SPEEDWAY, Ind. (AP) — Spencer Pigot was the fastest driver in the first round of Indianapolis 500 qualifying Saturday, posting a four-lap average of 230.083 mph.
He’s just ahead of three drivers from Team Penske — defending race winner Will Power at 230.081, IndyCar Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud at 229.854 and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden at 229.749.
All 36 cars have made one attempt and all cars can keep making attempts for another three hours.
Chevrolet cars posted the top six speeds with the three Penske cars and three cars from Ed Carpenter Racing, including the owner-driver who has won three poles on his home track. Ed Jones was fifth just ahead of Carpenter at 229.440. Carpenter was sixth at 229.349.
Honda-powered cars were in the next three spots led by rookie Colton Herta in seventh at 229.033. Alexander Rossi, the 2016 race winner, was eighth at 228.816 and Sebastien Bourdais stood ninth at 228.800.
The top nine at the end of Saturday will compete in Sunday’s pole shootout. The slowest six drivers, which includes James Hinchcliffe and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, will compete in a last-row shootout Sunday.
James Hinchcliffe suffered no serious injuries after a violent crash on the second lap of his qualifying run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Track officials announced the popular Canadian driver had been checked and released at the infield medical center. He’s also been cleared to drive.
The question is whether the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team can get the backup No. 5 car ready for Hinchcliffe to make another attempt. The first day of qualifying ends at 6 p.m. Saturday. Another round of qualifying begins early Sunday afternoon.
Team owner Sam Schmidt said the team has everything ready to go and plans to install an engine. He’s hoping to have Hinchcliffe back on the track later Saturday.
Hinchcliffe said the team was running “on the edge” and he thought he a gust of wind pushed the car up the track and toward the wall.
A year ago, Hinchcliffe was one of two drivers who did not make the 33-car starting grid for the Indianapolis 500. This year, 36 cars are on the entry sheet and now Hinchcliffe could be in danger of missing the race again.
“My patience is wearing thin,” Hinchcliffe said after leaving the medical center.
The 500 is scheduled to be run May 26.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso posted the second-slowest four-lap average in Indianapolis 500 qualifying Saturday and could be in danger of missing the May 26 race after going 225.113 mph.
Only one driver, Sage Karam, had a slower average. He went 215.723, slowing after he hit the wall on the second lap of his run.
Twenty-one of the 36 drivers have made attempts and 33 will start next weekend.
It’s been a tough month for Alonso and his team, McLaren Racing. The No. 66 Chevrolet also had electrical problems during a test at Indianapolis in late April, and Alonso crashed in practice Wednesday. He was driving a backup car, and the team struggled to find speed before and after Alonso’s crash.
Alonso said he had a cut right rear tire in qualifying.
Conor Daly completed his four-lap qualifying run with an average speed of 227.921 mph on the first attempt of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
Thirty-six cars will try to make the 33-car starting grid — meaning three drivers will leave Sunday without a spot in the May 26 race. Last year, James Hinchcliffe of Canada and Pippa Mann of England did not make the field.
The nine fastest drivers will compete in Sunday’s pole shootout while the six slowest cars from Saturday will compete for the final three spots in Sunday’s last-row shootout. Starting positions from 10 through 30 will be set Saturday.
But with an 80 percent chance of rain in Sunday’s forecast, teams may have to adapt to a different second-day qualifying procedure.
If each car in the pole shootout does not make a qualifying attempt Sunday, the top nine positions in the field will be based on Saturday’s times.
The last-chance cars are guaranteed one attempt Sunday. If the final qualifying session is rained out, officials could hold that shootout on the next available day.
DragonSpeed plans to focus more energy on building an IndyCar program while scaling back its sports car efforts.
DragonSpeed is trying to qualify Ben Hanley for the Indianapolis 500 but it has been one of the slowest cars all week. The team made its IndyCar debut in this year’s season opener and plans to race through July. The team says it will use the second half of the IndyCar calendar to focus on the commercial growth of the program.
DragonSpeed team head Elton Julian says the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month will be one of its final sports car events. He adds the team will still enter its sports car at Spa, Brazil, and Le Mans, and possibly Daytona and Sebring.
Julian says the team sees more potential in growing DragonSpeed as an engineering and commercial concern in IndyCar than any other series “given the quality of racing and stable formula. That’s what’s driven our decision.”
Hanley has run two of the first five IndyCar races this season, with a best finish of 18th.