UPDATE: Last Row Shootout will start at 4:30pm ET, then Fast Nine

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Motor Speedway has targeted a 4:30pm ET start for the Last Row Shootout after rain postponed Indianapolis 500 qualifications by more than four hours Sunday.

The Last Row Shoot which will determine the final three spots in the field of 33, will be followed by the Fast Nine Shootout for the pole position in the May 26 race.

This morning’s warmup for the final qualifying sessions was cut short by rain after 20 minutes.

Rain began falling at around 10:30 a.m. but had stopped within the hour, and IMS officials had several jet dryers and pickup trucks on the track to dry the surface.

However, the rains returned during mid-day and led to further altering of on-track activities.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

Five of the six cars vying for the final three spots in the May 26 race turned laps Sunday morning on the 2.5-mile oval.

James Hinchliffe, who crashed during qualifying Saturday, turned the fastest lap at 228.125 mph, followed by Sage Karam (228.083), Max Chilton (227.404), Pato O’Ward (225.746) and Fernando Alonso (220.009). Kyle Kaiser, the sixth driver still trying to secure a spot in the last row, didn’t record a speed as Jon Beekhuis reported on the NBC broadcast that the team elected to focus on preparing its car rather than practicing.

The misery continued for McLaren Racing and Alonso, who is trying to make his second Indy 500. On his first lap, the two-time Formula One champion’s No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet was dragging the asphalt on the car’s left rear.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown said the team made dramatic changes to Alonso’s car overnight in hopes of finding the speed to qualify.

The Fast Nine Shootout cars were scheduled to hit the track for a 30-minute practice at 10:15 a.m., but with inclement weather looming, the Last Row Shootout cars (who had been scheduled for a 10:45 session) went out first because completing the field of 33 cars is the priority over the pole position.

IndyCar officials have said that the Last Row Shootout is guaranteed to happen regardless of the weather, meaning if Sunday were a washout, the Indy 500 field would be filled Monday morning (or the next available time that the track was ready).

If the Fast Nine session can’t be completed Sunday, the speeds from Saturday will be used, which would make Spencer Pigot the pole-sitter.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).