INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal took care of business right away Sunday.
Less than 24 hours after getting bumped out of the top 24 starting spots, Newgarden and Rahal posted the two fastest four-lap averages on Bump Day, easily earning spots in the race.
On a day that lacked the usual drama, tension and rumors, all nine drivers who made attempts on the second and final day of Indy qualifications made it into the 33-car field, though nobody had it easier than the two young American drivers – Newgarden and Rahal.
“I don’t want to sound too confident, but I knew we would be fine,” Newgarden said after delivering the day’s best qualifying run at 225.731 mph. “I think we would have been OK yesterday if we would have had another shot at it.”
Newgarden, the Tennessee native who finished fifth in Brazil, wanted to take another shot Saturday but was left sitting in qualifying line when the gun sounded at 6 p.m. He had to wait another 18 hours to get a second shot, this time leaving no doubt he belonged. His qualifying speed from Sunday would have been good enough for 21st, the outside of Row 7, if it happened a day earlier. Instead, he’ll start 25th, the inside of Row 9.
Rahal had struggled all week – and not just because he was using a Honda engine. The nine drivers in the first three rows of the three-car, 11-row grid are all powered by Chevrolets. The top Honda qualifier was Canadian Alex Tagliani, the 2011 Indy pole-sitter. He’ll start 11th, the middle of Row 4, after going 227.386.
Rahal, who drives for his father, Bobby, the 1986 Indy winner, couldn’t quite get his car right. But when it mattered Sunday, Rahal easily made it in with an average speed of 225.007 to claim the No. 26 starting spot – the middle of Row 9.
“I’ve certainly had better (weeks), I’ve certainly had some that were more challenging,” Rahal said after locking up his sixth straight Indy start. “But there have been some mysteries behind a lot of our speed problems.”
It was no typical second day of qualifying. The first nine drivers all qualified on their first attempts, assuring race organizers of a full field. Nobody else even made an attempt.
Mexico’s Michel Jourdain Jr., who changed engines and still failed to reach 220 in practice, didn’t even try. It was the second straight year Bump Day was bumpless.