Race Weekend Central

2024 Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Preview and Predictions

Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend is as much a stand alone event as the race itself. Teams vie for the 33 spots after a week of running almost a full 500 miles of practice laps in preparation. All to make the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. 

The 108th Running of the Indy 500 qualifying weekend for the NTT IndyCar Series will feature 34 cars in a day-long struggle on Saturday (May 18) to determine if they make one of three different groups. First is the top 12, which will be for the fastest drivers who then return on Sunday to go for the pole. If the speed isn’t there, but it’s enough to get a car safe in the field, then that’s the 13 through 30 group, or what we will call locked-in here. Finally, the group no one wants to be a part of, but a regrettable four will find themselves there after Saturday is over – the last chance qualifiers. These four souls will need to pray to the racing gods that their machine will not be the slowest come Sunday and the Last Chance Qualifier round. 

Now, where will everyone shake out? That’s the hard part about this year because rain has limited running and therefore it’s still quite a shot in the dark to know who has ‘brung’ it and who did not. But, Fast Friday’s speeds will be a big indicator for Saturday. And the luck of the draw, when it comes to picking the numbers for the qualifying order. 

Here are Frontstretch’s predictions for qualifying for the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

AJ Foyt Enterprises

The 1999 Indy 500 winning team was the biggest standout last year during qualifying. Their more experienced driver Santino Ferrucci, who has an innate ability to get around IMS and finish well, started on the inside of row 2 while teammate Benjamin Pedersen had his best start of his career. 

This year, the results may not repeat. Drivers and newcomer Sting Ray Robb are struggling with loose racecars and it doesn’t appear the Foyt cars are matching their efforts from last year. A ray of hope did shine though on Friday so they may have pushed their their turmoil onto a good path. Not sure there will be top 12-results, but at least one locked-in and other coming back Sunday. 

Ferrucci – Locked-in

Robb – Last Chance

Andretti Global

Team owner Michael Andretti wasn’t satisfied with his team’s speed in 2023, and it’s pretty clear why. None of his cars were able to get out of the locked-in crowd, and the best starting spot was 15th by Kyle Kirkwood, but that was still only the fifth row. 

A possible result of the team’s mid-pack running was downsizing to run four instead of five cars this year.

Kirkwood had a great draw on Friday for qualifying, going out first on Saturday. So expect that to be a godsend for the No. 27. Marcus Ericsson’s crash on Thursday will set him back in his first 500 with Andretti. Colton Herta will make the field with ease.

But there aren’t high expectations that the returning prodigal son Marco Andretti will be at the front. Since his one-off career started in 2021 he hasn’t started better than row 8.

Andretti – Locked-in

Ericsson – Locked-in

Herta – Locked-in

Kirkwood – Top 12

Arrow McLaren Racing

As a whole, the Arrow McLaren team was the best Chevrolet operation at Indianapolis in 2023. Can they be that again?

Looking at speed charts it feels like Team Penske has returned to snatch the fastest Chevy moniker from their rival’s hands. However that doesn’t mean the squad will be twittering their thumbs on Saturday. 

Team leader Pato O’Ward has been in the top 12 the last two years. Expect him to continue that trend. The other two rides are a bit unknown. Alexander Rossi showed well last year but had a bad qualifying draw. He will be a dark horse to overcome the heat of the day to make top 12. As for the third full-time car, the back and forth nature of the ride jumping by Theo Pourchaire and Indy 500 driver Callum Ilott doesn’t make it a warm and fuzzy feeling that the No. 6 will be in the top 12. 

Last but not least, Kyle Larson. The rookie, doing his first race in an IndyCar, has to divide his focus between the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the NASCAR Cup Series’ Coca-Cola 600. Just get her in the field and worry about next weekend. 

Ilott – Locked-in

Larson – Top 12

O’Ward – Top 12

Rossi – Top 12

Chip Ganassi Racing

Not much has changed it seems as the defending pole-winning team comes into the weekend. Alex Palou is back where he was in 2023 after winning the Sonsio Grand Prix in the road to qualifications. Palou is the fastest pole sitter in the history of the race so he has one heck of a box to stand on as he lays it on the line this weekend. 

The other drivers on Chip’s team haven’t appeared as fast as 2023. Six-time pole sitter Scott Dixon might be lurking and waiting but rookie teammate Marcus Armstrong is just trying to make his first Indy 500. Other rookie drivers Kyffin Simpson and Linus Lundqvist haven’t had a positive week with Lady Luck at Indy. Lundqvist was the first wreck this year and Simpson is struggling. 

