McLaren fights through a day of Indy 500 qualifying struggles

It was a truly strange day for the team led by Gavin Ward.

Kyle Larson's first qualifying attempt was interrupted when an "engine event" — a fire in the turbo plenum — robbed power from the No. 17 Arrow McLaren/Hendrick Chevy. Callum Ilott's strong qualifying performance was disqualified when the No. 6 Chevy's left-rear wheel offset was found to be illegal in the post-run technical inspection. Pato O'Ward's No. 5 Chevy was due to roll out for its first qualifying attempt, but the Arrow McLaren team decided it didn't like something with the car and kept it in the garage for more investigative work.

Alexander Rossi rolled out and fired the No. 7 Chevy into the fourth-fastest speed in the heat of the day. O'Ward made it out and, as the team declared for the second time in two hours, another "engine event" hampered one of its cars and left him with the second slowest average of the day at that point in time. Larson, with a ready and recalibrated machine at his disposal, flew to sixth. Ilott followed in suboptimal conditions but salvaged a run that placed him 18th.

O'Ward completed his first proper run at 3:39 p.m. and flirted with being on the second row but lost speed on each of the four laps and fell to 19th.

For Arrow McLaren, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the worst kind of roller coaster on Saturday, but it all came good in the end as Rossi (fourth), Larson (sixth) and O'Ward (10th) will run for the pole Sunday in the Fast 12, while Ilott (15th) persevered and was rewarded.

But not before Ward held his breath for what felt like hours on end.

"We feel like we made hard work for ourselves today, but at the end of the day, we were confident that we would get some good runs and be where we think we deserved to be," the Canadian told RACER. "And that’s where we ended up. You always want more. This team has resilience. It’s just fun to see a team of racers come together who love to do this. This is the coolest day in motor racing.

"I can safely say that, with all my all my experience with everything I’ve seen, I don’t think it’s any better than Saturday when there’s bumping at the Speedway, and it is a chance to get to do what we love to do. Yeah, it was a little stressful at times, but you know, you've just got to appreciate you get to do this for a living. I love it man."