INDIANAPOLIS – The week of pre-qualifying practice for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is in the books and there’s more questions than answers that emerge going into the two days of qualifying (a format of which requires an infographic to explain).
A few quick observations and questions from the week just passed to follow:
Last year Honda went into qualifying knowing the qualifying would feature race downforce in a last-minute switcheroo from INDYCAR’s competition department and it pretty much hampered what little chances they had. The frustration still lingers 12 months later.
Alas, it’s been a good week for Honda leading into qualifying and as the story has gone this year, whether the practice pace actually translates in qualifying remains to be seen.
Realistically a good day for Honda would be getting four of five of its cars into the Fast Nine. A great day would be six or seven. A tough-ish day would be three or worse.
There’s seven or eight realistic targets from the Honda camp based on no-tow speeds: all five Andretti Autosport cars, perhaps one to two Schmidt Peterson Motorsports cars, and based on his most impressive week of running, the welcome underdog story of the month in Gabby Chaves at Dale Coyne Racing. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal also has a decent shot but didn’t find as much speed as he or the team would have wanted, trimmed out. The remaining three Coyne drivers are respectable and should target the midpack; A.J. Foyt Enterprises has had a tough week of it.
IS THERE MORE LEFT IN THE PENSKE/GANASSI TANKS?
Despite topping Friday’s final practice, and being second in the no-tow charts, Will Power and the rest of Team Penske have focused much more on race setup than outright pace. Power along with teammates Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud have also all ran a lot of laps.
The Chip Ganassi Racing team hasn’t had the strongest of weeks. Charlie Kimball was good early but fell off a bit on Friday; Scott Dixon has been midpack and Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton a little behind. Ganassi, for whatever reason, hasn’t blown the hottest at Indy some recent years – remember challenging qualifying weekends in 2012 and 2013? But mind you, Dixon is the defending polesitter here and can’t be counted out. You figure at least two and probably at least one Ganassi will make the Fast Nine.
CLEAN SO FAR
Thus far only Spencer Pigot has had an accident, and that came under abnormal circumstances. Really good weather and generally safe running have thus far been the story lines; the field has more than 8,000 completed laps this week.
Does that change on Saturday? Quite possibly.
MORE TO COME
Saturday’s qualifying won’t mean anything except who can run for the Fast Nine. Sunday’s is slightly more important.
Saturday’s practice begins at 8 a.m.