IndyCar

Indy 500 qualifying, Day 1: Kyle Larson makes race with shot at pole; Ericsson, Rahal in danger

Indy 500 qualifying, Day 1: Kyle Larson makes race with shot at pole; Ericsson, Rahal in danger

INDIANAPOLIS — The nightmare at Indianapolis Motor Speedway might have an unwanted second season for Graham Rahal.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver came up short of locking into the Indianapolis 500 field on the opening day of qualifying for the second consecutive year.

Rahal will face off against Marcus Ericsson, Katherine Legge and Nolan Siegel for the final three spots on the 33-car grid.

Last year, Rahal was the lone driver eliminated but still started the race as the replacement for an injured Stefan Wilson.

Though RLL vowed to have fixed its qualifying problems in 2024, its Dallara-Hondas mostly struggled again Saturday. Pietro Fittipaldi snagged the 30th and last guaranteed spot in the field, and Christian Lundgaard qualified 27th.

"I think all winter the boys have worked awfully hard," Rahal told NBC Sports' Dave Burns. "These guys thrashed to get the cars ready for Indy just with all the things that we had done, but unfortunately that last run was a little too neutral for my liking. I knew it was slow, and when the car doesn't want to pull a gear, there's just not much I can do. There just isn't.

"Everybody will tell you the fastest laps you drive around here are the easiest laps and when you've got a car like the guys in the front few rows have have, you don't have to try that hard. The car does it naturally, and unfortunately, it's the guys like us that are struggling to get there. Unfortunately, we've been here the last couple of years.

"I'm sorry to United Rentals and everybody that's in this position, but we've just got to put our heads down tomorrow and try to put in four good ones, but most important is that these guys understand how much they're valued as a team because as I said they work their tails off beyond belief. I wish we could reward them a little more than this."

RLL had one bright spot in Takuma Sato, who qualified ninth in the team's No. 75 one-off entry.

Also in trouble is Ericsson, the 2022 Indy 500 winner who finished second in last year's race before moving to Andretti Global from Chip Ganassi Racing this year.

Ericsson is in a backup No. 28 Dallara-Honda after crashing Thursday in practice, and he's lacked speed since.

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"It's tough for sure," Ericsson told NBC Sports' Kevin Lee. "You know this place has very high highs and very low lows and I think today was one of those. But I can only blame myself. I put ourselves in this position with my crash, and the team has been amazing, rebuilding a completely new car and working so hard all day to get me out for new runs, and we can't really get the car to do what we want, but the effort is there and I'm very, very thankful for that. It's tough, it's very tough for sure.

"I'm out there driving with a gun to my throat, it feels like. It's really, really tough. It’s very low grip. It’s sliding and it's just really, really tough every run and trying to get everything out of it, but yeah, we will regroup and then get after it tomorrow."

All four cars in Last Chance Qualifying are Hondas.

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While Chevrolet had pace, the manufacturer still had a problem: Plenum fires that affected Agustin Canapino, Christian Rasmussen, Conor Daly, Pato O'Ward, Ed Carpenter and Kyle Larson.

In the case of Canapino and Rasmussen, the engine misfires nullified qualifying runs that probably would have made the Fast 12.

GM Motorsports executive Jim Campbell said the manufacturer would be working running dynomometer machines around the world overnight to address the issue before Day 2 of qualifying Sunday.

Results from Day 1:

