Sunday, April 2, 2023

Blistering pace on fastest Indy 500 qualifying since 1996

Indianapolis ( Associated Press) — The rain lingered long enough for an entire round of Indianapolis 500 qualifying, which saw blazing speed – the fastest in the history of the race and the fastest in 26 years – and controversy at Andretti Autosport.

Rinus VK placed his Chevrolet atop the scoring pylon with a four-lap average speed of 233.655 mph all around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This pushed fellow Chevy driver Pato O’Ward to second place on 233.037 as the two budding IndyCar stars were the first two drivers to qualify for the May 29 race.

Ari Luendik set a four-lap qualifying record in 1996 at 236.986, and VK’s average was the third fastest ever, behind Luendik and Scott Breton’s mark of 233.718. O’Ward’s average was the fifth fastest in history, with Tony Stewart fourth in 1996.

Jimmy Johnson qualified for his first Indy 500 and once again showed incredible speed. In early Saturday morning practice, Johnson turned a lap at 233.961 mph—the 14th fastest in track history. The seven-time NASCAR champion has become a legitimate contender to win the Indy 500, his fifth win at the Indianapolis Oval; Johnson won four times in NASCAR.

“I had a few quiet moments before I rolled over, I was able to look around and really take in the moment,” Johnson said, “and I’m so happy to be here at what a special moment it was.” At the moment things are looking good.”

Everyone seems to be very fast in Indy, where Saturday’s schedule was extended because the weather forecast called for a possible washout. A gust of 41 mph on “Fast Friday” the day before made for treacherous conditions, and IndyCar worried rain would ruin the first day of qualifying on Saturday.

The schedule adjustment created a seven-hour window for 33 drivers to complete the four-lap qualifying run. If all 33 failed to do it on Saturday, the entire session would have been washed away. But the weather lasted 2 hours and all 33 cars were credited with a run during that window that could have been interrupted by rain.

Positions 13 to 33 were to be determined on Saturday, and the shootout on Sunday would determine the pole.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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