Photo: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

Luck of the Draw Favors RLL Racing for Indy 500 Qualifying

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Where a driver rolls of in line for qualifying has never been so vital than this year’s Indianapolis 500 as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato will be the first two guys out for tomorrow’s qualifying session, beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Drawing took place 15 minutes after the six-plus hour Fast Friday practice session concluded as drivers and team representatives came up to the stage based on where they ended up in practice.

Once they were on stage, they grabbed a coin to determine where they’ll qualify, favoring Rahal’s camp.

Behind the RLL Racing duo are a pair of NTT IndyCar Series rookies of Dalton Kellett (Aj Foyt Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing). Rounding out the top-five qualifying order will be Indy 500 veteran Jack Harvey.

Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso (Arrow McLaren SP) will be the 13th driver to go out as he’ll hope to bounce back from Thursday’s practice crash with a solid qualifying effort.

With drivers feeling that an early draw will likely bode well for their aspirations of making the Firestone Fast Nine, drawing a higher number increases the difficulty of having a great 4-lap average due to temperatures rising and difficult car handling.

That being said, the bottom 13 drivers features guys that either have concentrated on race speed or simply been strong in each practice session.

One of those bottom 13 guys are Marco Andretti (Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajanian), who will be 28th in line. Andretti was the master of Fast Friday as he was the only man to hit the 233 mph barrier which took place during the first hour of practice.

Now being sandwiched between former Indy 500 champions Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) in 27th and Tony Kanaan (AJ Foyt Racing) in 29th, Saturday will indicate how strong Andretti has been thus far at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Judging Andretti’s comments in Friday’s video conference, the 33-year-old doesn’t really sweat the pressure of waiting to set a flyer, but time will tell how the outcome will be Saturday.

“We got what we got. We’re not going to be making changes,” said Andretti. “It’s really going to come down to — I’ll have to answer your question will it affect me tomorrow because we don’t know. I don’t know how hard it will be for the earlier guys, how hard it will be for me.

“We have the speed for the top nine, but we have to hope we’re not sliding too much.”

Will Power (Team Penske) got 10th in the drawing, leaving him content as its been a rather mixed week so far for him and the rest of Penske pace wise.

“If you draw towards the back, man, you really are at a disadvantage because, seriously, after the first run, I don’t think it’s going to get any quicker. If you’re out of the top nine then, you really don’t have a good shot of getting in,” said Power.

“The first run really counts. If you drew in the first top 10, you’re in pretty good shape I feel like. Especially for us who are just trying to crack into the top nine, an early draw, getting 10th, I was really happy about that. You go in the first 45 minutes, a little bit of rubber on the track, obviously a teammate will go before I go. I have a little bit of an indication.

“So, yeah, it’s a good spot. Good spot for us to give us the best chance to get in.”

The stage is set as the bravest 33 drivers will go flat out for 10 intensifying miles, praying it’s good enough to make Sunday’s Fast Nine.

104th Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Order

  1. Graham Rahal
  2. Takuma Sato
  3. Dalton Kellett
  4. Rinus VeeKay
  5. Jack Harvey
  6. Scott Dixon
  7. Spencer Pigot
  8. Pato O’Ward
  9. Josef Newgarden
  10. Will Power
  11. Sage Karam
  12. Alexander Rossi
  13. Fernando Alonso
  14. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  15. Zach Veach
  16. Marcus Ericsson
  17. Oliver Askew
  18. Felix Rosenqvist
  19. Ed Carpenter
  20. James Hinchcliffe
  21. Ben Hanley
  22. James Davison
  23. Alex Palou
  24. Santino Ferrucci
  25. Conor Daly
  26. Charlie Kimball
  27. Simon Pagenaud
  28. Marco Andretti
  29. Tony Kanaan
  30. Colton Herta
  31. Max Chilton
  32. Helio Castroneves
  33. J.R. Hildebrand

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.