Earlier this week, today's first round of Indianapolis 500 qualifying was moved up an hour to get ahead of expected rain. That decision paid off, allowing the series to get in all 33 guaranteed qualifying slots and a few extra runs at the end just before rain came through and washed out the track before the final four hours of scheduled running. As a result, most teams got just one chance to set a time and positions 13 through 33 on the grid will be locked in from those runs.
First among those locked into qualifying today is Dale Coyne Racing rookie David Malukas, who will start 13th after narrowly missing the Fast 12 cutoff on his second run of the day. Josef Newgarden and Santino Ferrucci join him on the fifth row, while Scott McLaughlin fell from 13th to 26th after withdrawing his original time to take a chance on running a faster four-lap stretch in the brief 15 minute window between rain delays where dense, humid air kept speeds down. Newgarden was on a run of his own when the rain started again, preserving his starting position of 14th. Colton Herta required an engine change to get his 25th-place qualifying run in, but only DragonSpeed and Cusick Motorsports driver Stefan Wilson was kept from attempting a time by weather. With no entries past the traditional field size to bump him out, Wilson will start 33rd.
The top 12 will advance to tomorrow's two rounds of knockout qualifying to set the first four rows of the Field of 33. That group is led by Rinus VeeKay, who set by far the fastest four-lap and single-lap times at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in decades when he ran in perfect conditions this morning. His average speed of 233.6 MPH is faster than the all-time pole speed record of 233.1 MPH set in 1996, but it is still well off the four-lap track record of 236.9 MPH set by VeeKay's countryman Arie Luyendyk in another qualifying session ahead of the '96 race.
Pato O'Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Ed Carpenter, and Will Power make up the rest of the five Chevrolets joining VeeKay in the Fast 12, together representing three teams. After struggling to find winning pace on road courses and ovals early in the season, Honda surprised with seven cars in the Fast 12. That group is led by all five of Chip Ganassi Racing's entries: Alex Palou, Tony Kanaan, Jimmie Johnson, Marcus Ericsson, and Scott Dixon. Andretti's Romain Grosjean joins Johnson as a 500 rookie with a shot at pole. The group of 12 is rounded out by Takuma Sato, who broke into the 12th and final spot in the next round of qualifying by staying on the throttle after hitting the wall on lap 3 of what turned out to be one of the day's final 4-lap runs before rain arrived.
That Fast 12 session is tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET, with the Fast 6 that decides the final order following immediately afterward. Both sessions will air on NBC in the United States.
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