"It's the first time I've ever gone first," he admitted. "I was a bit nervous. It was fun out there to get four laps put together for the #9."
At least all three cars are safely on the grid and don't have to run again on Bump Day Sunday if they don't want to, and can instead focus on using the practice periods available to the teams to start finessing their race set-ups. That's not the case for the ten drivers yet to make it onto the grid, with Sebastian Saavedra (Dragon), Graham Rahal and Michel Jourdain Jr. (Rahal Letterman Lanigan), Ana Beatriz and Pippa Mann (Dale Coyne Racing), rookies Conor Daly (AJ Foyt Racing) and Tristan Vautier (Schmidt-Peterson Motorport), Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Harman Racing) and Buddy Lazier (Lazier Partners) all competing to get into the race.
And with Katherine Legge a late 34th entry in the proceedings in a third Schmidt car, someone is going to be left without a seat when the music stops at the end of Sunday's track time - and that means they'll be going home early.
"We're lacking a bit of speed," admitted Vautier, who'd been expected to finish Saturday safely in the top 24 given his Indy Lights experience. "I am very happy to get my first run for qualifying at the 500. It was great, but we will keep working to find more speed.
"Four laps of qualifying is different for me," he admitted. "It's long, and you have to give it everything you have. But it's also short, and you have to be very intense."
The Rahal team was certainly very disappointed to be where they were with their two drivers on Saturday.
"For us, we really expected a lot better than that," admitted Graham Rahal. "We didn't think that we had pole speed but certainly we thought we had top-nine, top-ten speed. To go two miles an hour slower, I don't really get that. So I'm pretty frustrated."
Buddy Lazier's position is more understandable - the team only got their newly-acquired car (it was Jean Alesi's chassis in 2012) out on track for the first time on Thursday and are still playing catch-up.
"I like being here," said the 1996 race winner. "The racetrack really tests you as a race driver. I look forward to that test and really enjoy it. When you are already behind the 8-ball [by] five or six days, and we were the only ones who started that late, I still enjoy it. It's just not as much fun as being on pace with everybody else and going through the process.
"I think given the fact that the car wasn't even together 48 or 60 hours ago, we had 50 laps of practice going today, I think it's going well," he insisted. "I have nothing but good things to say about my team. They have done a great job for me." He'll be hoping that the dream doesn't die prematurely for him and his fledgling team at the end of Sunday.
Contrasting with Lazier's experience is AJ Allmendinger's rookie exuberance belying his 31 years, who couldn't conceal his excitement about being part of the process he'd watched from afar ever since growing up as a child in California.