You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find an Indianapolis 500 Fast Nine without one or more representatives from Team Penske. Eighteen years after Helio Castroneves qualified 13th and Gil de Ferran took 14th on the grid, it happened again as Penske’s quartet of drivers lacked the speed to claim a starting position in the first three rows.
It was another rough day for two-time champion Josef Newgarden (13th), 2018 Indy winner Will Power (22nd), defending Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (pictured above, 25th), and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (28th), making for one of the stranger qualifying sessions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Chevy-powered foursome struggled for qualifying pace on Fast Friday, and only Newgarden was able to post a qualifying average above 229mph.
“Being on the second page normally is not a good thing,” Castroneves said of being on the bottom half of the timing and scoring information. “Obviously, the car is one piece; that’s the most important thing. [There’s] nothing that we’re going to be able to do at 230, 231, I guess.”
Power was especially dejected.
“Not a chance. Not a chance. Probably one of the slowest cars out there by the look of it,” he said. “It was wide open the whole time. It just blows my mind, every time I come here, I get so many poles at every other track and I will never have the fastest car here. Never. And I don’t know why. We ran less downforce than Josef and we’re slower, so… Yeah. That’s it, man. I reckon that’s it. That’s all we got.”
Newgarden was more optimistic, looking to the race on August 23rd as the most important day to find the best balance of individual speed and running well in traffic. With the run for pole position lost, the big pay day is where Team Penske will focus its energies.
“I think that’s pretty much what our speed of our car is,” he said. “Could have eked out maybe just a touch more, but I think we were close to the limit.
“But it’s great to be here. I think we’re going to put on an amazing show next weekend and I think we’re going to have a good car to race with, with Shell and Team Chevy.”
Power also acknowledged the disappointment in qualifying likely will be temporary.
“You can win from anywhere here,” he said. “So we’re going to work hard on the race car and have some fun next weekend.”