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Here’s What Drivers Said after Saturday’s qualifying at Indianapolis


Joe Skibinski

Here’s what the 33 drivers that qualified for the May 27th Indianapolis 500 -- and the two drivers that didn’t -- had to say after Saturday’s qualifying session:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I definitely think we’re working with a slower track. It’s very humid. Rain brings humidity. There’s a lot of moisture in the air. It slows our cars down. I think it would’ve been a little better to go early today, but we still found some speed. We were real close. The only thing we were missing was that fourth lap. If that fourth lap could’ve been a little bit better, we probably would have popped up to third. This Verizon car is quick. I think we have a little more speed in it.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “I didn’t make many adjustments. The Shell Pennzoil Chevy looks really strong. Right now, we’re working very well and trying to make sure Chevy power keeps pushing up to the front. When I saw the 229 ,[j, I thought it was 228. I had to compose myself. It’s amazing how the car became so sensitive by the last lap. You don’t want to do anything too aggressive.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Qualifying was pretty good I think, I was pretty comfortable in the car and I’m happy with the performance and happy with the effort of all the ABC crew, I think they did a great job today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. It was a tough run because the conditions changed so much from yesterday. Yesterday I had one car and today I had a different car but the good thing is that we were still fast. We had a little bit of understeer in Turn 1 and 2 and we were a little bit edgy in (Turn) 3 and 4, but I had my tools so I could control the car. I think I and the team did a great job together.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “It’s devastating in every way possible. We got in line there and then we had a tire vibration. I’m not exactly sure what the problem was... Indy is a cruel mistress sometimes. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but SPM worked their tails off to get these cars ready. We have three cars in the show, unfortunately the fourth one didn’t make it, but we win as a team and we lose as a team. It’s crazy to be here after where we were two years ago, but we will put our heads down and we will take a look at it and definitely learn from this experience. It’s a character builder for sure, but yeah, I’m just disappointed. The Arrow Electronics car is fast enough to be in the show, no doubt about it. We’ve got one of the best crews in pit lane - we’ve proved that all year long. It’s just a big blow for sure.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I think we lost some speed overnight, which is always frustrating. On Fast Friday, we were right in the mid-227s or low-227s and now we can’t even make it there, so we have some work to do. I don’t think that rain delay could have come at a worse time. We got the Lucas Oil car all hot and ready, did one timed lap and had to stop [for moisture on track]. It rained but it’s not cold outside, so everything is hot and the engine’s not making great power because it’s just hot. We did what we could, but I feel like I didn’t get a fair chance. I know there’s more speed - it’s frustrating because I honestly think we had a shot at the Fast Nine today.”

