Scott McLaughlin claims Indy 500 pole as Penske takes 1-2-3 in qualifying

Scott McLaughlin claims Indy 500 pole as Penske takes 1-2-3 in qualifying

Scott McLaughlin secured the Indy 500 pole position as Penske locked out the front-row for the 108th running of the event held at Indianapolis Speedway.

Scott McLaughlin delivered the fastest-ever four-lap pole run in Indy 500 history as Team Penske scored a 1-2-3 in qualifying, with NASCAR crossover star Kyle Larson also battling for the top spot.

McLaughlin was the last of the runners to hit the track late on Sunday, the Team Penske charger setting a blistering 234.220 mph average that equated to the fastest pace ever recorded in the history of Indy’s four-lap average qualifying format.

He was the only driver in the 234mph range on average, and his margin back to second wasn’t even close in the end. This marked McLaughlin’s second oval pole after securing his first at Gateway last year, and by far his best start at the Indy 500 as his previous best was 14th in three attempts.

The outstanding performance delivered a milestone clean sweep to Roger Penske’s team, with Will Power and Josef Newgarden completing the first Team Penske front row lockout of the Indy 500 grid since 1988 and coincidently, McLauglin’s #3 Team Penske entry is sporting the same ‘yellow submarine’ Pennzoil livery that graced the car of poleman Rick Mears during the year.

“Welcome to the party,” McLaughlin said after his impressive run. “The Pennzoil Chevy was unreal.

“There’s so much pride in being able to do it. I’m working hard. Indy hasn’t been kind to me, and a lot of it was my doing.

“I need to work on things. This is the first step. The Thirsty 3’s, baby, we’re coming!”

This was Chevrolet’s 13th Indy 500 pole – its first since 2019 amid a period of Honda dominance – and comes amid a frantic effort to correct a serious mechanical issue over night.

Chevrolet ran dynos around the world according to GM’s vice president for performance and motorsports Jim Campbell, after seven separate instances of losing power through a fuel-related issue known as a plenum event. No similar issues occurred across the whole of Sunday’s action.

Alexander Rossi had taken offence to Penske talking about the potential for locking out the front row on Saturday already, but wasn’t quite able to breach the top three for McLaren. The 2016 winner was the only non-Penske driver to deliver a 234mph lap.

Larson took fifth in a sensational maiden Indy 500 qualifying session driving for McLaren. He is widely regarded by those familiar with him as one of the best drivers in the world as a NASCAR Cup champion and regular short-oval race winner.

But it’s fair to say the Indy 500 is one of his biggest tests yet and might end up being the bridge to more people in the single-seater world and outside of North America having a better idea of what he is capable of.

Even though he’s clearly been given a very good car by Chevrolet-powered McLaren, Larson has still had to work on the weight-jacker and anti-roll-bars in the cockpit and chase the balance of the car – and he showed how well he has done that by going fifth quickest in the Fast 12 session, and scored the same result in the Fast Six.

Larson promptly left after his qualifying lap to go and compete for $1million in NASCAR’s All Star Race – which has been delayed slightly just for him – in North Wilkesboro three hours or so after Indy 500 qualifying.

Santino Ferrucci, a podium finisher last year, rounded out the top six for AJ Foyt Racing. He had taken offence to the Penske drivers playing down the technical partnership it has with Foyt and its role in Penske’s performance.

Rinus VeeKay was the fastest driver to miss out on the Fast Six session, and will start seventh after his heroic Saturday performance where he crashed and was 28th until his final run bumped him into the Fast 12 for Sunday.

Pato O’Ward of McLaren and his ex-team-mate Felix Rosenqvist, now at Meyer Shank Racing, were eighth and ninth, ahead of Takuma Sato – who is back at Rahal Letterman Lanigan for the first time since 2021. The two-time Indy 500 winner has practiced almost exclusively on qualifying set-up all week and it paid off.