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2 minutes, 34.0053 seconds (233.758 mph)
2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 2:34.2863 (233.332)
3. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:34.3124 (233.293)
4. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 2:34.4609 (233.069)
5. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 2:34.6634 (232.764)
6. (17) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 2:34.7965 (232.563)
7. (60) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 2:34.8074 (232.547)
8. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 2:34.8415 (232.496)
9. (75) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:34.8566 (232.473)
10. (5) Pato O'Ward, Chevrolet, 2:34.8826 (232.434)
11. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 2:34.8930 (232.419)
12. (23) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 2:34.9153 (232.385)
13. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 2:34.9616 (232.316)
14. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 2:34.9682 (232.306)
15. (6) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 2:35.0184 (232.230)
16. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 2:35.0504 (232.183)
17. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:35.1608 (232.017)
18. (4) Kyffin Simpson, Honda, 2:35.2069 (231.948)
19. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:35.2458 (231.890)
20. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 2:35.2587 (231.871)
21. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:35.2723 (231.851)
22. (78) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 2:35.2750 (231.847)
23. (41) Sting Ray Robb, Chevrolet, 2:35.2888 (231.826)
24. (33) Christian Rasmussen, Chevrolet, 2:35.3852 (231.682)
25. (66) Tom Blomqvist, Honda, 2:35.4554 (231.578)
26. (77) Romain Grosjean, Chevrolet, 2:35.4982 (231.514)
27. (8) Linus Lundqvist, Honda, 2:35.5034 (231.506)
28. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 2:35.5308 (231.465)
29. (24) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 2:35.6803 (231.243)
30. (30) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 2:35.7768 (231.100)

Hour 4

Kyle Larson will become the fifth driver to race the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, and the Hendrick Motorsports driver might have a shot at starting from the pole position.

After aborting his first qualifying attempt because of an engine hiccup, Larson posted a four-lap average at 232.563 mph to rank a provisional sixth on the speed chart with three and a half hours remaining on the first day of Indy 500 qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With 34 drivers competing for 33 spots, Larson is safely in the field for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 — and the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion likely will start in the first four rows on the 2.5-mile oval.

The fastest 12 drivers at 6 p.m. ET Saturday will advance to another round of qualifying Sunday. The fastest six from that session will have a shot at the pole position, which will be set shortly before 6 p.m. ET.

Larson then will need to hustle to catch a flight to North Carolina, where he is slated to race at North Wilkesboro Speedway as the defending winner of the All-Star Race.

Hour 3

Fulfilling its vow to return full force on the starting gird, Team Penske ruled the opening day of qualifying for the 108th Indianapolis 500.

After all 34 drivers had completed a four-lap run, Will Power was fastest at 233.758 mph in the No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet, followed by Penske teammates Scott McLaughlin (233.332) and Josef Newgarden (233.293) on the provisional front row.

Andretti Global's Kyle Kirkwood was the fastest qualifier in fourth, followed by Felix Rosenqvist and Santino Ferrucci.

The rest of the provisional Fast 12 drivers who currently would be eligible to compete for the pole position Sunday: Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Marcus Armstrong, Takuma Sato, Ed Carpenter and Kyffin Simpson.

Seven drivers didn't post an official time during the first run through the field, including Rinus VeeKay (crash in Turn 3), Kyle Larson (who lost power on his fourth lap after having the speed to make the field) and Callum Ilott, whose opening run was disallowed because of a noncompliant left-rear wheel offset that was found in postqualifying technical inspection on his No. 6 Dallara-Chevrolet.

"So basically on the wheel, you have a tolerance for what's called the offset, which is basically where the wheel locates, relative to the hub, and what happens on these wheels is they wear with miles," Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward told NBC Sports' Kevin Lee. "What you do when the wheels wear out is you machine them back and put a spacer in to get them back into tolerance. We just missed on the tolerance and a pretty narrow band that it is. We're looking into why.

From our drawings, we didn't think that was going to be the case, but it looks like we've had an error somewhere, so we're still figuring that out. But ultimately, you've got to pass tech on the tools of tech. One thing we didn't realize is a team that we could have actually run those wheels through tech before. because you don't always check that sort of stuff. So that's a learning experience for us, a tough one. But at the same time, that car's got lots of speed. I'm not too worried."

It took nearly three hours from the 11 a.m. ET start before one of Arrow McLaren's Chevys posted an official time. Alexander Rossi turned around a disappointing start by qualifying fourth at 1:57 p.m.

Pato O'Ward had been scheduled to go earlier before being pulled out of line, went next on track after Rossi.

Ward said Arrow McLaren elected to wait on O'Ward and take its time adjusting its cars after the Ilott inspection failure and an engine problem for Kyle Larson.

"We just decided, well, we'll go through tech to make sure we're good, and then we'll wait here in the garage and allow ourselves to make some changes," Ward said. "So it's all fine. I think there's more speed that we found in the 6. We were happy with the speed that (Larson) had before the event that happened there. But honestly, we've got some time left. It's a long day. I'm not too worried."

