Although the remainder of the day promises to bring sunny skies and warm temperatures, the morning brought another deluge to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With safety trucks and jet driers still circulating the track, pre-qualifying practice is a bit delayed with gives us the perfect opportunity to prognosticate about who will take the Pole and start on the inside of Row 1 for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
[singlepic id=1969 w=300 float=right]I will start with something very strange and say that it will not be a Team Penske driver. Year after year, it seems that Penske is always the team that everyone else is chasing, except for that nasty business in 1995 of course. This year, only one of the five Team Penske entries, the No. 12 of Will Power, made it into the Fast 9. I will also put it out here now that it will not be Alonso, either. He had a great qualifying run on Saturday, good enough to secure a spot somewhere on the first three rows, but his more experienced teammates will most likely out perform him.
Of the remainders, I think the battle will really be between the Chevrolet-powered machines of Ed Carpenter and J.R. Hildebrand of Ed Carpenter Racing and the Honda-powered Dallaras of Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport. All four drivers looked a lot more comfortable than the rest in the Fast 9, and Takuma looked especially fast. It was a bit of a surprise to see how strong of a run Rossi had. He qualified well last year, of course, and he IS the reigning race winner, but this is still only his 2nd time running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, always a tricky place to go fast. J.R. obviously knows how to go fast around the Speedway, nearly winning the race while driving for Panther Racing in 2011 until he struck the Turn 4 wall on Lap 200 enabling Dan Wheldon to win his second 500, but his boss, Ed Carpenter, was a full two tenths of a mph faster and he’s won pole before.
Ultimately, I think you flip a coin between Sato and Carpenter, and it may depend upon track conditions later in the day. My pick, though, is Sato. Carpenter is great at the Speedway, but I think with rubber laid down from practice and the qualifying efforts of positions 10 through 33, the conditions will favor the Andretti Autosport Honda-powered chassis over the Chevrolets of Ed Carpenter Racing.
What are your predictions? Who will it be?