Kyle Kirkwood was the top Andretti car in 11th, ahead of another shock improver on Saturday, 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay – who went from outside the top 20 to inside the top 10 briefly with a late effort for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

The three remaining drivers – Graham Rahal, last year’s surprise driver to be bumped, Ericsson, and rookie Nolan Siegel – all faced worries of not qualifying through the session.

At the unfortunate end of Pole Day, there was also one driver who was sent home as Bump Day carved Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Honda driven by rookie Nolan Siegel from the starting field. A crash on his final run in the Last Chance Qualifying session sealed his fate and saved Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal, who was on the bubble from being knocked out of consecutive Indy 500s in P33.

Siegel was unharmed in the crash and was frank in his assessment after falling short in the final minute of the session.

Meanwhile, Ericsson crashed on Thursday after dipping his front-left wheel into the no-go kerb on the inside of Turn 4, and his time at Indianapolis has been a nightmare ever since.

Robbed of a car that has been worked on, tweaked and caressed to be perfect at Indy for months and instead driving a back-up car struggling for speed, it looked like his first attempt would be enough to get him in the race.

However, he backed off entering Turn 1 on his fourth lap, as his team shouted “keep going” on the radio. Ericsson had ended his qualifying a lap early by accident. He said “I can’t believe I did that”, adding “it was a very very tough mental challenge” and that “it was all on me. I messed that up, I shouldn’t be doing that with my experience”.

He seemingly had the pace to beat Siegel to get in the race, but he had the added complication of needing to wait for his car to cool down before going again. The engine works better started from a lower temperature and also colder fuel can be worth extra horsepower. But if you pour that fuel into a hot car, it heats up and the advantage is negated.

The track temperature was also at 54.44C and rising, further complicating Ericsson’s run as that heat is not good for tyre life over four laps at an average of 230mph.

Ericsson hit the track with just under eight minutes to go in the session, and managed to go second fastest against the odds, pushing Siegel out of the race. Siegel needed to go quicker than Rahal on the final run of the session inside the last three minutes but crashed for the second time this week, on his first lap. He got out to huge applause.

In the end, Legge headed Ericsson and Rahal on the times. Both Ericsson and Siegel showed how much work goes into a primary Indy 500 car because both drivers struggled after heavy crashes in practice week.

2024 INDY 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS

POSITIONDRIVERTEAMSPEED – MPH
1stScott McLaughlinPenske234.220
2ndWill PowerPenske233.917
3rdJosef NewgardenPenske233.808
4thAlexander RossiMcLaren233.090
5thKyle LarsonMcLaren232.846
6thSantino FerrucciA.J Foyt Racing232.692
7thRinus VeeKayEd Carpenter Racing232.610
8thPato O’WardMcLaren232.584
9thFelix RosenqvistMeyer Shank Racing232.305
10thTakuma SatoRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing232.171
11thKyle KirkwoodAndretti230.993
12thRyan Hunter-ReayDreyer and Reinbold Racing230.567
13thColton HertaAndretti232.316
14thAlex PalouGanassi232.306
15thCallum IlottMcLaren232.230
16thMarcus ArmstrongGanassi232.183
17thEd CarpenterEd Carpenter Racing232.017
18thKyffin SimpsonGanassi231.948
19thMarco AndrettiAndretti231.890
20thHelio CastronevesMeyer Shank Racing231.871
21stScott DixonGanassi231.851
22ndAugustin CanapinoJuncos Hollinger Racing231.847
23rdSting Ray RobbA.J Foyt Racing231.826
24thChristian RasmussenEd Carpenter Racing231.682
25thTom BlomqvistMeyer Shank Racing231.578
26thRomain GrosjeanJuncos Hollinger Racing231.514
27thLinus LundqvistGanassi231.506
28thChristian LundgaardRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing231.465
29thConor DalyDreyer Reinbold Racing231.243
30thPietro FittipaldiRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing231.100
31stKatherine LeggeDale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing230.092
32ndMarcus EricssonAndretti230.027
33rdGraham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing229.974
OUTNolan SiegelDale Coyne Racing

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