Who Will Win The Pole, and Who Will Be Sweating on Bump Day [Indy 500 Time Trials Live Thread]
This weekend Time Trials (qualifying's official name at Indy) return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. By 6:00 Sunday we will now the 33 starters for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. Today, 24 will take those four laps and qualify. The top nine will then take part in a shootout for pole starting at 4:30. One attempt for each, fastest takes the pole.
Who are the favorites to win that pole? Look no further than Andretti Autosport. Their cars have been fast all month, a 180 from the last few years when they struggled to make the race. Until this morning, Marco Andretti had the fastest lap of the month, with a lap of 227.540 mph. His teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe have also been near the top, and the good vibes have continued to the team's Indy only entries, driven by Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra.
However, this morning Team Penske started to show their hand, and Helio Castroneves, who knows a thing or two about winning the pole, set the new fast lap, at 227.555 mph. Keep an eye on him, and the two primary Ganassi boys: Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. In fact, Dixon is my pick for pole. No real reason for that, just playing a hunch.
Tomorrow is Bump Day, and unfortunately the focus is will the field fill and will the incredibly slow Lotus cars be able to get in the race. Right now, there are only 33 car and driver combinations. While this is likely a temporarily blip due to the new cars, and more importantly, the new engines, it creates no margin for error. If someone wrecks or loses an engine on Sunday, there might not be 33 cars in the race.
There's also the Lotus situation. Their two cars are a good 10-15 mph slower than the rest. It's not the fault of their two drivers: Jean Alesi and Simona De Silvestro. They're getting everything out of the car, but it's just a dog slow engine. Speculation is rampant that a team with a Honda or Chevy engine will roll out a backup car on Bump Day to bump the Lotuses out. Does that mean we might see Jay Howard or Vitor Meira get a chance? It's still possible. Unfortunately for her fans, Pippa Mann tweeted this morning she will not be participating in the 500.
Pole Day has already begun on NBC Sports Network (at home, so family duty kept me from finishing on time). Coverage will last til 2:30 on TV, then return at 4:25 for the Fast Nine shootout. Bump Day coverage will be on NBC Sports Network from Noon-6. Timing and scoring can be found here. Q it up here throughout the weekend.