Pagenaud's four-lap average speed of 230.070 mph in his third attempt in the No. 77 Lucas Oil Dallara/Honda/Firestone car was seventh fastest overall.
NDIANAPOLIS - Simon Pagenaud persevered through what he called the most stressful day of his racing career to earn a spot in the Fast Nine during the first day of qualifying for the 98th Indianapolis 500.
Pagenaud's four-lap average speed of 230.070 mph in his third attempt in the No. 77 Lucas Oil Dallara/Honda/Firestone car was seventh fastest overall. All speeds will be wiped clean Sunday, and drivers who qualified in the Fast Nine will have a chance to earn the coveted Indianapolis 500 pole.
"I've got to tell you, I think IndyCar's got it right for the nerve-wracking intensity we experienced today!" Pagenaud said. "It was a very entertaining qualifying day, especially for the fans. We got a 230-mph average early on in the day, so waiting it out to see if it would hold up was difficult."
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports re-entered Pagenaud in the qualifying line as time dwindled.
"I was ready to go out at the end if it would have come to that, and I think the Lucas Oil car would have been able to qualify its way back into the Fast Nine," Pagenaud said. "It was really nice not to have to go back out, though."
With very little practice time available before qualifications due to rain, Pagenaud said his team used his first two qualification runs to find more speed in his car.
"It felt like I was out there driving all day with my three qualification attempts," he said. "The speed we found today is going to help us immensely tomorrow when we run for the pole. It's honestly another dream come true to have a chance at the Indianapolis 500 pole, and I'll certainly give it my best tomorrow."
"I don't think we realized our full potential today," Aleshin said. "The biggest reason for that is that the rain prevented us from trying a qualifying setup before today. We've been working with different variables in the car, but only got two qualifying runs before time ran out. I think if we'd have gone out a third time, we would have improved our time. We're in a good place for tomorrow, though."
Jacques Villeneuve qualified 27th in the No. 5 Dollar General Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. His first of two qualifying attempts was his fastest, with a four-lap average speed of 228.171 mph.
"We had a run at the end of the day where we trimmed the car out, but we went slower than before," Villeneuve said. "That was frustrating because we just weren't accelerating like we should have. We were using that run as a test for tomorrow, so we have a few things to figure out before tomorrow."
Cars resume practice at 8:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday, May 18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Qualifying begins at 10:15 a.m. for positions 10-30, 12:45 p.m. for positions 31-33, and 2 p.m. for the Fast Nine.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports