What you need to know about qualifying for the 2024 Indianapolis 500

Will another recognizable driver fail to qualify for the 2024 Indianapolis 500?

A year ago, Graham Rahal was the only driver to miss the race after he couldn’t post a fast enough qualifying attempt to make the 33-car field. And just like last season, there are 34 cars entered for 33 spots for the 2024 Indy 500 on May 26.

Qualifying for the 108th running of the race takes place across Saturday and Sunday. Rahal ended up getting into the field as he replaced Stefan Wilson in the part-time No. 24 car, but his failure to qualify was one of the biggest pre-Indy 500 stories in years.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of this year’s qualifying sessions.

The weekend qualifying format

Drivers have to string together four consecutive laps during a qualifying attempt and their average speed across those four laps is their qualifying speed. Saturday’s qualifying order will be determined via random draw on Friday.

Each of the 34 drivers attempting the race will have the opportunity to make at least one qualifying run on Saturday. After everyone makes a run, teams will have the chance to make another run if they want. Those who want to make another run can either get in line to go on track in the regular queue or enter the priority lane.

Teams who enter the priority lane can jump those in the other line and get on track first but they have to withdraw their previous qualifying times. Those in the regular line can stand on their previous time.

The fastest 12 drivers on Saturday will have the opportunity to race for the pole position on Sunday, while drivers Nos. 13-30 will be locked into those starting spots.

Drivers Nos. 31-34 on Saturday will race to fill out the 11th row on Sunday. The slowest of the four drivers will fail to miss the race.

Kyle Larson’s Indy 500 attempt

2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson is looking to be the fifth driver to race in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. Larson would be the first driver to run both races since Kurt Busch last did it in 2024.

Larson will miss most of the NASCAR All-Star Race festivities this weekend as he attempts to qualify for the 500. If he qualifies between 13th-30th, he’ll be back for Sunday night’s All-Star Race in plenty of time. If he’s in the top 12 or needs to run again on Sunday for the last row, he’ll have to hurry back to North Carolina for the NASCAR race.

Larson has shown enough pace in the limited returns from practice this week that it’s unlikely he’ll be fighting for a spot on the grid. He should easily qualify for the race barring a mistake in qualifying on Saturday and could even have a chance for a starting spot near the front.

Other drivers attempting the 500

Larson isn’t the only well-known driver attempting the race who isn’t running full-time in IndyCar this season. Four-time Indy 500 Helio Castroneves is back for another chance to win a fifth race at the age of 49. 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay is also in the field along with two-time winner Takuma Sato. Hunter-Reay is racing for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing while Sato is back with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Sato drove for the team when he won the Indy 500 in 2017 and 2020.

Marco Andretti is also attempting the race. Andretti, who is now running part-time in NASCAR’s ARCA and Truck Series, has made 18 Indy 500 starts. His best finish was a second in 2006 when he was passed by Sam Hornish Jr. on the final lap.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s pole streak

Chip Ganassi Racing has been the team to beat during qualifying in recent seasons.

CGR’s drivers have won the last three pole positions as Scott Dixon started first in 2021 and 2022 and defending series champion Alex Palou won the pole in 2023. Palou’s average speed of 234.217 MPH was the fastest four-lap average in Indy 500 pole qualifying history.

Overall, Ganassi drivers have won eight pole positions since 1993. That’s only behind Team Penske. The IndyCar Series owner’s team has 18 pole positions for the Indy 500.

Winning the pole for the 500 isn’t always a good indicator of success in the race. Just one driver, Simon Pagenaud in 2019, has won the race from the pole since Dixon and Castroneves won back-to-back 500s from pole position in 2008 and 2009.

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