JAY HOWARD (No. 7 One Cure SPM Honda): “The objective today was to make sure we got the One Cure car in the field, and we did just that. Thanks to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports boys, Honda, One Cure - we are pretty proud. It’s pretty special to be here. It’s been so smooth being back with the team with so many familiar faces. I really appreciate the guys’ hard work and I’m really happy to get the car in the show.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was much better today out there overall for the whole No. 9 PNC Bank team. The car really felt good today and I was comfortable - I was feeling a lot better than yesterday too, but we’re just still lacking some speed to match the tops cars right now in qualifying. The team has been working very hard to make the most out of it and we’ll see what the conclusion of qualifying brings tomorrow.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The guys did a great job overall for the NTT DATA car. We struggled a bit yesterday trying to find qualifying pace, and ran about 50 laps alone on qualifying setups. It’s great to be with this (Chip) Ganassi team because they constantly work at it and push to find speed. I think we got a little bit unlucky with the sun coming out during our run. That definitely hurt our pace a bit, but on the other hand considering our struggles yesterday I’m happy with the pace we have now.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think the balance just came in as the run went on. Obviously, fuel gets a little bit lighter, too. So, I think I think we have a good solid-balanced car so that’s why it was going faster. This is obviously a very different condition to the early runners, so hopefully we have a shot at the pole tomorrow. But, I think we’re solidly in the nines, and I’m happy with that.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet): “Every year is a little different. I remember 13 years ago my first time, similar conditions (to today) early it was overcast and cooler and having to save it in (Turn) 1. I remember that and then I remember years where the car was very neutral the whole way around the track, and looking at the steering trace afterward - and my heart rate is still not down - to times you go out there and it just won’t go fast enough. That gets your heart rate going in a different way. That’s the thing about Indy. It’s unpredictable. It ebbs and flows here. You can go out one day and you’re good and you go out the next day, try some things and wonder how you lost your way. You have to respect that process about Indy that it comes and goes. I am very happy with this car. I am comfortable, (Ed Carpenter Racing) has made me comfortable. We got off on a path that didn’t go very well for a while. The good thing is you come back to it and the car is there. I wish I would have been able to qualify before the rain came. The conditions were probably a little more ideal.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a good day. The luck of the draw definitely hurt us a bit. It is what it is. As a team, it’s nice to see A.J. so happy. I wish I could’ve locked in the Fast Nine for him, but it doesn’t matter. Today, the most important thing was to be in the show. We have two cars that are very strong in the show. Tomorrow we will fight for the pole which is for tenth [smiles] then we’ll go win the race. The year that we won here, I started 12th. I believe that we can do it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “We’re in the show and that’s probably as much as I can ask for. We get to go racing. Obviously, we have our work cut out for us back where we are but it’s a long race and anything can happen. We will finish it up tomorrow to get our final starting position. Most of all I can’t thank these guys enough. The No.15 car, the No. 30 car and the o. 64 car guys stayed so late last night to help get everything swapped over. We changed cars, changed engines, gearboxes, uprights and literally built a new car start to finish. They were here until 3:30 a.m. and were back here at 5:30 p.m. The work and effort that was put in is pretty much appreciated and I am honored to work with them. These United Rentals guys have no quit in them. Sure we’d like to qualify 10th tomorrow but, realistically, if we can sneak up to 20th and just hit everything just right that would be ideal. Race day is the important one for the United Rentals team. I’m just happy to be in the show right now!”

CONOR DALY (No. 17 United States Air Force Honda): “It was tough. Yesterday we were confidently running high 226s so we didn’t really expect to worry. Then we went out on our first run and we had a massive imbalance. We found the problem on the scale pad but once you’re already out, you’re in big trouble so we trimmed out, we made some mechanical changes that we didn’t know if they would work and we just had to go out and hold it flat. I’ve never pushed harder on that pedal and I just tried to make sure that it didn’t crash and we made it. It’s a relief just for this whole program with the U. S. Air Force, for my career. I’m just happy to be here.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “It was a solid run for the SealMaster Honda No. 18. Very conservative, obviously. I kind of owed it to myself, my wife, everybody on the team. A lot of things went through my head, particularly yesterday. We were back in qualifying trim and it was not an easy day, but the guys did a great job and the car was pretty strong. We almost did a repeat of yesterday during the qualifying run today. It was a tough set of circumstances. The conditions were a little tricky. Just before we were supposed to go out, it rains. Then it got hot. You go from 80 degrees of track temp to 105, six to eight degrees more of ambient. It was tough to hit the setup right with the conditions that changed so fast, but we had the right amount of downforce. The car was pretty solid, so very happy with the run.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “I definitely would have liked to go later in line. It’s difficult to go first having never qualified here before in an Indy car. There were a lot of unknowns going into qualifying for me, I kind of figured them out now. It wasn’t really the qualifying we wanted. I wasn’t too pleased with the car. It was easy to drive but we didn’t have the speed. That said, we have a good race car so we should be fine and we have another chance tomorrow to improve our starting position. I’m just happy to be here. The whole event has been a great experience, from the fans to driving here to being with a great team. So, I’m really happy.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It is so stressful qualifying for this race, especially on days like today when you’re just sitting around, waiting to see what’s going to happen. I was finally happy to get out there, but the conditions were a bit harder. I’m really happy with the speed in the car, especially in this time of day because it wasn’t ideal. Weather permitting, we will be able to go out and have some fun tomorrow. It’s cool to have me, Spencer, and Danica in the Fast Nine. That’s awesome for Ed Carpenter Racing, Fuzzy’s Vodka, Preferred Freezer Services, and GoDaddy. We were really happy to put Danica in a great position for her final ride and be a part of that history. If all three cars have a chance for the pole tomorrow, it is truly a testament to the team and how hard they work, how dedicated they are, and what a good group we have. It really is a team effort to have three cars that are as close in performance as we are. When you look across the paddock and how hard it is in this field, not all teams can do that; it’s a true testament to our team.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): “It was a really good day obviously for the team to have all three ECR cars in the Fast Nine. It just shows how much hard work and effort has gone into our program. I’m really happy for all the guys and girls on our team, specifically everyone on the Preferred Freezer car. I’ll look over everything tonight to see just how aggressive we can be, and hopefully, be towards the front of the top nine.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I hate waiting. I just wanted to go, get it out of the way. At least, see the performance. Conditions are going to be key for speed. A gust of wind that goes your way, you’re going to pick up a lot of speed. Or a temperature drop could be a big advantage. Conditions today are what is going to get you up top the front. (How do you move to P1?) That’s one of the secrets of Indianapolis. Sometimes you have some super fast stuff going on and sometimes another teammate goes faster. We’re trying everything we can. It depends on the conditions on track. So far, the 22 Menards Chevy is really strong. I think it was a pretty strong performance. I’m very glad we got our run in and see the performance of the car. I think we’ve got something good. I think the four Team Penske cars are going to be very fast and obviously Helio (Castroneves) was really, really fast. I feel like the 22 Menards Chevrolet car is very competitive. We have a shot at (pole). I take my hat off to Chevrolet for the hard work that they’ve done all winter to get this engine at a different level of performance. They stepped up their game, and Team Penske the preparation with the car is rolling better than the others. It’s an honor to drive for two big friends like this.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet) : “I’m just so proud of the whole team for how much work they’ve put into this INDYCAR program and especially into making sure that both Carlin cars qualified for next Sunday. You know, we stopped a little early during practice yesterday and the conditions today were significantly different, so we were a bit worried about making sure we adjusted to those factors. I think we were hoping to get a bit more speed out of the No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet, but we’re all just over the moon that we made it into the show. We definitely have some work to do tonight after we comb through some data from this afternoon and hopefully we’ll have a shot at moving up even further tomorrow.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 24 WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet): “It’s about where I expected. I said I’d be between 15 and 20th. I just wanted to get into the field today. That was the main goal, then tomorrow we can attack more. We missed the gear ratio today. I had to downshift going into Turn 1 on my first lap; that really killed the speed. But we’ll go back to the drawing board tonight, fix it and should be good. It’s a good starting point. We missed the setup a little bit. We’ll probably go more toward where JR (Hildebrand) was and should be good.” (How challenging was it with the variable weather conditions today?): “Yeah, that was the most challenging part. That’s why we missed the gears and the downforce level a little bit. If we have gotten out right before that last little rain, we would’ve been perfect. Unfortunately, that’s how Indy is. It makes its own luck around here, and today I didn’t have the luck of the weather on my side.”

