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Penske Locks Out Indy 500 Front Row With Record 234.220 MPH Pole

It's an all Penske front row, an all Chevy top 8, and oddly enough, a final row with some very big names.
Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

While people were talking about an exciting few laps of the Emilia-Romagna Formula 1 race yesterday, IndyCar was putting on a nail-biting, day-long show on the final episode of Indy 500 qualifying. In the end, it was the “Thirsty Threes,” as the trio is known, who secured an all-Penske front row for the 108th running of the famous race on Sunday.

Team Penske racer Scott McLaughlin earned his first career pole, and boy did he do it in style. The New Zealander piloted his Chevy rocketship to a historic pole position, averaging a record-setting 234.220 mph over four blistering laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The previous record of 234.217 mph was set by Alex Palou last year. This phenomenal feat of driving and engineering netted team, track, and series owner Roger Penske his 19th Indy 500 pole position—which just so happens to match his 19 Indy 500 victories.

IndyCar veteran Will Power and 2023 Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden rounded up the first row of the grid, with a four-lap average of 233.917 and 233.808 mph respectively. It’s not the first time Penske has locked out the front row to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, and Al Unser were the first to do so in 1988; 36 years ago.

And speaking of 1988, it’s almost as if fate played a role in McLaughlin’s pole-winning quali run. The Kiwi is driving a Penzoil-liveried race car for this year’s race, dubbed the “Yellow Submarine,” just like Mears did in ’88. Same team, same livery, same starting position; just 36 years later. Boy ain’t that something.

While it was a great day for Penske, it was a crackin’ day for Chevrolet. The top eight starting positions are all Chevy cars, with Honda’s best qualifiers (Felix Rosenqvist and Takuma Sato) relegated to ninth and tenth. It’s a drastic change from recent years when Honda has been the dominant package at the Speedway. It’ll be interesting to see how Honda’s typically better fuel consumption can play a role on race day.

Sunday brought plenty of other surprises, one of them being 2022 winner Marcus Ericsson almost not making the field due to a series of unfortunate—though silly—events. The Swede was involved in a heavy crash ahead of the weekend, which forced Andretti Global to put him in a reserve car for qualifying. The car failed to show considerable speed, an issue that was compounded by various driver mistakes, such as prematurely slowing down when Ericsson thought the quali run was over. (He had one more lap left.)

Second-generation racing driver Graham Rahal ended up making the field of 33, but only by the smallest of margins and a pinch of luck. After dealing with performance troubles throughout the weekend, it came down to the 34th driver Nolan Siegel’s final, all-or-nothing run. The 19-year-old gave it all but ended up crashing halfway through his session. He did not make the cut for Sunday’s Indy 500.

The final row of the grid will see some popular and very experienced drivers, with veteran racer Katherine Legge starting 31st, Marcus Ericcson 32nd, and Graham Rahal 33rd.

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