Pole Day and the non-bumping Bump Day for the Indianapolis 500 are in the books and the starting field is set. Let’s take a look at a few of the stories from the past days at the speedway, and look toward race day.
- Ryan Briscoe will start from the pole for the 500. This will be Ryan’s first 500 pole start.
- All 3 Penske cars (Castroneves, Power, and Briscoe) made the Firestone Fast 9. Despite being mid-pack during the week preceding qualifying, the Penske cars showed great improvement in qualifying trim.
- Former F1 star and Indy 500 rookie Rubens Barrichello qualified 10th in his KV Racing Technology car after struggling to find speed during the week. All 3 KV Racing Technology machines will start in the top 10 with Tony Kanaan starting 8th and EJ Viso starting 9th.
- Honda engines, though quick during early days of practice, were not as fast as the Chevy engines for qualifying. Only 1 Honda engine, that of Josef Newgarden’s Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing machine, will be starting in the Top 10. It was clear that the Chevy’s responded more favorably to the increased boost provided to all engine manufacturers for qualifying. However, in race trim and at race boost levels the Honda and Chevy engines seem very evenly matched.
- The Lotus engines are slow. Simona de Silvestro’s qualifying speed of 214.393 mph is just over 12 mph slower than Briscoe’s speed of 226.484 mph. Simona, for qualifying, had received an update to the Lotus engine good for an extra 30 hp. Jean Alesi, in the only other Lotus in the field, qualified at 210.094 mph over 16 mph slower than Briscoe without the update for his Lotus. It is possible that if the Lotus engines cannot maintain a speed within 105% of the race pace on Sunday, they could be black-flagged and parked by IndyCar race control.
- Davey Hamilton reportedly stated that at least 7 drivers had sponsors to participate in the 500, but could not get an engine for the event. Names known to be on the list include Jay Howard, Vitor Meira, Pippa Mann, and Jason Leffler. The result was there were only 33 entries to fill the 33 starting spots. After a dramatic Bump Day in 2011 that left 2 Andretti Autosport teams outside the field, having no bumping this year was certainly the biggest negative from the weekend.
- After 4 relatively clean events with no major accidents, rookie Bryan Clauson was the first to crash the DW12 on an oval at a high rate of speed on Pole Day. Oriol Servia and Ed Carpenter also crashed during qualifying. Charlie Kimball crashed on Bump Day during practice. All drivers were uninjured, although Clauson did have a thumb issue from his hand striking something in the cockpit during his crash. Representatives from chassis manufacturer Dallara have stated that the cars performed as expected during the crashes with no major surprises.
- After filing a lawsuit against Lotus and sitting out most practice sessions this past week because of the lack of engines, Dragon Racing secured Chevy engines for the 500 for Katherine Legge and Sebastien Bourdais. It has been stated that after the 500 Dragon Racing has secured 1 engine for the rest of the season and is working to secure a 2nd.
- The weather in Indianapolis has been perfect. After multiple day rainouts last year leading to viral “planking” by most drivers, not a single practice or track activity has been interrupted or cancelled due to rain. It appears the trend will continue through race day as there is 0% chance of rain all week until Monday after the race.
- 2012 could also be the year of another surprise winner. Newgarden and Clauson have been near the top of the speed charts for every practice. The additional entries from Andretti Autosport for Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra have been surprisingly quick as well. On the flip-side, the AJ Foyt Racing entries for Mike Conway and Wade Cunningham have struggled to find additional speed, as well as the 2011 500 pole sitting team of Sam Schmidt Motorsports with entries for rookie Simon Pagenaud and Townsend Bell.
Ross Bynum (@therossbynum)