Dixon takes Indy 500 pole with stunning 234mph run

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

Scott Dixon delivered the second best four-lap average qualifying run – and the fastest that has counted for pole – in Indianapolis 500 history to earn the top spot on the grid for the event for a fifth time.

Dixon has been chasing a second 500 victory since his maiden triumph in 2008 but in qualifying the six-time IndyCar champion is always a formidable performer.

He was nervous over whether he would even get the chance to go for pole after being furious with his Honda-powered Chip Ganassi Racing car on Saturday, but inclement weather guaranteed his place on Sunday. Interestingly, in last year’s qualifying format Dixon wouldn’t have made it to the pole fight, he would have been eliminated on Saturday.

In practice he delivered a faster four-lap average than any single lap anyone else could manage, and topped the new Fast 12 session which narrowed down six drivers to go for pole.

In that Fast Six Dixon’s team-mate Alex Palou – who beat Dixon to the IndyCar championship last year – was the pacesetter and Dixon had to go out as the very last car to qualify.

Incredibly he delivered two laps over 234mph and had an average of 234.046mph, second only to Arie Luyendyk’s 1996 effort – which due to the Indy 500’s quirky format only earned him 20th on the grid.

Palou will start second after finishing second last year, and Rinus VeeKay rounded out the top three as the best Chevrolet runner for Ed Carpenter Racing. VeeKay has qualified fourth, third and third in his three starts at the Speedway.

The trio of Dixon, Palou and VeeKay make up the fastest front row in Indy 500 qualifying history.

Hometown hero Ed Carpenter took fourth, ahead of Marcus Ericsson’s best IndyCar qualifying performance in fifth, with Tony Kanaan sixth.

Kanaan had an electrical issue that almost cost him the chance to start qualifying but he still made it four Ganassi cars in the Fast Six up against the ECR pair.

Practice 7 Results

Pos Name Team Car Gap Next Gap Leader Best Time
1 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda
2 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda
3 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
4 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
5 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda
6 Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda
7 Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
8 Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
9 Romain Grosjean Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda
10 Takuma Sato Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Dallara DW12-Honda
11 Will Power Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet
12 Jimmie Johnson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda

The new qualifying format introduced a new level of jeopardy. Instead of a Fast Nine fight for pole as usual, the fastest 12 drivers on Saturday went through to fight for a place in a Fast Six on Sunday.

The first to miss out was a shock, as Pato O’Ward had been many people’s favourite for pole position for Arrow McLaren SP.

His team-mate Felix Rosenqvist – whose car looked visibly ill-handling as his run went on – was just behind in eighth suggesting the pair might have got the maximum out of their cars in the conditions.

Romain Grosjean took ninth as the only Andretti driver in the Fast 12, and the best Indy 500 rookie in the field. That’s a strong result given how much he and the team have struggled at times across practice.

Will Power headed Takuma Sato and Jimmie Johnson to round out the top 12 and the first four rows.

Power – the IndyCar points leader – and Sato were also their team’s only representatives in Sunday qualifying for Penske and Dale Coyne respectively.

Both went early on and probably didn’t get the best of the conditions they needed to make it through.

Johnson rounded out the 12 with an incredible run that, although it was last, displayed how far he has come as a rookie in his Indy 500 journey.

At Turn 1 on lap one he almost crashed and pulled off a tremendous save a paper width from the wall, and recovered to finish what was a strong effort.

The positions for 13th-33rd were set yesterday.

13 David Malukas
14 Josef Newgarden
15 Santino Ferrucci
16 Simon Pagenaud
17 JR Hildebrand
18 Conor Daly
19 Callum Ilott
20 Alexander Rossi
21 Graham Rahal
22 Sage Karam
23 Marco Andretti
24 Devlin DeFrancesco
25 Colton Herta
26 Scott McLaughlin
27 Helio Castroneves
28 Kyle Kirkwood
29 Dalton Kellett
30 Juan Pablo Montoya
31 Christian Lundgaard
32 Jack Harvey
33 Stefan Wilson

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the struggles of Andretti and Penske which only put one car each in the Fast 12.

Power’s team-mates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin were just on the outside for Penske and withdrew their lap times to have a second run late in the day.

However, the air density and humidity made for worse conditions and McLaughlin surrendered 15th for 26th.

Newgarden likely would have suffered a similar fate to McLaughlin but the caution came out for lightning as he began his run, and the session ending ensured he kept his original 14th-place time.

Marco Andretti was held up by Sato on his first run – as Sato stayed on track instead of using the warm-up lane – so he headed the team-mate trio of Devlin DeFrancesco and Colton Herta.

Herta had to switch engines and got a late run which was only good enough for 25th.

Last year’s winner Helio Castroneves is aiming for a feat not achieved in 90 years: to win the race from the 27th starting spot.

Double winner and ex-Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya has his worst Indy 500 starting spot ever after a favourable draw for when he would attempt his qualifying run was lost when a broken diffuser strake led his car to fail pre-qualifying inspection. He starts 30th.

Stefan Wilson has the rare stat of qualifying for the Indy 500 without completing a qualifying run, as a lack of a 34th entry meant no chance of being bumped out of the field and a gearbox-related issue led to him sitting out Saturday’s action.

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