Andretti: Last two laps of quali run are “what we get paid to do”

After landing provisional pole for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, Marco Andretti explained that car preparation and horsepower led to the ultra-strong first lap, while the last two laps were about executing in the cockpit.

Having drawn 28th in the running order for today’s qualifying session, Andretti shrugged aside the disadvantage of running when the sun was at its zenith, and delivered four laps of 232.177mph, 231.559, 230.968 and 230.705 to deliver a four-lap average of 231.351mph. That was enough to beat teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay by 0.021mph and claim top spot.

“I think the first lap is always what Honda is going to bring, whatever we can do when the tires are new,” said Andretti. “The last two laps, it’s what we get paid to do.

“We were all over the tools. We were a bit neutral in the last two laps. I think there’s speed in that if we can fix the balance, slide a little bit less the last two laps. Might be some speed in that as well.

“Hopefully we can make the right move when it counts.”

Asked if he was surprised at Honda’s dominance in qualifying, with just one Chevrolet appearing in the top dozen, the Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Racing #98 driver replied: “I don’t think ‘surprised’ is the word. I’m impressed. Shows the hard work they’ve been doing.

“It’s a lot of credit to them really because horsepower means a lot around this place. That’s always the first hurdle of… I want to say May, but of August… is having speed. From there it’s about making yourself comfortable and everything like that and circumstances.

“I think we have to give some credit to Honda. You have to look at the split right there. That makes our life a lot easier with the roll-off speed. I think it’s that, in combination with [the team] rubbing on the cars as much as they’ve been doing – the shop preparation… It’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s not just one thing.”

The 33-year-old who has started on the Indy 500 front row just once in his 14 previous attempts at the race, said that although he’ll be battling three teammates Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe for pole, it’s still important for them to work together.

He joked: “I told Ryan, don’t even come to my side of the garage!

“No, we got to work together because there’s other guys we have to beat as well. It’s going to be about little things. It’s going to be about getting every downshift right, every shift right, everything we have to do inside the car, the balance.”

The Fast Nine drivers will be run in reverse order, slowest to fastest, and Andretti will thus run last. Each driver only gets one run, something else Andretti appreciates, having watched another teammate Colton Herta try and bump his way into the Fast Nine and come up short this afternoon.

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