Armstrong – Locked-in

Dixon – Locked-in

Lundqvist – Locked-in

Palou – Top-12

Simpson – Last Chance

Dale Coyne Racing

It’s been a mixed bag for the Dale Coyne run team at Indianapolis. His two drivers, rookie Nolan Siegel and Katherine Legge, haven’t been doing well in practice runs. Siegel’s crash on Fast Friday didn’t help matters much. Considering Honda engines seem to be the lesser of the two powerplants, the team might want to hydrate until Sunday, because they could be sweating, a lot. 

Legge – Last Chance

Siegel – Last Chance

Dreyer Reinbold Racing 

The only Indy one-off team in the 108th running is always a great story in May. Owner Dennis Reinbold is returning each year, committing the money and resources to get his cars ready for a single IndyCar race. It harkens back to the days of old, when teams like Team Menard and King Racing did something similar. 

With 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay returning with new teammate Conor Daly, the team will take their Chevy powered cars and make this race easily. 

Daly – Locked-in

Hunter-Reay – Locked-in

See also
Slipstream Saturdays: Albon All-In with Williams

Ed Carpenter Racing

Owner Ed Carpenter used to be a sure-fire front row start in years past. But in 2023, that wasn’t the case as he missed out on the top 12 while teammate Rinus VeeKay landed in the middle of row 1. With rookie Christian Rasmussen struggling in the early part of the season, just getting in the field and preparing for 500 miles is the focus. Perhaps Carpenter will hit on the magic he’s had previously and make that top 12.

Carpenter – Top 12

Rasmussen – Locked-in

VeeKay – Top 12

Juncos Hollinger Racing

Romain Grosjean hasn’t had the best time racing at Indianapolis, but he did put his car in the top 12 in his rookie run at the Speedway in 2022, better than all of his Andretti teammates at the time. His draw at the end of practice puts him in a good spot to take advantage of cooler temperatures to get into the top 12. Agustin Canapino is still figuring out this oval thing, so lets lock him in.

Canapino – Locked-in

Grosjean – Top 12

Meyer Shank Racing

If there is any team that will do much better over their last foray at IMS it will be the No. 60 of Felix Rosenqvist. He has clicked with his new team in qualifying, starting no worse than 10th, with a pole at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. With how Fast Friday went, it’s plausible he is the fastest Honda in the field come race day.

Teammate Tom Blomqvist is still learning, not just ovals but IndyCar as a whole. He will just take it easy and make the race.

Blomqvist – Locked-in

Rosenqvist – Top 12

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

It is time to erase the nightmare; hopefully. The 2023 Indianapolis 500 was the worst for the organization since team namesake Bobby Rahal suffered the same fate his son Graham Rahal experienced last year when the patriarch was bumped out of the 1993 field. However, the younger Rahal was later selected to serve as an injury replacement for Stefan Wilson

All the RLLR cars have been above the Last Chance Qualifier mark throughout practice. And that’s all that matters in 2024. Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato doesn’t need to be up front, just in the field to mix it up. Christian Lundgaard hasn’t been exceptional on ovals, so getting it in the show is best case scenario. Rahal and Pietro Fittipaldi will do like their namesakes and be in the field to try to add another Borg-Warner to their historic family legacies.

Fittipaldi – Locked-in

Lundgaard – Locked-in

Rahal – Locked-in

Sato – Locked-in

Team Penske

The Captain’s trio of Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden and Will Power are looking for revenge. Since taking pole in 2019, the highest the 19-time Indy 500 winning team has qualified is 11th by Power in 2022. During Fast Friday, the Chevy squad owned the top three spots for most of the day in the four-day qualifying simulations. Expect all of them to be looking for the pole as much as they are looking for the win next weekend.

McLaughlin – Top 12

Newgarden – Top 12

Power – Top 12

About the author

Tom Blackburn

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. Besides writing the IndyCar Previews and the occasional Inside Indycar, he will hop on as a fill-in guest on the Open Wheel podcast The Pit Straight. His full-time job is with the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. After graduating from Purdue University with a Creative Writing degree, he was commissioned in the Army and served a 15-month deployment as a tank platoon leader with the 3d ACR in Mosul, Iraq. A native Hoosier, he calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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