After all but Stefan Wilson and Colton Herta had completed their first heat – both requiring an engine change – Grosjean was in ninth place, qualifying for tomorrow’s Fast 12 segment of qualifying.
“I think we expected more wind than this morning [in practice] and the wind didn’t increase, so the conditions were very good,” said Grosjean. “We rode too safely for our first run but it’s ok because if the conditions are similar or the same then we should have a good run tomorrow.”
However, Alexander Rossi finished 15th, with rookie Devlin DeFrancesco finishing 21stSt and Marco Andretti just 29. The latter is preparing for his 17thth Indy 500 and 250th IndyCar start, had suffered when his engine briefly stalled on his second lap.
But even when he went for the second time in the afternoon, he could only improve to 24thunassisted by the track temperature, which reaches 107°F.
“It didn’t help that the engine was turned off!” Andretti told NBC. “I’m not surprised by the test. I know we’ve been struggling with speed issues, which is a bit of a shame.
“Really happy with the race balance so it’s a shame we’re coming from so far behind. But it’s 500 miles, we’re ready to fight.”
So were the track conditions for Herta’s first run, an average of 230.235mph, leaving him just 25th.
“I hope [the engine] we still have to break in a bit,” laughed Herta. “It sucks that we’re 25th, I won’t lie but I’m happy with the effort my boys put in to get me back out. That was the biggest thing because we would start at 33approx if it wasn’t for her
“We’re not as quick as we thought, so that’s a little surprising.”
Then her teammate Rossi, downgraded to 17th by improvements made by the Dale Coyne Racing duo, went to priority lane, lane 1, for a second try. The disadvantage of using the priority lane is that the driver is forced to erase his previous speed and this would bite Rossi as his second run left him just 21St.
“I said we had to be brave and just go down lane 1 – I think it was worth the risk,” said the 2016 Indy winner. “So proud of the guys but it didn’t quite pay off. Somehow we completely missed the balance on the first try this morning, which was very frustrating because I feel the car is good. So we have it right there.
“In the second and third heats it’s always hard to find the speed, so at that point it’s what it is. We’re leaving on the 21stSt and trying to do what we did in 2018 [when he climbed from the back row to finish fifth].”
Rossi is now starting on the 20ththand Andretti now 23approxas Scott McLaughlin’s strand of the Penske team watched the series hit its 15th year as a sophomoreth-fastest time and he dropped to 26thth on his second run.