The 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had a terrible qualifying run and will start from the middle of the last row but says it’s an "opportunity to show what we can do".
While Marco Andretti will lead the six-car Andretti Autosport assault, starting from 12th after an average of 227.288mph, Rossi’s average was only 224.935. After starting his run with a 227.454mph lap, he radioed to his team that it was loose, and on the second lap, he lost 0.8mph, and on laps 3 and 4 he was having to rescue some vicious slides toward the wall, dropping to 224 and 221mph.
“The NAPA Andretti Honda deserved to be higher up,” he said afterward. “I thought we were fighting for a position in Row 4, and we ended up in the last row.
“We’ll look into it, but that’s what makes this place what it is. We saw yesterday, there are a lot of curveballs that are unexpected around here.
“Starting this far back is a new challenge and a new opportunity to show what we can do. I have a lot of experienced people around me who have had a lot of starts here – some at the front, some at the back – so I’ll lean on them and we’ll go forward from there.”
Despite not having the same issues as Rossi, teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 winner, was also disappointed with his qualifying run, having never looked a threat for Row 4.
“I was hoping for more – but I think that’s the speed the car has in it,” he shrugged. “That last lap killed us a little bit, I was really aggressive with the tools. I had a good balance with the car, my engineers told me we had wind pick up on our last lap.
“In the last six or seven [runs] the wind really changed from the south to the north direction, which is a headwind on the back straight, and that kind of killed the speed.
“It just is what it is, that’s how it works. I’m looking forward to focusing on the racecar tomorrow. If you have a good racecar here, none of this qualifying stuff matters.”
Most of the other teammates for this race – Carlos Munoz (21st), Stefan Wilson (23rd) and Zach Veach (25th) were all left puzzled by their lack of speed, Veach also expressing shock and concern.
But Marco Andretti, starting from the outside of the fourth row, was unsurprisingly more positive.
“I was chasing balance end to end. Even though there’s not that much wind, the balance end to end was different and it kind of caught me out. Lap 2 exiting [Turn] 1 had a big washout but then corrected with the tools and just rode it out.
“I’m excited about the race that’s for sure. Yesterday we didn’t have enough for the top nine – but I wanted to be Row 4 because we can get it done from there.”