Team Penske locks out Indy 500 front row qualifying as Larson makes 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing'

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Kyle Larson climbs into his car during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Scott McLaughlin in the famed “Yellow Submarine” entry led a Team Penske sweep of the front row of Indianapolis 500 qualifying with a new track record Sunday around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

McLaughlin's four-lap average of 234.220 mph broke the mark set by reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou last year of 234.217.

Will Power qualified second and reigning Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden was third as Team Penske swept the front row for the first time since 1988 when it did so with Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr. and Danny Sullivan.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Car owner AJ Foyt watches during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Penske drivers led 192 of 200 laps that day and and Mears won in the “Yellow Submarine” car sponsored by Pennzoil. McLaughlin is in an identical car for the May 26 race and Team Penske recreated Mears' winning firesuit for McLaughlin to wear next Sunday in honor of the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

“Let's get this Yellow Submarine back in the victory lane,” McLaughlin said.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Kyle Larson, center, and his wife Katelyn Sweet board a helicopter after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Power has been saying for months that a Team Penske car would win the pole based on how much offseason work had been put into Roger Penske's quest to win a record-extending 20th Indy 500. It was irritating to his fellow competitors, which Alexander Rossi alluded to after qualifying fourth for Arrow McLaren Racing.

“I mean, it's a very good starting spot for the race and we'll move on from this,” Rossi said. “I'm annoyed. It's been a lot of noise from them but also a lot of motivation.”

Rossi was followed by Kyle Larson, who qualified fifth for his Indianapolis 500 debut. He is the fifth driver to attempt to compete in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

As soon as Rossi bumped Larson from the pole, Larson headed to waiting SUVs to take his entourage to a helicopter on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway golf course to take Larson to North Carolina to race in NASCAR's All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. NASCAR moved the start of the $1 million race 16 minutes later to accommodate Larson's arrival.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Scott McLaughlin, of New Zealand, sits along pit lane during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

“People used to say to me, ‘Can you believe Kyle Larson?’” said Jeff Gordon, the vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, which is working with Arrow McLaren to field the No. 17 car and clapped from the timing stand when his qualifying run ended.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Josef Newgarden, left, talks with Roger Penske during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

“I used to think the same way but I don’t anymore,” Gordon said. “He always steps up. He’s just fun to watch.”

Santino Ferrucci, who as a driver with A.J. Foyt Racing is benefiting from a new alliance with Team Penske, qualified sixth as Chevrolet drivers took all six spots in the Fast Six final group qualifying. The highest qualifying Honda drivers were Felix Rosenqvist of Meyer Shank Racing at ninth and followed by two-time winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti Global.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Alexander Rossi watches during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Chip Ganassi Racing failed to place even one of its five cars in the Fast 12 of Sunday qualifying, so the entire group had the day off.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Will Power, of Australia, drives into Turn 2 during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Not so for the bottom four drivers in the field, which included former Ganassi driver Marcus Ericsson. He won the 500 for Ganassi in 2022 and was second to Newgarden last year, but left the team when Andretti made him a better financial offer in free agency.

But he's off to a terrible start with his new team and a crash in practice last week put the Swede in serious danger of not making the field of 33. He made a final run that got Ericsson in at 32nd and bumped Nolan Siegel from the field.

The 19-year-old then went out for one final attempt as Graham Rahal, who didn't qualify for the race last year, sat on the bubble. When it became clear Siegel's attempt would not leave Rahal with enough time to make a run should Siegel bump him, he angrily took off his helmet and watched and waited to learn his feet.

team penske locks out indy 500 front row qualifying as larson makes 'greatest spectacle in racing'

Kyle Larson boards a helicopter after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Siegel, who was the first driver to crash during Indy 500 practice sessions this week, crashed on his qualifying run and as 34th in the field did not make the race.

___

AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press

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