Indy 500: Pigot top after first qualifying runs, Alonso struggles

Spencer Pigot has put Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet on provisional pole, ahead of defending race-winner Will Power, but Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Chevy is not yet in the field after suffering a right-rear puncture.

Indy 500: Pigot top after first qualifying runs, Alonso struggles

In a session marred by James Hinchcliffe’s shunt, Pigot’s was the second run today and he nailed a 230.800mph on his opening lap, the second was also above 230 and the fourth was 229.659 equating to his average of 230.083.

This was unthreatened until Will Power’s super-consistent run in the #12 Team Penske-Chevrolet which veered only from 230.433 to 229.836, the resulting average being a mere 0.002mph from Pigot’s benchmark, despite the track temperature having increased by 10degF.

Three-time Indy polesitter Ed Carpenter had nothing for his employee, his average being around 0.75mph off the top spot, but when the third ECR car, the Scuderia Corsa entry of Ed Jones clocked 240mph down the back straight and set an opening lap of 231.015mph Pigot could be worried. However, over the next four laps the #63 car got looser and looser, with the track temps now 15deg higher than during Pigot’s run, so that his final lap was only 227.865mph and he fell to third with an average of 229.440.

That became third soon afterward, when Simon Pagenaud produced an excellent run to slot third in the #22 Penske behind Pigot and Power.

Fernando Alonso had a poor run, starting out at 226.971mph but lost 1.9mph on his second lap and had to come right out of the throttle at one point on Lap 4 and dropping to 223.825mph.

Afterward it transpired that a cut right-rear Firestone gave the former Formula 1 superstar a slow puncture, explaining the peculiar handling imbalance.

Sage Karam had an even worse run, brushing the wall exiting Turn 2, and then backing right off on Laps 3 and 4. Jordan King’s initial attempt in the extra Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda was halted on its warm-up lap when IndyCar threw a yellow flag to allow the AMR Safety Team to scan the track for whatever debris cut Alonso’s tire. King’s run was bizarre starting slow – 226.187, then up to 227.871, way down to 225.816 and then up to 226.662 again. Certainly he was the only driver to produce a faster speed on his fourth lap than his first.

Helio Castroneves was struggling with the track being the hottest it has been all week, averaging 228.523, but he has looked a tick slower than the other Penskes when comparable for most of the week. This point was emphasized in the very next run when teammate Josef Newgarden slotted into fourth, just behind Pagenaud and ahead of Jones, having turned an initial lap above 230mph.

Oriol Servia declared his Team Stange with Arrow SPM car the most consistent he has ever run in qualifying over the four laps, outpacing even 2008 Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda, but he couldn’t quite match the pace of rookie Arrow SPM driver Marcus Ericsson who is a highly impressive 12th.

JR Hildebrand’s Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-Chevrolet suffered a major drop-off from first lap to fourth – 229.2 to 224.3 – and fell toward the back of the field.

Rookie Colton Herta’s effort in the Harding Steibrenner Racing-Honda eclipsed all the Andretti Autosport-Hondas to grab seventh with the penultimate of the initial runs, bumping Marco Andretti out of a Fast Nine slot.

Ben Hanley got stuck in sixth in the DragonSpeed-Chevrolet so lost momentum and dropped from 227.283mph to 224.841mph across the four laps. The ill-starred Juncos Racing team had to wait to make its initial run when Kyle Kaiser stalled as he went to pull away from pitlane. A couple of wiggles on his fourth lap hurt him but he wound up 34th.

Qualifying opportunities will continue until 5.50pm. At that time, the nine contenders for the Firestone Fast Nine will be decided, while positions 10 through 30 will be locked in place. The six cars outside that Top 30 – currently, Hanley, Pato O’Ward, Alonso, Karam, Kaiser and Hinchcliffe – will fight over the three places in the last row.

If Sunday is rained out, today’s Fast Nine qualifiers may be the 500’s first nine starters, so the pole might well be decided today.

Qualifying after initial runs

P Name QSPEED Lap 1 Lap 2 Lap 3 Lap 4 Engine Team
1 Spencer Pigot 230.083 230.800 230.078 229.798 229.659 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
2 Will Power 230.081 230.433 230.197 229.859 229.836 Chevy Team Penske
3 Simon Pagenaud 229.854 230.521 229.862 229.728 229.309 Chevy Team Penske
4 Josef Newgarden 229.749 230.130 229.734 229.779 229.357 Chevy Team Penske
5 Ed Jones 229.440 231.015 230.070 229.110 227.595 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
6 Ed Carpenter 229.349 230.028 229.529 229.072 228.772 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
7 Colton Herta 229.033 229.669 229.164 228.896 228.406 Honda Harding Steinbrenner Racing
8 Alexander Rossi 228.816 229.524 229.124 228.495 228.126 Honda Andretti Autosport
9 Sebastien Bourdais 228.800 229.726 229.760 226.777 228.962 Honda Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan
10 Marco Andretti 228.756 229.626 228.920 228.429 228.055 Honda Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
11 Helio Castroneves 228.523 229.543 228.557 228.079 227.918 Chevy Team Penske
12 Marcus Ericsson 228.511 229.015 228.217 228.443 228.371 Honda Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
13 Takuma Sato 228.300 228.779 228.257 227.866 228.299 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
14 James Davison 228.273 229.247 228.102 227.885 227.865 Honda Dale Coyne with Byrd and Belardi
15 Tony Kanaan 228.120 228.630 228.200 227.881 227.771 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
16 Oriol Servia 227.991 228.563 228.359 227.821 227.226 Honda Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
17 Conor Daly 227.921 228.389 228.192 227.687 227.419 Honda Andretti Autosport
18 Charlie Kimball 227.915 228.305 227.910 227.951 227.496 Chevy Carlin
19 Scott Dixon 227.886 228.408 228.244 227.684 227.210 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
20 Ryan Hunter-Reay 227.877 228.656 228.080 227.431 227.347 Honda Andretti Autosport
21 Santino Ferrucci 227.731 228.293 228.083 227.404 227.147 Honda Dale Coyne Racing
22 Jack Harvey 227.695 228.566 227.929 227.618 226.675 Honda Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM
23 Zach Veach 227.341 228.348 227.405 226.819 226.800 Honda Andretti Autosport
24 Pippa Mann 227.244 228.369 227.380 226.484 226.751 Chevy Clauson-Marshall Racing
25 JR Hildebrand 227.183 228.568 227.901 226.010 226.272 Chevy Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
26 Graham Rahal 227.095 227.180 227.067 227.207 226.926 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
27 Max Chilton 226.934 227.603 227.097 226.432 226.609 Chevy Carlin
28 Felix Rosenqvist 226.739 227.493 226.462 226.563 226.440 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
29 Matheus Leist 226.727 227.552 227.706 227.144 224.535 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
30 Jordan King 226.662 226.187 227.871 225.816 226.786 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
32 Patricio O'Ward 225.727 226.483 226.289 225.762 224.384 Chevy Carlin
33 Fernando Alonso 225.113 226.971 225.037 224.641 223.825 Chevy McLaren Racing
34 Sage Karam 215.723 225.586 226.276 219.328 194.909 Chevy Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
35 Kyle Kaiser 225.918 227.104 226.407 226.059 224.123 Chevy Juncos Racing
36 James Hinchcliffe 228.159 228.159       Honda Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
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Series IndyCar
Event Indy 500
Author David Malsher-Lopez
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