The weather forecast will likely settle the fight for Indianapolis 500 pole position, with Fast Friday pace-setter Marco Andretti “bummed” by his low draw starting spot.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal will be first out for Saturday’s time trials, with team-mates Takuma Sato (second) and Spencer Pigot (seventh) also drawing favourable spots.
The draw was conducted shortly after Friday’s practice sessions, with a representative from each team selecting a coin with a qualifying number.
Friday practice saw the top nine on the speed charts powered by Honda engines, with Andretti’s staggering 233.491 mph (375.767 km/h) lap the fastest on the final full practice day before qualifying since Arie Luyendyk’s 239.260 mph (385.052 km/h) effort in 1996.
However, series veteran Andretti drew the 28th position in qualifying order, placing him deeper into the afternoon and at risk of his run being scuppered by hotter conditions.
Andretti set his quick time early in Friday’s running, and it remained unbeaten for the rest of the day as his rivals battled with the slick conditions and a boost in horsepower.
Asked if being the 28th runner would be a disadvantage, Andretti was disappointed, but was confident his pace would be enough to reach Sunday’s shootout.
“I think we had a pretty solid four-lap run. That’s what I care about for tomorrow,” Andretti said after Friday’s running.
“I’m a little bummed because we just drew 28th out of 33. The temps are not going to be ideal for my run. Hopefully we’re fast enough to get in the top nine. That’s the only goal for tomorrow. Then go for the pole on Sunday.
“We got what we got. We’re not going to be making changes… I don’t know how hard it will be for the earlier guys, how hard it will be for me.
“We have the speed for the top nine, but we have to hope we’re not sliding too much.”
Despite Andretti Autosport’s impressive pace on Friday, with four of its six cars in the top 10, the team suffered in the draw with Alexander Rossi drawing 12th ahead of team-mates Ryan Hunter-Reay (14th), Zach Veach (15th), James Hinchcliffe (20th), Colton Herta (30th) and Andretti.
Scott Dixon (sixth) also drew favourably, with the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner “shocked” by the speed disparity between Honda and Chevrolet.
“It seems a little strange so far,” the New Zealander said.
“It’s always hard to know where each manufacturer is. They all adjust accordingly to their own programs, so I know we’ll have hopefully some more tomorrow as well.
“It’s hard to tell what Chevy is up to, but always proud to be powered by Honda, and hopefully we’ve got the upper hand this year.
“But honestly it’s always going to be tough. The race is where it really counts.”