By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway settled some important business ahead of next weekend’s 105th Indianapolis 500 for the NTT IndyCar Series. The final three spots were filled amongst five teams and the pole winner was determined in the annual Bump/Pole Day on the 2.5-mile track.
Firstly, the Last-Row Shootout decided positions 31-33. Sage Karam, who turned a speed of 229.156 mph, qualified his way into his eighth Indy 500 start in 31st spot.
Behind the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car was Will Power, the Team Penske champion who turned at 228.876 mph to fill the 32nd position. Simona De Silvestro wrapped up the advancements, filling 33rd with a speed of 228.353 mph.
For Power, the run wasn’t as straightforward as usual. Struggling to stay in the 229-mph range, the 2018 Indy 500 winner drifted wide in Turn 2 on his fourth lap and popped the wall. The contact was not severe enough to end the run — or even force him to lift.
“Very nerve-racking,” Power said. “Halfway through the run, it started going loose at every little moment. I got loose coming out of Turn 2, I kind of walked it out to the wall and hit the wall. I just took a chance and held it wide open in Turns 3,4.
“That’s as loose as you want to get it. I’m so stoked to get in the race for all the team. They really have put massive amount of effort into this race.”
For Silvestro, it was a celebration, as the ‘Swiss Miss’ made her way into her first 500 start since 2015.
“If you look at the team, we did two runs, and the team were on it. Like everyone is really focused,” Silvestro said. “I hope it can inspire girls to be whatever they want to be. When I look at my career, I know I am super proud to be a part of this team right now.”
More importantly for team owner Beth Paretta, it was years of hard work finally realized at the world’s highest stage.
“I feel like we climbed a mountain together,” said Paretta. “Hats off to all these women and all these men from Team Penske who have been coaching our women on this team. I couldn’t be happier and we cant wait to get to next week.”
With the happy stories comes the sad ones. Charlie Kimball and RC Enerson were the two drivers who failed to qualify for the 500.
A.J. Foyt Racing’s Kimball, who only managed to turn at 227.584 mph, missed the race for the first time in 11 attempts. Meanwhile, Enerson and Top Gun Racing were in their first attempt at the 500, and failed doing so at just 226.813 mph.
While today was not the day we wanted, we couldn’t be more proud of every single hardworking person on this crew.
Also, a ginormous thank you to the fans. Your support could be felt by everyone on the crew. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/uas9VcKfTf
— Grant King Racers (@GrantKingRacers) May 23, 2021
Fast 9 Run for Pole
Following the Bump portion of Sunday, the Fast 9 put down their best speeds for pole position. Scott Dixon, who led the way on Saturday, posted the best lap of the afternoon at 231.385 mph to win his fourth career Indianapolis 500 pole.
Though the No. 9 was the top driver of the day, the run wasn’t easy.
“That was sketchy,” he said. “I could see them making adjustments to the car before I rolled out and nobody told me anything. It was pretty loose the last lap. I was holding on. It doesn’t matter what [the margin of victory] is, we will take it.
“You really just have to go out there and feel it out.”
Team owner Chip Ganassi was thrilled to have all four of his cars qualify in the Fast 9, topped off by Dixon’s pole-winning lap.
“This is a total team effort,” Ganassi said. “All four drivers, it’s been a great week of practice and coming off the grand prix last week, they all worked together great. We got all four in the Fast 9 which is a huge accomplishment for the team. I’m really, really proud of the team and how the whole team came together.”
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) May 23, 2021
Behind Dixon was Colton Herta, the Andretti Autosport driver who will start second in his third career Indy 500 start.
“The car was really on point, the car is solid,” Herta said after hitting 231.655 mph. “I think we could have done a little more trim but it’s hard to say though. I’m so happy to have the chance to qualify today.
“I just can’t wait for next Sunday. I know we have a good racecar.”
Rounding out the front row is Rinus Veekay, the Indy Grand Prix winner who bested team owner Ed Carpenter for the third position on the grid. And he did so following a close call in Turn 1.
“I felt that the car was edgy, but I’m like, ‘I’m not going to change where I want to be.’ I was as on-the-edge as possible,” Veekay said. “I kept the power in and it was wiggling, wiggling, wiggling. I knew Turn 1 was the most tricky. Wow. Yeah, this is pretty good.”
Behind Carpenter in fourth was Tony Kanaan in fifth. Alex Palou, after a hard crash on Saturday, turned at 230.616 mph. The sophomore driver thanked the Ganassi team for repairing his No. 10 car in time for his four-lap run Sunday.
“It was not me, it was all the partners, all these guys at Chip Ganassi Racing who made these four laps possible,” Palou said. “I cannot thank them enough. The No. 10 was strong all week and we brought it today. Hopefully we can keep ourselves up there.”
Rounding out the top nine spots was Ryan Hunter-Reay in seventh with Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and CGR’s Marcus Ericsson in eighth and ninth, respectively.