INDIANAPOLIS (May 16, 2015) – Persistent afternoon rain canceled the remainder of scheduled track activity on the first day of qualifications for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, so the process begins anew May 17.
A revised schedule for Old National Armed Forces Pole Day calls for the 34 entries to make one four-lap qualifying attempt each on the 2.5-mile oval (10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET), followed by the “Fast Nine Shootout” (1:45-2:30 p.m.) in which the top nine cars return to determine the Verizon P1 Award for pole position and the first three rows for the May 24 race. Finally, positions 31-33 will be determined in a 45-minute session (3-3:45 p.m.).
Ryan Hunter-Reay (229.845 mph) and Carlos Huertas (228.235) were the only drivers to post four-lap qualifying runs before the rain today, but those will not count since not everyone was able to make an attempt. Two groups of cars will be accorded practice time from 8-8:20 a.m. and 8:20-8:40 a.m. (ET) May 17, prior to qualifying.
In today’s morning practice, Helio Castroneves recorded a lap of 233.474 mph that, while unofficial, is the fastest lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the 1996 race when Eddie Cheever Jr., had the fastest race lap at 236.103 mph. That same year, Arie Luyendyk set the one- and four-lap qualifying records (237.498 mph and 236.986 mph, respectively).
“That 233 mph number was pretty cool, but it was with a little bit of help (with a tow from cars in front of him),” said Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet. “The guys have really done an amazing job over the last couple of days since the (May 13 crash). To lose a day and still be on top of the practice speeds is a testament to how hard they worked. The weather, there is nothing we can do about the weather. We’ll just come back and see what’s in store.”
Castroneves seeks to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners, and he’s in contention for pole history, too. Castroneves, with No. 1 qualifying efforts in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010, is tied with Foyt and Rex Mays. A fifth would put him second among all-time Indy 500 pole winners, one behind Team Penske consultant Mears. Castroneves also could give team owner Roger Penske a record-extending 18th pole position at the Indy 500.
Added Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader: “It’s a little bit of a disappointment that we didn’t get to qualify today because the Team Penske cars were very strong in the practice sessions. I’ve been happy with the car even though we continue to struggle a bit with the balance. We are confident that we know what direction we need to go with the weather. It’s going to be a fast, exciting qualifying session, I know that.”
In 2014, Ed Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award in the Fast Nine Shootout with a four-lap average speed of 231.076 mph – the second consecutive year that Carpenter started from the pole. He’ll seek to become the first to earn the pole in three consecutive years May 17. Twenty drivers have won the race from the pole – most recently Castroneves in 2009.
“Last year we were pretty solid, so I think we can get in (to the Fast Nine Shootout), but we’ve got to play our cards right and find a little bit (of speed),” said Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet. “The thing we’ve got to figure out is how to make the fourth lap still be good.”
INDIANAPOLIS 500 POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s raining, and I think INDYCAR has got a pretty good plan to run tomorrow and get everyone through the line and have a Fast Nine. If anything, it’ll be even more exciting, having it all really compressed. Looking forward to it. It’s really difficult to see where everyone stacks up, but I felt very comfortable and I wasn’t so much yesterday. Yeah, we’ll see what happens.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s a little bit of a disappointment that we didn’t get to qualify today because the Team Penske cars were very strong in the practice sessions. Hopefully tomorrow the forecast will break up a bit and we can see if the Verizon Chevy has the speed to win the pole position. I’ve been happy with the car even though we continue to struggle a bit with the balance. We are confident that we know what direction we need to go with the weather. It’s going to be a fast, exciting qualifying session, I know that.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet): “That 233 mph number was pretty cool, but it was with a little bit of help (from a tow). The Shell V-Power Nitro+ guys have really done an amazing job over the last couple of days since the flip. To lose a day and still be on top of the practice speeds today is a testament to how hard they worked. The weather, there is nothing we can do about the weather. We’ll just come back tomorrow and see what’s in store.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was nice to post a big number in the morning even though it doesn’t really mean very much. It was with a tow, but it was fun to see it pop up on the dash. I still don’t really know where we stack up in terms of our four-lap speed, but we’re pretty good. Tomorrow, hopefully we’ll get into the top nine. If we don’t, I think we’ll be close. That should give us a pretty reasonable starting position for the race. It’s going to be a scramble, but I feel better about it today than I did a few days ago.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “It’s a shame we couldn’t get qualifying in today, but it’s the same for everybody. Our Steak ‘n Shake car was pretty quick this morning and we’ll be qualifying early in the day tomorrow at around 10:30 or so and I feel pretty good about our chances. We’ll have to see how it plays out. Definitely the guys that will run two hours into the session will be facing a little bit warmer of a track, so hopefully that plays to our advantage. I would have liked to have got in today, but they would have only gotten a handful in today so we would have had to go again anyway and I would rather have to only hold my breath for four laps instead of eight.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Days like today are hard. It stinks for all of the fans. I feel like the series is just in a funk as far as weather. It seems like it rains every important day or it’s forecasted to be a bad weather day. I really hope this all moves out and it’s a beautiful day tomorrow, where we can put on an awesome show for the fans. One thing about today being delayed is tomorrow’s schedule and activities are going to be intense. There’s going to be a lot of pressure. Everyone gets one shot to put it in the Fast Nine and that’s it. You have to balance going fast and being aggressive to get into the Fast Nine, but knowing you only have that one opportunity. You can’t be too aggressive and overshoot it and have a bad run because there’s no second attempt. It will be a great day, it will be exciting. Hopefully a lot of people come watch us!”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet): “We’ll get here tomorrow and try to do the whole program again. We didn’t get it in today. The team looks good. We tried a couple of different things this morning in practice and JR (Hildebrand) looked really solid. We’re really getting up to speed with our program. If we get all of our details right tomorrow, we should be in the hunt.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 24 The Robert Graham Special Chevrolet): “We ran two qualifying stints this morning to get our balance squared away and the car felt good. To be honest, I’m not too disappointed we got rained out. Our car really works well when we have hotter conditions and Sunday is expected to be warmer than today. I just feel badly for the fans who came to see the qualifying. Hopefully everyone can make it out to see a run for the Fast Nine and the pole. I believe we are in the position for a spot in the Fast Nine. We were ninth today with the ‘no tow’ speeds. So we are on the edge. I’d love to have our little one-car Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom team slide into the Fast Nine and battle the big teams. So I’m anxious to get going for Sunday with the Robert Graham Special.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): (On dealing with rain delays): “You get used to them over time. In your earlier years, you have to think about things more. The pressure piles on a little bit, but it’s part of it. You just have to wait for it, be patient and keep your thoughts cool and calm and collected and get on with the job. It’s not a big deal. You want to just get on with it, though. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins / Curb Honda): “It’s disappointing for us. With a late draw in the qualifying line, we had an excellent opportunity to do a true qualifying simulation in this morning’s practice and watch what speeds everyone else posted on their qualifying runs. This would have given us a great opportunity to make the Bowers & Wilkins Honda even faster and secure us a spot in the Fast Nine Shootout. But we know we have a fast car and are ready to come back and do it again tomorrow.”