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IndyCar Indianapolis 500

Ericsson: Indy 500 qualifying laps like “driving with a gun to my throat”

Former Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and last year’s poleman Alex Palou both endured varying degrees of hardship on the opening day of qualifying for 2024’s 108th event.

Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Former F1 racer Ericsson will have to battle to make the field from the last-chance qualifying group, where four drivers will contend for the final row on the 33-car grid.

The Swede, who won the 2022 Indy 500 and finished runner-up last year in controversial circumstances, wrecked his primary speedway car in a crash in practice on Thursday.

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That meant he was forced to qualify in a backup chassis, which didn’t appear to possess the same speed as Andretti Global team-mates Kyle Kirkwood and Colton Herta, who qualified fifth (ahead of tomorrow’s Top 12 qualifying) and a locked-in 13th respectively.

“It's tough, for sure,” Ericsson said. “You know, this place has very high, highs and very low lows and I think today was one of those, but I can only blame myself.

“I put ourselves in this position with my crash and the team has been amazing, rebuilding and a new car and working so hard all day to get me out for new runs.

“You sort of feel like you're doing 234s [mph laps] but you're doing 230s, and yeah, it's quite tricky.”

When asked if he was confident that more speed can be found tomorrow, Ericsson replied: “I'm out there driving with a gun to my throat, it feels like – it's really, really tough. It's very, very low grip, it's sliding on every run, trying to get everything out of it.

“It's going to be high pressure tomorrow, but I've done this long enough to know how to deal with that. [My] mindset is to go out and fight and do my best. We still have some potential.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Last year’s pole winner Palou will start next weekend’s race for Chip Ganassi Racing from 14th on the grid, after failing to make it back on track in the closing moments of today’s session as desperate drivers waived off their times and queue jumped him until the end of the day.

“We were just lacking a bit of speed,” he said. “I was pretty happy with how our first run went.

“But we didn’t get to run at the end. We knew it, but we had to wait until then to get good track conditions. So a frustrating day, I don’t think we were fighting for the Fast 12 on pure speed.

“Starting 14th is not a bad spot, I think the winner last year [Josef Newgarden] started even further back than that [17th]. We can do it.”

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