IndyCar

Disappointing IndyCar GP qualifying for Newgarden, Rossi

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The top two leaders in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings won’t start Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix leading the field to green.

Both points leader Josef Newgarden and second-ranked Alexander Rossi (28 points behind) did not advance from the first round of qualifying Friday afternoon.

Both drivers will start farther back in the field than they are accustomed: Newgarden starting 13th and Rossi staring 17th in the 24-car field. A surprising lack of pace ended their run early, and Newgarden himself was caught off guard by his unusual qualifying result.

“I felt like I did a good lap,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “We’re all kind of back there, for whatever reason. But we’re pushing hard. We got a great team here. I think Team Chevy is pushing really hard for us, so I’m not 100% sure right now where we’re missing it, but I can promise you we’re going to go to work to try to find out. We’re not going to give up. ”

Watch the Indy 500 on May 26 on NBC

Rossi expressed similar sentiments when talking to reporters.

“We were just missing overall grip and pace all day. I don’t know that we can pinpoint it to one thing,” Rossi said. “We tried a whole new package for qualifying and it didn’t quite work out, and it wasn’t entirely different from [Practice 2] from performance and balance standpoint.

“We have some homework to do overnight. We’ve seen in the past that the guys who have an extra set of [Firestone alternate] reds – because they don’t advance out of Q1 – have a pretty good race day.

“Hopefully, that’s the case tomorrow for the NAPA Racing team. The reds are a pretty big step ahead of blacks in terms of performance, and hopefully we can use that and put on a show tomorrow.”

Head to head, Rossi has had better performances on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course than Newgarden. Rossi has earned progressively better finishes in his 3 starts there (10th-8th-5th), but Newgarden has never finished better than 11th in 5 starts.

But after today, Scott Dixon – who sits third in the standings at 33 points behind Newgarden – looks poised to close in on them in the championship, provided he converts his front-row starting spot into a strong result Saturday.

Watch the race on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC or at NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app

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Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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