), Simon Pagenaud (third, fifth), Helio Castroneves (fifth, fourth), Marco Andretti (eighth, sixth) and Josef Newgarden (ninth, eighth).
  • None of those five will mirror their positions as they did last year, although a No. 21 car will start ninth for the second year in a row – Newgarden’s 2015 CFH Racing teammate JR Hildebrand started ninth last year. Hildebrand will roll off 10th this year in the No. 6 Chevrolet.
  • Chip Ganassi Racing placed two cars in the top nine this year after no cars qualified better than 11th last year.
  • Andretti Autosport drivers will roll off sixth, eighth, 11th, 16th and 19th this year. Last year, they were second, sixth, seventh, 12th and 19th. Pretty similar year-on-year.
  • Row 6 this year mirrors Row 7 last year. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas qualified in the exact same order, inside-middle-outside, as they did last year.
  • Row 11 features the drivers with the fewest combined number of Indianapolis 500 starts in five. Stefano Coletti will make his debut while Bryan Clauson and James Davison will make their second starts, respectively.
  • While there are only two rookies (Gabby Chaves and Stefano Coletti) there are six drivers making their second starts. Those are Carlos Huertas, Sage Karam, Conor Daly, Jack Hawksworth, Bryan Clauson and James Davison. So that’s roughly a quarter of the field making just their first or second starts.