After a week of minor disruptions and delays to weather the 100th running of the Indy 500 finally got down to business Saturday with the first round of qualifications.
In front of a huge crowd the day began with rain that shortened the normally one hour free practice session to just forty minutes and meant that the Speedway took the unusual step of extending the on track activities into the evening.
The order of qualifying is determined by a draw made in public at the Speedway on Friday evening and consists of four consecutive timed laps around the 2.5 mile (4.02 kms) oval with the average speed of all four laps determining the qualifying speed.
Scott Dixon walks down pit road during a practice session on the opening day of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, on Saturday. Picture/AP.
At the conclusion of the first day of qualifying the fastest nine qualifiers are locked in to Sunday’s ‘Fast Nine’ shootout for pole position and the US$100,000 prize as well as the rest of the first three rows of starting positions.
Those qualifiers not locked in to the ‘Fast Nine’ move on to the Sunday Qualifying to determine the starting positions from ten to thirty three.
All the drivers get two qualifying attempts with thirty three being the maximum number of cars allowed to start.
First on the track in blustery, cool and overcast conditions was Scott Dixon’s team mate Tony Kanaan with a disappointing average speed of 227.679 mph (366.414kph), considered slow!
Dixon’s first attempt of the day resulted in a speed of 228.832 mph (368.27 kph) and ninth position but the laps were not good.
Later in the day of the first afternoon those teams that felt they could improve their position all took to the track again in warmer and sunny conditions.
Will Power, of Australia, drives his car during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. Picture/AP.
The tactics and strategy began with not enough time left in the day for all the runners to have a second attempt so it became vital to get your car in the queue in time to ensure getting on track before the gun went off.
The gun, a real shotgun, is fired on the stroke of 7pm signaling the end of the day.
Elio Castro Neves had a great run to go fastest with just 40 minutes left in the day to take the provisional pole position but that speed was quickly beaten by James Hinchcliffe.
Scott Dixon took to the track but could not improve his time so did not make the Fast Nine, qualifying 13th, and will have another attempt to improve that position tomorrow but the best he can do will be position 10th.
The penultimate act of the day went to Ryan Hunter Reay who improved his time enough to knock team mate Marco Andretti out of the top nine but the final act was performed by Russian drive Michael Aleshin who left the pit lane with just seconds to spare and made a speed fast enough to get into that top nine and in doing so ‘bumped’ American driver and Indy 500 rookie Alexander Rossi out.
Rossi had remained in that top group the entire day
A dramatic day with smiles for some and frowns for others.