Indy 500 practice week is done, so what does it all mean?

Photo: IndyCar

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.


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.


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.


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.

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor “It is great for to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”