Race Weekend Central

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying: Preview and Predictions

Prediction pieces are challenging. And based off the IndyCar preview pieces we’ve done at Frontstretch this year (including those done by this writer), we haven’t been close to perfect. So don’t take any of this advice and go to a casino. But for the Indianapolis 500, some 34 entries are going to try to accomplish three things: record the fastest four lap average possible to make it into the Top 12 and a right to fight for the pole; lay down good, but not the best, average to lock it in the field; or try as hard as possible to not be one of the four slowest cars that are stuck bumping their way into the field on Sunday. 

So, below is every team and where their drivers are predicted to place themselves in qualifying. Each driver is predicted to make it into the Top 12 and therefore have the opportunity to go for the pole in the Shootout on Sunday, lock themselves in the field by slotting in 13th through 30th in speed and call it a day, or unfortunately be one of the four that will face off for the final three positions in the Last Row Qualifier.

Besides team preparation and driver skill, the other big factor in speed is the track conditions based on when a qualifying attempt is made. The qualifying order is decided by a blind draw. Drivers heading out early will get a cooler track, which has not been cooked by the sun for too long, and therefore could maximize car performance. Those later in the qualifying order will be in the heat of the day and less ideal conditions. Toss in wind direction, cloud cover and how close the field is in speed and it’s going to be a show of some sort or another.

Abel Motorsports

This is one of two Indy-only teams in the field and will be the ones to watch with their driver RC Enerson. Not because of the threat to lay down Top 12-worthy speed, but what if they manage put it somewhere in the locked in spots? Unless Dreyer-Reinbold (the only other Indy-only team) has issues, a solid performance by Abel means a full-time team could be sending one of its one-off or season-long entries home. And that’s what Indianapolis is all about. This team is likely a Last Row Qualifier, but there’s potential speed here and that could get them in that 31st or 32nd position.

Enerson – Last Row

AJ Foyt Enterprises

Foyt’s two drivers Santino Ferrucci and rookie Benjamin Pedersen both dropped surprising qualifying simulation runs on Fast Friday. Santino has shown he is adept at getting around the tricky IMS in race conditions in his four previous starts, but maybe he has a little speed for qualifying. Expect one of them to try to sneak into the Top 12.

Ferrucci – Top 12

Pedersen – Locked-in

Andretti Autosport

The five-car Andretti effort hasn’t stood out much through the week in practice, but Friday they put three cars in the top-10 of single lap speed charts. But will it sustain over a ten mile run? First-year Andretti driver Kyle Kirkwood appeared more consistent in his qualifying sim runs, but teammate Colton Herta started in second in 2021, so he has experience in the shootout. Lets roll the dice and choose Kirkwood to make the Top 12. Romain Grosjean and Devlin DeFrancesco will lock themselves in. Indy-only driver Marco Andretti was second fastest on the single lap speeds and has a pole here in 2020, but was not a factor in the race. So, he puts his car in the field and dials in the downforce setting for the race.

Herta – Locked In

Kirkwood – Top 12

Grosjean – Locked In

DeFrancesco – Locked In

Andretti – Locked In

Arrow McLaren

Lead driver Pato O’Ward sounded confident about his car on the Peacock broadcast for Fast Friday. He also had the fastest trap speed of over 243 m.p.h. in the session. Sounds fast right? Expect him to go strong tomorrow. Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist could sneak up there but there’s only so much room, so lets just put one of them with O’Ward in the Top 12 and other safely in the field. Rossi has the edge based on experience at IMS over Rosenqvist. Tony Kanaan is a tough call, as he proved he didn’t need to be a full-timer to be fast last year, qualifying 6th. But he will be the hardest prediction. Anyway, lets say he will get a lot of cheers and safely lock himself into his final Indy 500. 

O’Ward – Top 12

Rosenqvist – Locked In

Rossi – Top 12

Kanaan- Locked In

Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip Ganassi Racing has owned qualifying since 2020, ironically after their chief rival Team Penske’s owner, Roger Penske, bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year Scott Dixon put his PNC Bank No. 9 Honda on pole with a record time, and the four other cars all made the Top 12. Expect the same, especially with the confidence defending 2022 winner Marcus Ericsson will bring. Alex Palou started second last year and in his other two starts qualified no lower than 6th. Ganassi newcomer Takuma Sato, a two-time 500 winner, led Fast Friday practice – with a trademark “no attack, no chance” moment for good measure. It’s clicking for this team. 

Ericsson – Top 12

Dixon – Top 12

Palou – Top 12

Sato – Top 12

Dale Coyne Racing

David Malukas and rookie Sting Ray Robb have a total of one Indy 500 between them. Expect this team to focus on getting in and preparing for next Sunday’s race. 

Malukas – Locked In

Robb – Locked In

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

This long time Indy only team has experienced the feeling of running in the Last Row Qualifier with Sage Karam in 2020 and 2021. But their two drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Stefan Wilson have been running speeds that are mid-pack. Lock them in on Saturday. 

Hunter-Reay – Locked In

Wilson – Locked In

See also
Inside IndyCar: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Ed Carpenter Racing

This team may have struggled at other race tracks this year, but they have a habit of getting around IMS well. And look for the returning trio of Conor Daly, Rinus VeeKay, and owner/driver Ed Carpenter to continue that history. The question is which of them will be the fastest? Let’s go with VeeKay who held the second best qualifying sim run for most of Friday before Happy Hour. 

Daly – Locked In

VeeKay – Top 12

Carpenter – Locked In

Juncos Hollinger Racing

Callum Illot struggled at the open test at IMS in April. And on Fast Friday the team made the decision to swap to a back-up car after fighting the car all week. His teammate Agustin Canapino is a rookie, but made consistent runs in practice after being at the bottom of charts for practice early in the week. The biggest concern is the car swap for Illot and if that is going to solve the team’s problem. Since it’s late in the game to make this move, got to put him in the Last Row territory based on the unknowns related to the back-up.

Illot – Last Row 

Canapino – Locked In

Meyer Shank Racing

Drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud haven’t led the speed charts, nor has this year had noteworthy results for the team. Meyer Shank will hunker down to get in the show and keep working on the cars for next weekend. 

Castroneves – Locked In

Pagenaud – Locked In

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

This team might be having a sleepless night as qualifying closes in. The speed hasn’t been there and to top it off Jack Harvey’s engine churned smoke at the close of Friday’s practice. It is feasible that the whole team (Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard, Harvey, and one-off entry Katherine Legge) will be on the lower half of the field with multiple cars in the Last Row unless they find something overnight. Exactly thirty years ago Rahal’s father Bobby faced similar challenges as he fought to get his Rahal-Hogan chassis up to speed. Unfortunately the then-defending IndyCar champion did not make the 1993 Indianapolis 500. Is the same in store for his son?

Rahal – Last Row

Harvey – Locked In

Lundgaard – Last Row

Legge – Locked In

Team Penske

It didn’t seem that Penske’s Chevrolets were going to be in the hunt for the first row, which wasn’t surprising as they haven’t had a front row starter since 2019 when Pagenaud took pole. But then Josef Newgarden and Will Power made Happy Hour simulation runs and put the paddock on notice. Expect those two and Scott McLaughlin to challenge for the Top 12. 

Newgarden – Top 12

McLaughlin – Top 12

Power – Top 12

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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