IndyCar manufacturer suffers Indy 500 qualifying embarrassment

Just three full-time Chevrolet IndyCar drivers didn't beat every single Honda in qualifying for the Indy 500. Half of the entire Chevy fleet did so.
Felix Rosenqvist, Meyer Shank Racing, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500, IndyCar
Felix Rosenqvist, Meyer Shank Racing, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500, IndyCar / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY

During an Indy 500 qualifying weekend that saw six Chevrolet engines experience plenum fire issues which ruined qualifying attempts, including several that were trending to lock into the Top 12 qualifying session, exactly half of Chevrolet's 16 entries still managed to outqualify the top Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Team Penske teammates Scott McLaughlin, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden locked out the front row, followed by Arrow McLaren's Alexander Rossi, McLaren-Hendrick's Kyle Larson, and A.J. Foyt Enterprises' Santino Ferrucci on the second row.

The third row consists of Ed Carpenter Racing's Rinus VeeKay and Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward for Chevrolet, and Meyer Shank Racing's Felix Rosenqvist, Honda's top representative in ninth place.

A full starting lineup can be found here.

Since Chevrolet re-entered IndyCar in 2012, this was arguably Honda's biggest Indy 500 qualifying embarrassment.

Since Chevrolet's reentry, there have tended to be windows of a few years at a time during which one manufacturer has had the upper hand.

Prior to this year, Honda has seemingly had a bit of an edge since the aeroscreen was introduced in 2020, and they were quite dominant in 2016 and 2017 after an embarrassment in 2015.

But when Chevrolet has had the upper hand, they have really had the upper hand, and arguably never more so than they did this past weekend.

In 2012, when the first Indy 500 with the new DW12 chassis was contested, Chevrolet swept the top six spots in qualifying and took nine of the top 10. Honda still ended up with a 1-2 finish in the race. In 2013, Chevrolet swept the top 10 spots in qualifying and took the top four -- and six of the top seven -- in the race.

In 2015, when the manufacturer specific aero kits were first utilized, Chevrolet swept the top five spots in qualifying and took the top four spots in the race.

Chevrolet again dominated when significant changes were introduced in 2018, this time in the form of new universal aero kits. With the new UAK18 design, Chevrolet swept the top four spots in qualifying and took seven of the top eight en route to a 1-2 finish in the race.

Now here we are in 2024, and McLaughlin, who was admittedly considered one of the favorites for the pole position after Saturday's qualifying session, pulled off a record-breaking four-lap pole average that nobody could have seen coming.

At no point during the week did it look like Alex Palou's record of 234.217 miles per hour from last year was at risk of being broken, and McLaughlin pulled a rabbit out of his helmet with a 234.220 average, even managing to totally blow away his teammates' speeds.

And let's not forget that, even with the dominant Team Penske totally excluded, Chevrolet would have had a top five sweep.

It remains to be seen how the race itself will turn out, but for the sake of competition, let's hope that Honda can figure things out to make things interesting in race trim.

Outside of the top eight, only three full-time Chevrolet drivers did not beat every single Honda. Those three drivers? Juncos Hollinger Racing teammates Agustin Canapino and Romain Grosjean, and A.J. Foyt Enterprises' Sting Ray Robb. None of the three are in the top 15 in the championship standings, and two of the three have never finished an IndyCar race inside the top 10.

Canapino was among those who had a fast run going before his engine had a plenum fire event, presumably taking him out of Top 12 qualifying session contention. It very well could have been a Chevrolet sweep of the top three rows if not for that issue.

Last year was considered a "down" year for Team Penske, as for the fourth straight year, none of their drivers qualified on the first three rows. Honda also took their fourth straight pole position, second in a row with a record-breaking run. Yet Newgarden still managed to deliver Roger Penske a record-extending 19th Indy 500 victory.

Now the rest of the field is no longer dealing with a "weakened" Team Penske -- even with all of the suspensions in place following their push-to-pass scandal in St. Petersburg to start the 2024 IndyCar season. Will the dominance translate to the race, or will Honda figure things out?

IndyCar: The major lineup change that's surprisingly paying off. dark. Next. IndyCar: The major lineup change that's surprisingly paying off

NBC is set to provide live coverage of the 108th running of the Indy 500 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 26. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss any of the action!