A wild Connor Daly appears. After the bottom 24 qualified, the track closed for a short break before the Fast 9 would set off. In case you’re wondering, Conor placed his AJ Foyt Racing car 26th.
Marco Andretti was the first of the Fast 9 to qualify. Indy has always been kind to Marco in qualifying, and 2017 was no different. He put the United Fiber & Data Honda in a solid 8th place. Marco now has Bryan Herta as his strategist. Herta was the one who orchestrated the brilliant strategy that won Alexander Rossi the 500 last year. With a good car and good strategy, Marco might just be able to break the nearly 50 year old Andretti curse.
Fernando Alonso has been nothing short of stunning in his Indy debut. He has taken to oval racing like the champion he is. He qualified 7th on Saturday, but for a spell on Sunday, he was first! Alonso was bumped off the top spot, but would settle in 5th. 5th has been the starting position of many previous 500 winners, so Alonso has a great shot of becoming the second different rookie in a row to drink the milk.
McLaren and Andretti have thrown their full weight behind his effort in 2017. If McLaren can’t get their act together in Formula 1, we would say there is a good shot we could see Alonso in a McLaren-Honda-Andretti full-time in 2018. Crazy talk? Nigel Mansell walked away from the best seat in F1 to run at Indy…
Rossi would be the driver to knock Alonso off of pole (not many drivers can say they’ve done that before!). Ever since his 500 win, there have been rumors that Rossi would be a one and done. Rossi responded by putting his NAPA sponsored Andretti Auto Honda in 3rd. We predicted he would be a dark horse in 2016, and in 2017 there is every chance he can back up his first win with a second and silence the haters. This kid is the real deal and he has many more wins ahead of him.
JR Hildebrand would be our dark horse pick to make the 500 his first race win. JR is lightning on ovals. He came within one corner of winning it as a rookie in 2011. As a part time driver for Ed Carpenter Racing, he has finished 10th, 8th, and 6th. Keep an eye on the Number 21 this year, he just might surprise you.