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As Indy 500 qualifying speeds approached 250 mph, many wondered: How fast is too fast? For now, no one really knows.

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Pato O'Ward
Pato O'Ward.Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Scott Dixon won his fifth pole at the Indianapolis 500 with a record-setting four-lap average of 234.046 mph.

  • We talked to former drivers Danica Patrick and Townsend Bell about those speeds and how fast is too fast.

  • McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said speeds won't keep going up, noting qualifying is fun, but the race is more important.

On the same day that Scott Dixon won his fifth pole at the Indianapolis 500 with a record-setting four-lap average of 234.046 mph and peaked at speeds well over 240 mph, Romain Grosjean called his first go at qualifying for the race "scary."

"We tried everything we had to go fast and get some speed in the car, but it was definitely nerve-wracking," Grosjean said about his qualifying attempt. "It wasn't easy. I used all the tools in the car. I'm glad it's behind me."

That a former Formula One driver would be scared about the speeds says something about just how fast Indy cars can go, especially at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It also added some welcome buzz to the 106th running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

However, it also raises the question of just how fast is too fast.

According to former driver and current NBC analyst Townsend Bell, IndyCar is not there yet.

"The simple answer is, I don't know, but I wanna find out," Bell said before the race. "I think that's really the story of Indianapolis for over 100 years is just that question. How fast can they go? How much faster can they go? And where's the limit?

"I think there's room to go there, and I'm fascinated to find out what that limit might be," he said. "And, and that's why I watch. And, and why I'm so curious."

While wrecks at high speeds are the obvious concern, there is also the worry about what those speeds do to the body, something Bell touched on.

"Years ago, we started to flirt with the driver's physical limit at a race in Texas, where there was a lot more banking, on a shorter course, and really high speeds," Bell said. "We started to get to a G-force level where the driver's physical well-being was compromised a bit in terms of blackout and vertigo. At Indianapolis, there's less banking in the corners right now from a pure G-force standpoint, and we are well below that threshold."

Don't expect to see cars averaging 240 mph anytime soon

Does this mean we will see cars averaging 240 mph during qualifying in a few years? McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown doesn't think so, noting that the speeds in qualifying are less important than good racing.

"We've been in these speed ranges before," Brown told Insider. "I don't think it can just continue to incrementally creep up. I don't see there being a time that we see a 240 mph average. What's most important is, while qualifying is fun for speed, we just need to make sure we continue put on good racing. Whether that's 230 mph or 225 mph or 220 mph, it doesn't really matter when it comes to good racing."

As the cars have evolved and become safer, faster speeds are more manageable. Dixon going 234 mph in a 2022 car will be safer than Tony Stewart going 233 mph in a 1996 car.

We witnessed during practice for the Indy 500 when Dalton Kellett spun and slammed into the wall at over 200 mph.

After the wreck, Kellett praised the safety of the car and the safety team.

"The AMR Safety team was at my car literally seconds after I stopped — best in the business," Kellett wrote. "The car recorded >100g's, but my earpieces only logged 38. So the SAFER barrier and the IndyCar's safety system worked exactly as designed."

While the cars are safer and the speeds are mindboggling and create buzzy headlines for IndyCar, NBC analyst Danica Patrick hopes it is a reminder to the drivers during the race.

"I hope that everybody out there that's racing is thinking to themselves and reminded of the sheer speed that's out there," Patrick said before the race. "Look, you can have a big crash at 100, 150, 200, and 245. You can have tragic accidents. But let's hope it at least is just like a little bit of a reminder of just how fast they're going out there and to respect each other and not do silly things. We want an exciting race, but you can do that without touching wheels."

Read the original article on Insider