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Drivers wonder “What If” as they head for new Indy 500 qualifications

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SPEEDWAY – Just 24 hours earlier, he was dismissing a quick speed during practice for the Indianapolis 500. He had reason to on Thursday.

After all, Ed Carpenter’s team was finally able to go out and get some quality work done on the track after a few days of rain-shortened session had cut down severely on the time to prepare for the impending qualifications.

The same scenario played out on Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as early rain forced a three-hour delay to practice then cut it short just 20 minutes in. Only this time, Carpenter was a little happy to see his time.

It’s one the famed oval hasn’t seen in 11 years.

“It was good,” said Carpenter as he cracked a smile after running a 230 mile-per-hour lap at the tail end of the short practice session on Friday afternoon.

Such a time hasn’t been posted at the speedway since Scott Dixon reached it on Pole Day for the 2003 Indianapolis 500, but in a lap Carpenter was able to get a 230.552 miles-per-hour speed which makes him to top of the abbreviated month to this point.

“I believe in momentum and we’ve had a good couple of days,” said Carpenter. “So hopefully we can carry it through the weekend. But certainly both Ed Carpenter Racing cars have some speed in them.”

Marco Andretti believes many others do as well-even if they didn’t get a chance to showcase it during an ideal day for speed. With cloud cover and low temperatures along with a power boost of horsepower, seven drivers were able to reach 229 miles-an-hour during the short time on the track, leaving the veteran Andretti Autosport driver to wonder “What If.”

“We all didn’t reach our potential today, not even close,” said Andretti. “We probably would have seen a 233 or something today because I felt myself we could have gotten about there.”

Every one of the 33 drivers in the 98th Indianapolis 500 field will get their chance on Saturday when a new form of qualifications begins. Essentially, Pole Day and Bump Day have been flipped from the previous year’s two-day qualifying format.

On Saturday nearly seven hours of qualifying will set the 33 cars that will participate in the race along with the Fast Nine drivers that will participate in the shootout for the pole position. The setting of the positions in the field will be determined Sunday, with those who had qualifying speeds between 10th-and-30th along with those between 31st and 33rd requalifying for those spots in that range.

The run for the pole will be at 2 PM on Sunday with the Fast Nine all getting their shot at the coveted top starting spot for the Greatest Spectacle.

A flip in the days to determine the places for the 98th Indy 500 does switch up a few things for the drivers and forces a few adjustments to their strategy and thought process as they move forward.

“It adds some pressure because last year there was more of an open window. You had three attempts, you had more practice time even during qualifying process,” said Target Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon. “Right now you’re going to have to nail it in the first one and you may get a second opportunity or you may not.”