Day 1 Indy 500 qualifying results: Ganassi overcomes nerves, puts four cars in Fast Nine

Indy 500 qualifying Ganassi
Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Images

INDIANAPOLIS — Even on days when they seem totally in control of dominating Indy 500 qualifying, the championship teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing still get nervous.

For Scott Dixon, who earned the provisional pole for the Fast Nine on his first attempt at four laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Tony Kanaan, who qualified third, the jitters actually might be worse than ever.

“T.K. and I were actually getting changed before we came out to qualifying,” said Dixon, the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion. “He’s like, ‘Hey, man, do you still get nervous?’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m really nervous.’ ”

“I couldn’t put my socks on,” said Kanaan, the 2004 champion and oldest driver in the field at 46.

INDY 500 QUALIFYING ON NBCHow to watch Sunday’s sessions

DAY 1 QUALIFYING RESULTSSpeeds from the opening session at IMS

“I was shaking to put my socks on,” said Dixon, 40, who hadn’t been first in the Indy 500 qualifying order in 18 previous starts. “Going first, normally the Friday I felt like I’ve done prep, kind of understand where it’s going to go. But we’ve made so many changes overnight, then also hadn’t really had any clean runs yesterday afternoon. Our first run was the only run that we did. We were kind of downforced up.

“It’s a big deal, right? You’re rolling out, the first time you go into turn one at 240 miles an hour, you’re hoping you’re going to come out the other side in one piece.”

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tony Kanaan taps a crew member on the head during qualifying for the 105th Indy 500 (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Images).

Teammates Alex Palou (seventh) and Marcus Ericsson (ninth) made it a big day for Honda, which will have seven drivers competing for the pole position Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock Premium) with Colton Herta (second) and Helio Castroneves (sixth) also eligible.

Chevy will be represented by the Ed Carpenter Racing duo of Rinus VeeKay (fifth) and Carpenter (fourth), whose team has a Fast Nine qualifier for the sixth consecutive year.

Though Ganassi will have the most opportunities (including Dixon taking a shot at his fourth Indy 500 pole), Palou will be making his attempt in a repaired No. 10 Dallara-Honda after smacking the Turn 2 wall midway through qualifying.

Palou took the blame for the crash, exceeding the limits of the car’s handling after convincing the team to let him take a chance at improving his speed on a slick 2.5-mile oval.

“The team was on the fence of going out now with the weather so I was pushing them like ‘Hey, guys, we have a fast car, we can go,’ ” Palou said.

“So I’m feeling a bit stupid for not listening to the team and then really sorry for all the work they put in. It’s not that they put in work two weeks ago, they started building this car in the preseason, from the first time I walked into the shop. So I’m really sorry that instead of looking at the times, they are working on the car.

PROBLEMS FOR PENSKE: IndyCar powerhouse struggles on Day 1

“It’s not fun, it’s racing but it’s our job and I will push as much as I did before and this is just a mistake but at the speedway you pay really hard.”

Palou at least caught the good fortune of avoiding a backup car and also will have his Ganassi teammates to help get him up to speed.

“Obviously he’s taking it very hard on himself,” Kanaan said. “We tried to say, Look, man, you’re in (the race. They’re going to fix the car. The car is going to be perfect. Don’t worry about it.’ I think he’s OK now.”

Results of Day 1 qualifying for the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (position, car number, driver, manufacturer, time and speed in parentheses):

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:35.2874 (231.828 mph)
2. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 2:35.4081 (231.648)
3. (48) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 2:35.4140 (231.639)
4. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:35.4294 (231.616)
5. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 2:35.5192 (231.483)
6. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 2:35.7334 (231.164)
7. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 2:35.7461 (231.145)
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:35.7501 (231.139)
9. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 2:35.7739 (231.104)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:35.8132 (231.046)
11. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 2:35.8148 (231.044)
12. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 2:35.9360 (230.864)
13. (51) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 2:35.9481 (230.846)
14. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 2:36.0168 (230.744)
15. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:36.0417 (230.708)
16. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 2:36.1395 (230.563)
17. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 2:36.1435 (230.557)
18. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:36.1680 (230.521)
19. (47) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 2:36.2314 (230.427)
20. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:36.3922 (230.191)
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:36.4735 (230.071)
22. (1) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:36.5354 (229.980)
23. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 2:36.5563 (229.949)
24. (86) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 2:36.5961 (229.891)
25. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:36.6089 (229.872)
26. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:36.6732 (229.778)
27. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 2:36.6964 (229.744)
28. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 2:36.7166 (229.714)
29. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 2:36.9195 (229.417)
30. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 2:37.6717 (228.323)

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”