By Kirby Arnold, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power got a different taste of Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he was surprisingly relegated to the stress of last-chance qualifying to make the final row of the Indianapolis 500.
What the Team Penske driver didn’t expect Sunday was a kiss of the Turn 2 wall on the last lap of his four-lap run.
Power, the second driver on the track in the five-car session to settle the final three spots in the race, drifted high out of the corner and smacked the SAFER Barrier with the right rear tire. He’d already laid down three solid laps but the contact put the run in jeopardy, along with his own uncertainty in how the car would handle as he approached Turn 3 at more than 230 mph.
“I felt it, and I thought there’s a good chance this is slightly bent, which is going to make it fairly loose turning into three and four,” Power said. “But I had to hold it wide open. There was no choice.”
After laps of 230.053 mph, 229.106 and 228.824, that hammer-down mentality got him a fourth-lap speed of 227.535.
His four-lap average of 228.876 landed him in the 32nd starting spot, middle of the 11th row between Sage Karam and Simona de Silvestro.
Power dealt with a loose car his final two corners.
“I just tried to put as little lock (into the steering) I as I could,” he said. “Fortunately (turn) three was easy today because you had the wind on your nose. And you just had to deal with (turn) four the best you could.
“It’s stressful, man. Stress-ful!”
Charlie Kimball, driving the A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, missed the race for the first time since his rookie year in 2011. He made two qualifying attempts, neither fast enough to bump 33rd qualifier Simona de Silvestro.
He climbed out of the car clearly emotional, but saluted the fans in the stands who cheered his effort. Last August, when the 500 was run in front of an empty house because of the Covid pandemic, was difficult, he said.
“Race cars may be the heart of this place, but the fans are the soul,” Kimball said over the speedway PA system, motioning to the crowd. “And last August, this place was soulless.”
R.C. Enerson, whose Top Gun Racing team improved through the week of practice but never managed the speed needed to qualify, made two attempts Sunday that fell short.
He knew going into Sunday’s session that his chances were small, but it didn’t deter him from what the small team accomplished.
“This is the beginning of our story, not the end of it,” he said.
Karam, who experienced bump-day pressure two years ago, ran a four-lap average of 229.156 in the first run of the day in his Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet, and he was never in jeopardy the rest of the session.