Penske Struggles In Qualifying For The 2021 Indy 500

Illustration for article titled Penske Struggles In Qualifying For The 2021 Indy 500
Photo: Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

It’s finally here. IndyCar has hit the track to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, which will take place next weekend. There’s been action, there’s been drama, and we’ll get you up to speed on what you need to know.

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Today, qualifying set positions 10-30, which includes everything but the first three and the final rows on the grid. So, all 35 drivers took to the grid to make an effort.

If you need a quick reminder on how Indy qualifying runs, I don’t blame you—it’s way different than it is at any other track. Instead of one fast lap, drivers run four fast laps. The average of those lap speeds is your qualifying speed (and obviously, the faster you go, the higher you’ll qualify). This is a carry-over from the older days, but it’s a lot of fun because it requires drivers and teams to create a longer-run setup. If you have a single bad lap, your whole qualifying attempt goes downhill.

And the qualifying order is a little bit complex. Every single car gets a shot at qualifying, and it’s determined by a first-come-first-serve order. You can qualify as many times as you want, but if you make a second run, you have two choices: the fast lane or the normal lane. In the normal lane, you just wait for the drivers in front of you to qualify, then you go out and do it yourself. If you set a worse speed, you’re fine, because you still have your previous session to fall back on. And if you’re too late to qualify for a second time, that’s okay; you still have your previous speed.

But if you’re desperate to try again, you can opt for the fast lane. In this case, your first qualifying time is erased and, in exchange, you basically get to cut in line and qualify before everyone in the normal lane. If you have a worse session, you’re stuck with a slower lap. If you fail to make it out before the end of qualifying, you’ll have failed to set a time.

Tomorrow, we’ll see both Last Chance Qualifying, which determines the final row and the bumped drivers, and the Fast Nine Shootout, which determines the first three rows. For the Last Chance Qualifying, we’ll see RC Enerson, Charlie Kimball, Sage Karam, Will Power, and Simona de Silvestro. And for the Fast Nine Shootout, we’re going to watch Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, Rinus Veekay, Helio Castroneves, Alex Palou, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marcus Ericsson duke it out for pole position.

With all that in mind, here’s how the grid is shaping up for the 104th running of the greatest spectacle in racing.

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Row Four: Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones, Pato O'Ward

Row Five: Pietro Fittipaldi, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato 

Row Six: James Hinchcliffe, Scott McLaughlin, Graham Rahal

Row Seven: Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Josef Newgarden

Row Eight: JR Hildebrand, Santino Ferrucci, Juan Pablo Montoya

Row Nine: Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais

Row Ten: Stefan Wilson, Max Chilton, Dalton Kellett

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

bumpon10s
Bumpon

For years and years I went to pole day (back then) and we watched bump day at home.

While this format isn't bad, how much drama can setting rows 4-10 provide?  Penske stuggling is the only thing moving the needle.  Without that, saturday ain't what it used to be.