Don’t blink or you’ll miss it

It’s almost like you can hear him reading his Instagram caption in that famous Aussie accent: “Man, it was something trying to power into turns 3&4 without knowing if anything on the car was bent.”

Will Power’s tire after hitting the wall during Last Chance Qualifying for the 105th Indianapolis 500. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Matt Fraver

Step back and then, you can almost picture the progression of thought in Will Power’s mind:

  • The blind faith necessary to keep going even though the risk was really high after hitting the turn 2 wall at more than 227mph.
  • Will the suspension fail?
  • Will I go spinning into the wall?
  • Man, that’s gonna hurt
  • What happens if I lift?
  • “I won this race three years ago. How am I here now?”
  • The relief that you’ll live to fight on in a race that means more to his team than any other.
  • The exhaustion over a weekend that was unexpectedly long and hard.

This all likely happened in the about 5-7 seconds it took him to go from turn 2 to turn 3 when the chances for it all to go wrong were at their most real.

But it did not go wrong. Somehow, Will Power kept in the gas and the car held together, avoiding the misfortune of missing the 105th Indianapolis 500 by the blink of an eye, and with it endless comparisons to the 1995 Penske team that failed to make the show with either car.

(Sidebar: The “how did they get here” is a conversation for another time, and another place. In Jade Gurss’ excellent recap of the 1994 Penske Indy 500 domination, there is some redeeming value in the what happened in 1995 at the end of the book – but I’ll plant that seed move on and suggest you pick it up from Amazon here, to get the full story on that one. )

Simona De Silvestro (left) and Paretta Motorsports owner Beth Paretta from Indianapolis 500 Practice, May 23, 2021 — Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Joe Skibinski

The Will Power drama, almost overshadowed the amazing effort of Paretta Autosport and Simona de Silvetro, featuring a historic female forward team who worked so hard to put themselves in the race in 33th place with a solid bump day run. The hard work and dedication of the team and that program can’t be understated and we are really excited to see them take the green flag.

Charlie Kimball consoles a crewmember after missing the 105th Indianapolis 500. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Chris Owens

On the other side of the coin, it’s never been more obvious how difficult it is to have a one-race program for the Indy 500 only and just how much prep goes into this race over the course of a year.

Of the drivers in the 5 car shootout, 4 of them were one-off entries. Charlie Kimball’s try for his 11th Indianapolis 500 landed just short, and he and RC Enerson will have to try again next year.

We’ve written before about the joys, pain and drama of qualifying weekends, and qualifying for the 105th Indianapolis 500, and the weekend did not disappoint and presented a bunch of other really noteworthy observations, ten of which we will share now:

Scott Dixon after winning the pole position for the 105th Indianapolis 500. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway/James Black
  • You knew from the moment Scott Dixon drew #1 on the qualifying draw that the pole was his to lose, but Colton Herta certainly made him work for it.
  • Sage Karam managing, again, to just get it done and for the second time on a bump day, be the fastest of the last chance qualifiers (He will start 31st for the third year in a row)
  • RC Enerson’s run from boxes to 227mph in about two months is staggering – with a little more time, Top Gun Racing could find themselves in the show next year.
  • Making the top 9 required a 231mph+ average, the first time that’s happening in many years showing that even when new challenges like the aeroscreen are presented to engineers, they will work around it to make cars go fast
JR Hildebrand’s #1 AJ Foyt Racing Dallara-Chevy in Indianapolis 500 Practice, May 21, 2021. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Chris Owens
  • JR Hildebrand’s remarkably quiet and solid run to 22nd (in an excellent throwback scheme and the rare instance of a #1 going to a car without a reigning champion in it)
  • Pietro Fittipaldi’s unlikely run to 13th, foreshadowing the talent that made his grandfather a two-time Indy 500 winner (along with 2 F1 world championships of course)
  • Tony Kanaan still showing he can still get it done for Chip Ganassi Racing, in the shadow of Jimmie Johnson’s clear lust for an Indy 500 start someday.
  • Ed Carpenter Racing’s virtuoso-level setups for Ed and Rinus VeeKay which resulted in starts in the top 4 for both of them.
  • The overall pace of Penske cars in qualifying, which for the second year in a row was underwhelming with the best qualifier with Scott McLaughlin in 17th. With Roger now running Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has something gone from their mojo?
Helio Castroneves during qualifying for the 105th Indianapolis 500. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Chris Jones.

Three years ago, we wrote about how Will Power triumphed over the odds and made himself a winner for the first time. Can he do again on race day?

Or can any of the last chance qualifiers make history (Drivers who have started 33nd have finished 2nd on multiple occasions including the closest finish, so will Simona do one better)?

Tune in next Sunday and see who will drink the milk as the winner. We’ll be watching (along with 140,000 fans (!) in person!) and hope you will too.

Like what you read here? Give us a follow over on Instagram at @500indymoments, where we share some of our favorite photos from the last decade of covering the Indianapolis 500. We’ll be glad that you did!

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