To quote a famous line in a Victorian novel, It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. That’s what it seemed like Saturday for Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Hometown Hero – Ed Carpenter of Indianapolis drove his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet to the number one position Saturday. Carpenter’s four-lap average speed was 230.468 mph, set in the waning moments of what was certainly one of the more interesting Pole Days. Carpenter is now part of the Fast Nine Shootout taking place Sunday for the Verizon P1 Award and pole position. All the 24 other drivers will be going for tenth… unless Qualifying is rained out, at which point Saturday’s times will hold.
Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ/GEICO Dale Coyne Racing was on his third of his four qualifying laps and had just hit 231.534 mph, good enough to be on top when he crashed hard into the SAFER wall. He was taken by ambulance to Indiana University Methodist Hospital for further evaluation. The latest word is that the popular Frenchman will undergo surgery tonight.
The top Rookie qualifier was Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, who made The Fast Nine by qualifying seventh overall with an aggregate speed of 230.034 mph. “Definitely, very happy. Obviously, now, we just finished the run. I’m really hopeful we’ll be in the Fast Nine, and tomorrow I think we will be much quicker than today.”
Carpenter was all smiles, and gave the credit to his 7-year old son, Ryder.”I think my seven-year-old son Friday when we were drawing for numbers, he was drawing. I was like, If you could pull, I told him five. Someone drew five. I was like, Let’s shoot for six. He drew 60. I was trying to be positive. Good job, son, you got one number right. He was the first person I thanked when I got out of the car because the conditions helped us there.”
Carpenter was the 27th driver of 32 to qualify, at 6:35pm, when the track was cooler. “The track temps were coming down. It was pretty ideal for us. But we’re running in the cool tomorrow night, too, so we’ll see what happens.
“It was exciting, a little surprising. I felt like we had a good car all week. I felt like JR (Hildebrand), myself and Will Power had the most speed in the Chevy camp. Last night when we did our qual sim, I was falling off a little bit. I thought I could run a 230 (mph) lap or two, but I wasn’t sure if I could run four.”
Carpenter was amazingly steady, with all four laps consistently above 230 mph. For those who understand such things, you’ll want to know that Carpenter’s rear wing assembly had no winglets. That’s how he trimmed out.
Bourdais was the nineteenth driver to make a qualifying run, and was on track to have the fastest time, until it appeared that something snapped on the car.. Bourdais bobbled and corrected, nosed in hard and fireballed it, flipping over and down the track, landing upright.
At 5:30pm the Red Flag for Bourdais’ Turn Two crash halted the session so the Holmatro Safety Crew could properly supervise and orchestrate his extraction, while the track maintenance crews worked on repairing the SAFER foam wall. He was put on the backboard, and taken by ambulance to hospital for proper tests. He was awake, alert and never lost consciousness. One journo reported that the INDYCAR T&S app showed that Bourdais had reached a peak speed of 239 mph in a speed trap.
Team Owner Dale Coyne said “Sebastien is in good hands here at IU Methodist Hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover.”
ED UPDATE: Bourdais suffered multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip. He underwent successful surgery Saturday night. The surgery went well. INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Bellows met with Bourdais Sunday morning “and he was doing even better than I expected.”
Bourdais had just added a ‘new’ sponsor Saturday – GEICO. It’s been with the team before, for the past four years. The crew said they used stickers over the paint to make the last minute graphics change before Qualifying.
Alonso did make the Fast Nine Shootout. “The last lap, in Turn 1 and 2, it was lifting, shaking on the throttle. This is the hardest qualifying I’ve ever done at this place. It was very hairy on the last lap. We got in line at the right time. I think the conditions were really good. I’m sure we’re getting in the Fast Nine, so that’s really good. It was nerve racking, sitting there and wondering if we had the speed and all that. We’d been knocked out of the nine, so I am just happy to be there, honestly. I felt like we had a good car yesterday and I was kind of disappointed with that first run. It was just conditions.”
The Formula One driver was asked to compare Indy qualifying to others he’s done. “I think similar. All qualifyings are tricky, you know. I go to my go-kart place, when I have put new tires. I have 15 kids watching me with a timer on the hand. Is very tough, you know. So every qualifying you do, you go against the physics of the car and the physics of the circuit in that particular moment.
“It gets stressful. It gets difficult, tricky. But at the same time, you know, huge adrenaline when you cross the line.”
The Fast Nine Shootout contenders are: Carpenter, Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Carpenter’s teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet; last year’s Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Alonso; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; and Marco Andretti/No.27 United Cable & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda.
The sun came out, and the fleet of drying vehicles took to the track – all 16 pickups and three jet dryers. They turned more laps than any Verizon IndyCar, or so it seemed.
Down in Gasoline Alley, it was busier than a beehive. Fans everywhere trying for autographs or photos of the drivers, cars, or anything else. Most drivers were not to be seen. The poor teams trying to move about weren’t having the best of luck. There was a steady stream of packed up tire carts, supply vehicles and of course, the race cars once they’d cleared Tech. Those further back in the Qualifying draw were lined up along the fence, and the luckier ones were trying to slowly thread their way to the Scrutineering Bays for their mandated Technical Inspections.
Once the nose, which had been removed for Tech scrutiny and measuring, was re-affixed, the crews used Heliotape to cover the screws, and seams. Helicopter tape is strong enough to hold a rotor. It’s allowed to let the teams cover any possibilities of air … and they do. The stickers are either color-matched or clear. It’s all about the aerodynamics.
INDYCAR had guaranteed all drivers would get one shot at qualifying. Rookie Zach Veach was the only driver not to queue, as his No.40 Indiana Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises Chevrolet was still being repaired.
Sunday’s schedule has practice starting at noon, and the Group One racers qualifying starting at 2:45pm. The Fast Nine Shootout is at 5:45pm, for fifteen minutes, to determine pole position.
You’ve heard of Rain Delay. Well, what we have here is a Failure to Communicate – I’ve been on my own personal Connectivity Delay. Sorry for the delays