Among the drivers who are on the bubble after making times in the first round of qualifications: 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, Katherine Legge and Graham Rahal who was 28th of 29 drivers who had logged times as of 2 p.m. ET.

It was a bad sense of deja vu for Rahal, who failed to qualify his No. 15 Dallara-Honda last year.

"I think we've taken steps ahead as a team in general," Rahal told NBC Sports' Dave Burns. "If you look, though, I think certainly there's a major deficit right now (for Honda), even looking at Ganassi and everybody else. They're 3 mph slower than last year. We've certainly closed that gap. But clearly, it's not good enough.

"I told Hinch a couple of days ago, like we were quickest of our RLL cars, and as the two days have gone by, we've progressively lost speed. No setup changes at all. Same exact car. We're just losing speed. And, you know, on the last lap, obviously the engine had a misfire, something weird happened a couple of times and right at the start finish to start the lap. So, it's understandable that the last lap is down, but I mean, it wouldn't even pull fifth gear, which is a shorter fifth gear than we ran yesterday.

"So nothing really makes a lot of sense right now. So we'll go back to the drawing board, try to get the United Rentals car a little further forward."

Hour 1

After making his first attempt at the Indy 500, Kyle Larson has yet to post an official time.

The NASCAR Cup Series champion had a loss of power in his No. 17 Dallara-Chevrolet on the fourth and final qualifying lap.

“There was some alarm that popped up on the dash and cut a bunch of power," Larson told NBC Sports' Dillon Welch. "I haven’t talked to anybody. I don’t know what happened. That sucks. I don’t know what happened.

“I felt like off Turn 4 I got a little free once, coming to the white. Then we didn’t make it off Turn 2. I have to catch up with them and see what the problem is. But yeah, that sucks.”

Larson's first three laps were 232.719 mph, 232.318 mph and 232.299 mph, so a solid fourth lap easily would have secured the four-lap average to lock him into the 33-car field. As the sixth driver to qualify, the Hendrick Motorsports star was tracking to be the third-fastest behind Scott McLaughlin and Kyle Kirkwood.

Hendrick Motorsports technical director Brian Campe, who is overseeing the joint effort with Artrow McLaren to field the Indy 500 entry for Larson, said the team hoped to have Larson back out by 2 p.m. ET to log an official time after all 34 drivers have made an initial attempt at a four-lap average.

"We’re still investigating what (happened) out there on track over a downshift or something," Campe told NBC Sports' Dave Burns. "We had an engine event. The guys in there are diagnosing it. But we should be back out once the (qualifying) line breaks, and we go to the two-line strategy and get out there and have some more fun.

"We’ve got good speed in our McLaren Indy car, and the Chevrolet is producing good power. Sometimes these things happen, and we’ll do the best we can, get back out there around 2 and see what we can do."

Larson still is in better shape than Rinus VeeKay, who crashed in Turn 3 as the fourth driver attempting to qualify. The No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet sustained significant left-side damage in the impact with the SAFER barrier.

"I kind of had a bit of understeer," VeeKay told NBC Sports' Dave Burns. "Somehow, I had a huge moment early. I don’t know or really understand how that happened. It seemed a bit unusual, I’ve been in a looser car and had smaller moments than this.

"The guys spend months and all year to get this car as efficient as possible. And then when it counts, we take a huge leap backwards. Really unfortunate. I'll be spending a lot of time with the guys to try to get the spirits up."

Though repairs to his car should be finished in time for another attempt Saturday midafternoon, VeeKay's streak of making the Fast 12 for four consecutive seasons is in jeopardy. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver started a career-best second last year after qualifying third in 2022, third in 2021 and fourth in 2020.

"I think we’ll be fine getting into the field, it’s just we had such a good draw yesterday," he said. "It’s just a bummer."

As of 1 p.m. ET, the first seven of 11 rows had been filled with about 10 drivers still to take laps. The Team Penske trio of Will Power, Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden was on the provisional front row.

Following along here for live updates from Indy 500 qualifying, which will run through 6 p.m. ET on Peacock.

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