Power hangs on for a wild ride in the last row




Will Power wasn’t supposed to be there, slipping his car into Turn 2 in Sunday’s last-ditch qualifying session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, bracing for the rapidly approaching outside wall.

And in an instant, slap – a tire mark left on the SAFER barrier.

Power didn’t know what to think. His wife gasped in the pit lane, turning quickly to see if her car had slowed down.

“I felt it and (thought) there was a good chance that (the suspension) was slightly bent,” Power said later. “I knew that was going to make things very loose in (turns) 3 and 4.”

But Power ran out of alternatives, and there were still two corners to pedal to complete the race. He could only hope to avoid the embarrassment that two other Team Penske “500” winners – Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. – endured in 1995 when they failed to qualify that year. Now Power felt it in the pit of his stomach.

“I had to keep it wide open – otherwise I wouldn’t do the show,” he said. “I had no choice.”

Power crossed the finish line with a four-lap average of 228.876 mph, the slower of the two cars that had gone at this point. Sage Karam of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing had driven 229.156 mph in the No. 24 DRR-AES Indiana Chevrolet.

There was a weird feeling about the IMS when Power drove its No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet down the pit lane and stopped. Was this the moment when history repeated itself? Was another Roger Penske star going to be kicked out of the Indianapolis 500 soon? Even Penske couldn’t tell.

“I’m not sure how I felt,” he says.

Ironically, Power sat in his car as a driver Penske invested in for this race did his four-lap run. At the wheel of Paretta Autosport’s No.16 Rocket Pro TPO Chevrolet, Simona De Silvestro had almost identical laps at Power on Crown Royal Armed Forces’ opening day of qualifying, and she almost matched it in this race. But she finished a tick behind at 228.353 mph to take the 33rd and final provisional position for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Power took a deep breath.

“Stressful, man. Stressful, ”he says. “I knew it was going to be difficult, and it was.

Over the next hour, Charlie Kimball (No.11 Tresiba Chevrolet) of AJ Foyt Racing and RC Enerson (No.75 Top Gun Racing Chevrolet) fired two shots each against De Silvestro and Power, but those efforts were vain. . Kimball’s best run was 227.811 mph, Enerson’s was 227.298 mph.

Kimball said his team even put 700 pounds of extra springs into the car in an attempt to generate more speed than the car had on Saturday. “And we went at the same speed,” he said.

Power, who won more poles (62) than any rider except one in INDYCAR SERIES history, had withstood his first Bump Day.

“In this place, you never know,” he said. “Someone can come out, the wind can be (favorable), and they can balance (the aerodynamics of the car) and they can knock you out. (It happened to Fernando) Alonso (in 2019). You can’t go into this race thinking you are there.

“That’s why I never said I was races in the Indy 500, ”said Kimball, who failed to qualify for the first time. “I say that I am try to qualify for my 11th. There are no guarantees on this tour. There never was and there never should be.

“As an outside person looking inside, there should never be any guarantees on this circuit because that’s what it’s built on. This is something 100 years will not change.

Enerson was resigned to the fact that it was quite an effort for the small team located 4 miles west of IMS on Crawfordsville Road. Top Gun began receiving boxes of auto parts shortly before its competitors took part in the INDYCAR Open Test at Speedway on April 8 and 9.

“Even though today wasn’t the day we wanted, we couldn’t be more proud of every hard working person on this team,” the team said in a tweet. “Also, a huge thank you to the fans. Your support can be felt by all of the crew. Thank you.”

When the gun sounded to end the session, Beth Paretta applauded, hugged a member of her “Female Forward” crew, exhaled and gazed skyward with her eyes closed. “Thank you,” his expression suggested.

De Silvestro secured his sixth starting position in the race, but the first since 2015. Karam will start 31st for the third year in a row and the fourth time in his career of eight “500” races.

“It’s huge,” de Silvestro said of his starting position. “If you look at the team and the girls who work on the team, they’re on it like everyone’s really focused. I want to inspire a lot of young girls to be who they want to be. “

What stood out was the sportsmanship shown. Power was one of the first to congratulate De Silvestro, and he kissed Kimball. There were winners on days like this, but there are no losers.

“The opportunity to come here and do it with this pressure?” Who can say they can do this, and they get to do that? ”Kimball said.“ It must be like walking down center court at Wimbledon. Like hearing your name in a Super Bowl intro. Skating on the ice for a Stanley Cup playoff game.

“You walk the pit lane, put on a helmet and you have the ability to qualify for the Indy 500. It’s awesome.

But Kimball was also honest with himself. “It hurts. Man, it hurts.

A victory for the race for equality and change

Penske made inclusion and diversity a hallmark of her first 17 months of owning IMS and INDYCAR, and it paid dividends on Sunday when De Silvestro and the female-powered Paretta Autosport secured a starting position for the 105th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

Last year was the first ‘500’ since 1999 that no woman had driven in the race, and this, along with the desire to make sport more inclusive, led Penske to create the ‘Race for Equality’ initiative. & Change ”.

So Penske was thrilled when De Silvestro entered the race.

“Having a woman in this race was one of my really # 1 goals after last year,” he said.

Penske also praised INDYCAR’s qualifying format which generated significant drama on the weekend and large crowds on both days.

“I think if you look at the numbers, yesterday was the best Saturday we’ve had since 2016,” Penske said. “In a world upside down with COVID, I would say we’ve made good progress.”

Tips

  • Pole winner Scott Dixon (No.9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda) has had several near misses here since winning the ‘500’ from pole in 2008, but team owner Chip Ganassi, said the six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES event had to stand up for nothing. “You have to win whatever you do here,” Ganassi said.
  • Dixon went on to become one of the five pilots in history with at least four poles. Rick Mears holds the record with six. Rex Mays, AJ Foyt, and Helio Castroneves also have four.
  • This is the second time that a Team Penske car has started from the back row of the Indianapolis 500, but it is the first time due to speed. Mario Andretti was forced to start at the back of the field in 1978 after missing qualifying due to his race in the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix. Mike Hiss qualified the car eighth.
  • Ed Carpenter tweeted the following after coming back to his phone after a 233.920 mph first lap that sent the crowd into a frenzy: “Thanks folks! I don’t hear the cheers, but I can smell them.
  • The field average of 230.294 mph broke the event record set in 2014 (229.382 mph).
  • According to a statistic from Jake Query of the INDYCAR Radio Network, this is the first time that the two youngest drivers on the field (Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay) will take the start in the first place.
  • Jack Harvey (No.60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda) had the fastest car in the hour-long morning practice on Sunday. He then said he was testing conditions for his Meyer Shank Racing teammate Helio Castroneves, who qualified eighth in the Fast Nine Shootout in the No.06 Honda AutoNation / SiriusXM.
  • Karam had quick friends who supported him in his pit area. Among them were 2020 “500” polesitter and compatriot Nazareth, Pa., Resident Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly. “I was here in 2011,” Andretti said of Bump Day, “and it’s no fun.” Andretti will be Karam’s witness at his wedding on July 16.

Next up for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge participants is a two hour practice during Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday. The session begins at 11 a.m. (ET). The 500 mile race takes place on Sunday with the live broadcast from NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 11 a.m.



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