One of this year’s rookies is more familiar with the Indianapolis 500 than most: Stefan Wilson. Stefan’s brother Justin died last year following a head injury sustained at Pocono, but Justin’s legacy lives on in an unlikely way— his notes. Stefan used Justin’s notes to help him through his first IndyCar drive since 2013.
All Stefan had to go on coming into this qualifying weekend was one race in Baltimore three years ago, and rookie orientation for the Indy 500. Stefan told Racer how his brother’s notes helped him get used to Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s windy conditions to set a qualifying average speed of 225.560 mph:
My car was moving around quite a bit and the wind was gusting pretty good so I didn’t want to get caught out and crash. The tailwind almost blew you into the wall in Turn 1 and then it pinned the nose in Turn 3 so it was tricky. I had to lift in Turn 1 on my third lap and that ruined the last two.
But I found some of Justin’s old notes from Indianapolis the other day and I thought, “that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling on the track.” So he’s still helping me.
Stefan Wilson ultimately qualified 27th in the first day’s qualifications, but he told Racer that competing in the 100th Indianapolis 500 was a must that’s brought him a new respect for his brother’s time in the series:
Before we lost Just I was trying to figure out how to be in the 100th Indianapolis 500 and I became determined, it was an obsession. It means so much to be in this race and I’m humbled by it.
Yesterday’s qualifying session had a few surprises in the results as well. The 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, qualified 12th. As he is outside the top nine, he won’t run for pole position today on Pole Day. Reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon is also sitting out the Fast Nine Shootout, having qualified 13th.
That being said, Indy 500 rookie and Formula One reserve driver Alexander Rossi shined, qualifying tenth after turning consistently quick practice laps as well. James Hinchcliffe set the fastest average speed yesterday in his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, closely followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power in P2 and P3, respectively. Today’s Fast Nine includes five Hondas and four Chevys, which hopefully means both marques will be fighting it out for the win.
Full Saturday qualifying results can be found here.