Bell sits atop 100th Indy 500 qualifying with two hours remaining


INDIANAPOLIS – As has been the case throughout practice week for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Andretti Autosport set the pace early in today’s qualifying session.

When the guaranteed attempt line was complete, four Andretti cars occupied spots in the top nine with two hours remaining in first-day qualifying. When the day ends at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 7 p.m., the fastest nine qualifiers from today are locked into the Fast Nine Shootout on second-day qualifying Sunday to battle it out for the pole position to lead the field to the green flag in the historic race May 29.

Townsend Bell, in the No. 29 California Pizza Kitchen/Robert Graham Honda for the Andretti team, led 30 drivers who had qualified with a four-lap average of 230.452 mph. Josef Newgarden sat second at 230.229 in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, just ahead of Andretti’s Carlos Munoz, at 230.173 in the No. 26 United Fiber & Data Honda.

Three cars had yet to make qualifying attempts, two due to on-track incidents in Turn 2 on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Rookie Max Chilton crashed in pre-qualifying practice and Pippa Mann made light contact with the wall on the first lap of her qualifying attempt. Both drivers were uninjured.

“The rear end unfortunately just took off on me there into Turn 2,” said Mann, driving the No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. “We don’t know why. Going to go back, look at the data, put some new suspension pieces on it, new front wing and rear wing on it -- hopefully there’s nothing worse than that – go again.”

Chilton also wasn’t sure precisely what happened in his incident.

“I’m fine, a bit battered and bruised,” Chilton said. “Your first accident on an oval is never a great one. The timing is pretty bad, but that’s the issue with practice before qualifying. You just want to make sure the car is right. I felt like it was a little bit strong in the front, but I don’t have the experience to know what’s too much. Now I know, for future reference.

“It went down to line pretty quickly. I was cautious of the rear and before you have time to react, it had gone and you’re just a passenger from then on.”

The other driver yet to qualify is Conor Daly in the No. 18 Honda, whose car was pulled out of the qualifying line after teammate Mann crashed.

Overnight rain left the track saturated this morning and delayed on-track activities. Practice began shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET and qualifying at 2:20. INDYCAR opted to extend qualifying to 7 p.m. to allow teams multiple qualifying opportunities.

The Fast Nine Shootout to determine the starting order of the first three rows for the 100th Indianapolis 500, including the Verizon P1 Award pole winner who receives a $100,000 prize, takes place from 5-5:45 p.m. ET Sunday. Group 1 qualifying, featuring all drivers who did not qualify for the fast nine Saturday, runs from 2:45-4:45 p.m. Sunday to decide race starting positions 10-33.

Coverage Sunday airs on ESPN3 (2:30-4 p.m.) and ABC (4-6 p.m.).

The Indianapolis 500 is the fifth of 16 races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Coverage of the 100th running May 29 begins at 11 a.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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