STEFAN WILSON (No. 25 #Driven2SaveLives Honda): “I’m super relieved. The last couple of nights - when qualifying is looming, it can get pretty crazy on bump day. It’s definitely been on the top of my mind. I focused on having four clean laps and executing my job. I think we managed to do that and put us safely into the field. I’m just so relieved. Even though I felt like we were good coming into the day, it plays on your mind knowing that two people are going home. I’m excited to really go after it tomorrow and potentially move up there a little bit and set a good starting position or the Driven2SaveLives / Intelisys team.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay / Group One Thousand One Honda): “I’m just relieved that we get to say that we are in the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Our qualifying run started out pretty well and then we ran into a mechanical issue that really robbed our second through fourth laps of speed, so we were kind of worried that might put us in a bad situation of making the field. I think we have the speed in the car to definitely try to be in the first half of the top 10. I think we can start anywhere between 10th and 15th, hopefully we just have to nail it right tomorrow. A lot happened today - a lot of wind and a lot of rain and a lot of stress, but extremely excited to say that the Relay Group 1001 car is in the race.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “It was a wild day. It wasn’t nearly as straightforward as we were hoping for. We started off this morning being very aggressive with our downforce selection. That wasn’t the right call. Fortunately, we got another run right at the end and the NAPA car was way, way better. I don’t know if it was a missed opportunity because I knew we had a strong shot to get into the Fast Nine. We’re the first car that didn’t make it, so I think we have the potential to start in the top 10. If we do our job right tomorrow, we can make that happen.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “All in all, it was a pretty positive day for the No. 28 team. We certainly didn’t expect to make the Fast Nine, but we had to give it every chance we could. To end up 14th, I think, is pretty positive. We’ve got our work cut out for us tomorrow when we all qualify at the same time. We really swung for the fences there at the end and got more ultimate speed out of it, but the fall off, sliding, lack of downforce, was too much in the end. We know we’re safe in the race, we can start as high as 10th - we’ll give it our best tomorrow to get as high on the grid as we can.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda): “I think my Ruoff Home Mortgage crew did a good job over night. I think we’re finally up to speed. We’re just missing that big first lap that some of teammates had, but it was an OK run. I think it is a bummer we didn’t have a shot at the Fast Nine - especially, since this is the first time the team hasn’t been in (the Fast Nine) in a long time. But, we’re going to do our best to grab the 10th spot tomorrow and start the highest we can for the race. I am really happy that everyone from the team made it and we’ll have six cars running in the Indy 500.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda): “First of all, I’m glad that Oriol (Servia) made it after a great save. It was a tough day for all of us. Obviously, we are not satisfied at all with where we are. I particularly couldn’t enjoy the lap which was disappointing.” (About the problem with his third lap): “I had a little moment, so I had to really lift. It’s tough. The track conditions were not necessarily good, but we are lacking speed, for sure. I ended up lifting off the throttle because I simply couldn’t make the corner. We have a lot of work to be done. We gathered a lot of data over three cars and it’s going to be a long night. Our engineers are working so hard. Hopefully we can put up good lap times tomorrow.”

KYLE KAISER (No. 32 NFP / Juncos Racing Chevrolet) : “Overall, I am ecstatic right now. We had such a great day. Rolling in, the guys made a few changes to the car from yesterday and we only had to qualify one time and the NFP Chevy car had the pace. I am just so happy with the team and the all the hard work they’ve done and put in. I am very excited to say that I will be in the Indianapolis 500 this year. I cannot wait for tomorrow to determine where we will actually be starting in the race, but to know we are in the show is an unbelievable feeling. I am so grateful to Dan Andersen and the Mazda Road to Indy for the opportunity to get me this chance to qualify. Now that I know I am in the race, I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to an exciting week ahead preparing for the race and getting out there for the biggest stage in racing.”

JAMES DAVISON (No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Chevrolet): “It was a big effort all night to get the car ready. That 225.6 mph was what we wanted to see. But, the drop off obviously was not. We dropped down to a 223.9 mph, but if someone said to us before that run that we were going to be quicker than the No. 5 car (James Hinchcliffe), I would have never believed it. At least we know that we’re somewhat in the mix in similar conditions. Things are going to change, weather-permitting. We know that we have some speed in the car. We just have to try and keep the consistency over the four laps. It’s motorsports - full of highs and lows. Indianapolis rewards bravery and experience. I just had to man up and get on with it. I’m just very proud of my team.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “I was really comfortable coming out of practice yesterday with the balance, but when I went out today it was literally within one corner I knew that it had changed a lot out there. The wind had gone up, the wind direction had changed, and I felt like the balance had changed. It’s just difficult if you’re struggling even a little bit because you just don’t know which way to go. I felt like the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet was a little loose and then the wind was getting stronger as we built up on speed so it was quite difficult. We weren’t thrilled with our overall pace, but honestly I’m just so proud of this team for getting both cars qualified for the Indianapolis 500.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda): “We felt really close to the bubble because of our disappointing first run. I have been sweating it all day. It was tight until the checkered flag dropped. The second run was a much better run than the first. Meyer Shank Racing has done a great job the whole month. What’s been confusing at times is that we don’t know exactly where the speed is, but everyone at Meyer Shank Racing has done a great job at figuring it out for me. We know what we need to do and then we would execute it. The guys are putting the hours in, so we will just keep trying heading into pole day tomorrow.”

PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Donate Life Honda): “Coming into this May, I knew things were going to be tough. I normally get time in an Indy car once a year. With a new aero package, not getting to do any of the testing ahead of time because we don’t have a budget that allows for that... All of the people who have supported me to be here, Dale Coyne Racing, the entire crew on my car, worked so hard to turn that car over from a road course car to an oval car so we could shake it down, get me through my refresher on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday... I’ll be honest with you, we thought things were going pretty well. The car handled great. It was really good. It was pretty good in traffic. We thought things were rolling along pretty nicely. The no tow reports, they looked fine. Then yesterday morning, I rolled out, 226 mph out of the box. Great, this isn’t bad. Now let’s trim the car. Went through it again, nothing. That’s when we started to realize we might really be in trouble. We tried everything we could think of yesterday. The boys stayed really, really late last night. We pulled the rack off the car, we resanded the car, resanded the floor. We went through all the brakes again because we thought we had some brakes that were dragging a little bit out. I knew if everything we did last night still hadn’t made us go faster, we were going to be in trouble today, but you have to try and get out there anyway. When we got back in line for the last run, we took every single trim we could possibly could to the race car, we did everything. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. What’s worse, it was slower than our time before. Once you pulled your time, if the car is still functioning, you kind of have to finish the run because what if somebody in front of me just didn’t get through tech and I withdrew and didn’t complete my run and pulled off the racetrack? It’s the worst feeling in the world. The team worked so hard. Earlier today I really thought we were going to get it done. Then we went out again for the first run and I knew we were in the fight in final trim. We took it further than any of our cars have gone. Big stats. If we understood what was going on, we wouldn’t be here.

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc Honda): “It’s been probably the biggest roller-coaster of my life, just today. We started today in free practice, 8 a.m. in the morning, the track was green and it’s usually a little tricky in those hours. The car was the best it’s been the whole month. It was perfect. And then we went out in qualifying, and I almost crashed on Lap 1. Thankfully, we saved it, came in. We made some changes. We thought we were going to be pretty solid in the show. We didn’t take any risks, we put some downforce back in the car, we just wanted to make the show. I went out and it was as awful as the other attempt. We didn’t know what was going on. We are going to spend a lot of time looking at the car. It’s one of those days - it’s Indy drama. I was talking yesterday about how sad it would be that we have 35 great entries this year and two will go home. That’s the drama we were all waiting for - bump day. Then, here I am, and I think it’s going to be me because that’s how the day went. We were 31st; the car just wasn’t right. I don’t know why. We had a great team. We had all the right ingredients to not only be in the race, but to be challenging for the pole, and we almost didn’t make it. That shows how challenging this race is.” (About how he found the extra speed on the last run): “It was just the hardest I’ve driven - the hardest 12 laps I’ve driven ever. When the car is off, it’s not right, at a speedway like this, there’s not much you can do apart from trying not to crash, which is what I did. It was really difficult. At that point (on the last run), you’re committed. Like (James Hinchcliffe), if you come in, you might not have a chance to go out again. I knew I had to try to stick it in. I’m happy for the effort, and we’ll see what we’ve got tomorrow.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 66 Saleforce DRR Chevrolet): “I think we have a little bit more in it, for sure. I think we expected to get a little more out of it there. It’s really becoming a game of what are the conditions actually going to be like when you make your run. With the new car and the conditions all over the place, the car seems to be really sensitive to what the ambient condition is like. I think doing what we did there was the right call for where we were at. We’ve made a lot of progress over the last couple of days. I’d like to ride the momentum train up the order a little bit further. We’re going to end up right on the bubble on the outside looking into the top nine. But the Dreyer & Reinbold boys have been doing an awesome job, particularly the last couple days recovering from our incident on Thursday. The guys did an awesome job overnight from Thursday to Friday. It speaks to the preparedness of this team.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Glad to finish the day safely inside the show. Our Harding Racing #88 had some really good speed, but we weren’t really able to maximize the speed that we thought we had. It was good enough to land us safely inside and now we’re going to look overnight and find a way to make the car really fast so we can start as close as we can to the front.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “I think for a second run, we would’ve had the speed to challenge the Fast Nine, for sure. I think we potentially would have a chance at it had we been able to have a run at it. It was a dramatic ending - obviously, I would’ve wanted another shot, but perspective-wise - with [James Hinchcliffe] not making it today, we can still be 10th but we had a problem that we found in our one and only attempt today, so hopefully we find some speed tomorrow.”