Halfway through Day 1 of qualification for the 105th running of the Indy 500, Team Penske driver Will Power finds himself on the outside looking in. With 35 cars taking time, Power landed 31st on the speed chart with a four-lap average of 229.052 mph, 2.8 miles per hour off the pace of the current fastest qualifier Scott Dixon.
Before qualification, Power said he would be happy with a top-15 time in qualification for 105th Running of the Indy 500. As amazing as that sounded for the driver who sat on the outside pole for last year’s edition of the Indy 500 and who finished second in the race, he did not expect to struggle this badly.
“We’ve been about that pace all week,” Power said. “We have a great race car. If we can have a good race and just get up there in that front bunch, we’ll be OK. I ran the same stuff as Scott ran, and he was a mile and a half an hour quicker. I don’t know what else to do.
“Hopefully we don’t have to be in bumping part of it. Hopefully we can get up a bit better than that. I was pretty much wide open the whole time and just don’t have the speed right now.
Thirty cars lock in on Saturday, so if Power cannot find any additional speed in the afternoon, he will be forced to compete again five others for final three spots on the grid.
Dixon was the first driver to roll out of the pits. He set a fast time of 231.828 mph and held off an early challenge from Tony Kanaan and a late challenger from Colton Herta to remain atop the chart.
“You forget how stressful this is, an hour before you start to shake … first time I’ve gone first,” Dixon said on Peacock TV after his lap. “Hopefully that’s good enough, we’re just really fighting for the Fast Nine at the moment. Still some really quick cars.”
Kanaan, who wound up third on the speed chart halfway through the afternoon gave him a scare early. He rolled out of the pits eighth and held a pole pace through three of four laps. He turned Lap 1 at 232.348, but his lead steadily shrunk to less than four-tenths when he took the white flag.
“It’s been an awesome month for us,” Kanaan said. “We have a fast car. The goal here today is to be in the Fast Nine and then tomorrow we go for it.”
Herta displaced Kanaan late with a speed of 231.648 mph.
Early qualification was also highlighted by Ed Carpenter, who landed fourth on chart. He posted the fastest time among the Chevrolets with a speed of 231.616 mph.
“I wish I could hear the fans,” Carpenter said. “I may not hear the fans, but I feel it. I feel it so much this year compared to last year when the fans weren’t here. It’s great to be back together doing what we love here at the speedway.”
Carpenter has been among the Fast Nine in each of the last eight years.
Helio Castroneves (231.164 mph) rounded out the top five.
Last year’s pole winner Marco Andretti (229.261) is another driver in trouble. He landed 28th on the chart halfway through the day after changing an engine.
“Trying to find speed,” Andretti said. “It doesn’t matter what we do mechanically. A slow car is a slow car. I’m surprised because I knew we were slow, but I didn’t think we were this slow. I’m hoping and praying they find something because if not, I don’t know if this will even make the field, and sitting there running flat for four laps, pretty helpless.
Currently the slowest five drivers who would not lock into the race are RC Enerson (227.283), Simona de Silvestro (228.173), Charlie Kimball (228.401), Jack Harvey (225.496, with a flat-spotted tire), and Power.
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Will Power in trouble, Scott Dixon fastest halfway through Indy 500 qualification originally appeared on NBCSports.com