Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Report: Round 1
INDIANAPOLIS (May 20, 2023) -- What a difference a year makes! With 34 drivers making a record 84 attempts to qualify for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500, it took only two runs from AJ Foyt Racing's Santino Ferrucci and Benjamin Pedersen to qualify in the Fast 12 Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rookie Pedersen was the first of the Foyt camp to wheel his No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet onto the 2.5-mile speedway. He wowed the crowd when he posted the third fastest speed of the 11 cars that took time. His first lap of 233.297mph set a new track record for the fastest lap by a rookie and his four-lap average speed of 232.739 mph was second only to rookie Tony Stewart's qualifying run in 1996. Ironically, in 1958, A.J. Foyt was the fastest rookie qualifier with a speed of 143.13mph.
"Honestly, the car is just working fantastic," Pedersen said after his run. "The team has put so much effort into this event and into giving us a great car. And, you know, the engineers and everyone on the team just really, really delivered so hats off to them. I'm just doing my part and driving the race car but it's really a true full team effort. And without a good car it's hard to go anywhere, I'm just very grateful.
"We only did two runs yesterday and I just knew going into qualifying this thing's gonna be hooked up. And it was. I was actually the most relaxed on this run, because I just knew we had such a great car. It was just a dream with how good it was. But I'm just so happy for the whole team, they did a great job."
Ferrucci went out later in the day and put together an impressive run in the No. 14 Home For Our Troops Chevrolet, posting a four-lap average of 233.147mph for fifth quickest of the 27 cars that had qualified. By the time the 6 o'clock gun sounded the end of qualifying, both drivers remained in the Fast 12 with Pedersen 11th and Ferrucci 9th on the speed charts.
"I think it's a pretty impressive feat for the team," Ferrucci said. "To see the 14 up front, my teammate right there as well who went earlier in the day, it's been pretty awesome. To see us up there is pretty sick, man."
Ferrucci revealed, "It's actually been a pretty interesting couple of days this week between the two of us. We both rolled out really good. He was a lot happier in the open test than I was. I wasn't comfortable. Things weren't going well. Came here, it was a complete reset. Rolled off the trailer, car was super comfortable.
"We made two, three changes this entire week. We've just been there. The car has had pace all three days. Benjamin has actually had pace all three days. He's trying to get his footing in traffic, which is understandable as a rookie. Today was no exception.
As fiancée Renay Moore looks on, Santino Ferrucci chats with Larry Foyt.
"He rolled out first and I was actually relying on his comments, feedback. Everything felt good for him. He was actually a little stuck. I went out with exactly the same car, conditions obviously changed slightly, the air got a little bit thinner. I was able to go quicker. If you put the cars
back-to-back, they'd run the same time.
"I think A.J.'s really happy to see that car up on top. I think he's more thrilled that both cars are equally competitive. I think he believes in what we're doing. He believes in the program. It's just one of those things where he's ready to see what we can do on race day."
Pedersen, who is wearing a retro design uniform in tribute to Foyt's uniforms when he drove the "Coyote Red" No. 14, said, "It's very, very special to be driving for A.J. Foyt, having his presence right there in pit lane and wearing the tribute suit. I feel very fortunate to be with this team."
For A.J., whose wife Lucy passed away in early April, life has been hard as he tries to go on without his
lifelong partner. Today was perhaps the first day in a long time where he was genuinely happy.
"I'm happy with qualifying," Foyt said. "We've had a lot of bad things happen the last two months, I lost my wife and our family has been very upset, so I'm glad to see things start to turn around because it's been very sad in our home. Everyone on the team has worked really hard. I'm glad to see it paid back a little bit today and we can enjoy life again."
Team President Larry Foyt was visibly ecstatic as he watched his team celebrate at the end of qualifying.
"What an amazing day for A.J. and Foyt Racing to have both cars in the top 12!" Larry exclaimed. "It is just a fantastic team effort and it really is the whole team to have fast cars here in Indy. Not only do you have to have the know-how and the attention to detail and the parts and pieces, but it takes all of it together, along with a team that is clicking. This team has worked extremely hard from the engineers to the mechanics to the truck drivers to everybody, plus the sponsors Homes For Our Troops and Sexton Properties, and of course Chevrolet--we couldn’t do it without them. Both drivers put together fantastic runs and it’s just a great feeling all around. To see the team's excitement means soo much because they have put in a huge effort and I’m glad they were rewarded today. I know everyone is looking forward to see what we can do tomorrow."
Christian Pedersen (left), who is Benjamin's father, and Larry Foyt are thrilled with Pedersen's Fast 12 qualifying run.
Qualifying for the Fast 12 begins at 2 p.m. ET when every driver will have one chance to post a qualifying time. The Fastest six cars will then advance to the Firestone Fast 6 round as the drivers will do one more qualifying run as they vie for the NTT P1 Award for the pole winner.
Tomorrow the action will be streamed live on Peacock or the Fast 12 at 2pm ET while NBC will broadcast the Last Chance Qualifying and the Fast 6 round starting at 4pm ET.
Despite the different uniforms, it was one team celebrating on Sunday.