For the fifth time in his career, Scott Dixon will start on the pole position for the Indianapolis 500.
But Sunday’s qualifying run was the fastest he’s ever gone at the Brickyard.
In fact, Dixon’s four-lap average speed of 234.046 MPH was the fastest pole run and second-fastest qualifying run in Indy 500 history. Only Arie Luynendyk’s four-lap average of 236.986 MPH in 1996 is faster (however, Luyendyk’s run came on Day 2 of qualifying, meaning he could only start as high as 21st due to rules at the time).
“This what this place is about,” Dixon said to NBC Sports after winning the pole. “It’s so amazing. The ups and downs that you have just in one day is crazy.
“Massive thank you to all of the fans for coming out. It’s so good to see everybody here in the grandstands. Thank you so much to the team.”
Dixon leads the fearsome five-some of Chip Ganassi Racing, which is unquestionably perhaps the biggest force of any organization to be reckoned with next weekend.
All five CGR drivers qualified within the top four starting rows, with Alex Palou starting second and Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan qualifying fifth and sixth respectively.
When asked why CGR was so dominant in qualifying, Dixon attributed it to “hard work and people."
He then added, “I’m one of the lucky guys, part of this team that gets to drive it and gets to take it across the line. The amount of effort back in the shop and through HPD and Honda, the speed that they bring. Huge thanks to all my teammates. We’ve worked really hard to put this team together and try to get the most of it.”
Forty-six-year-old Jimmie Johnson, who is making his Indy 500 debut after an illustrious career in NASCAR, qualified twelfth for the best starting position in his relatively short IndyCar career.
Johnson was just mere inches from hitting the wall in the first green flag lap of his qualifying attempt, essentially ending any chance he had to qualify better than the twelfth.
Johnson blamed his first lap error on “Inexperience, ultimately”.
“I think the sunlight on the track and the track temp coming up, and these conditions, just trying to find that right balance in the race car,” Johnson said.”These guys are so good at what they do in these trickier conditions. I just need a bit more experience.”
But CGR won’t be the only team to beat in the 500 next weekend. As the case has been the last several years, Ed Carpenter Racing was strong in qualifying.
Rinus VeeKay qualified third overall for the best starting position of a Chevy-powered entry. Owner-driver Ed Carpenter will start fourth in his 19th attempt to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
While both CGR and ECR had great qualifying runs, two of IndyCar’s largest and most successful teams will have drivers starting the 500 from the middle and back of the pack.
Both Andretti Autosport and Team Penske each had only one lone representative in the top 12 starting positions.
Indy 500 rookie and Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean was the best qualifier for Andretti; he'll start ninth Sunday. Alexander Rossi was the next best qualifier for the team, qualifying 20th on Saturday.
“I’m super happy with what we have achieved so far for my first Indy 500,” Grosjean said.” We finished in the top nine in both qualifying sessions. Obviously, you always want to do more and we tried really hard today to have a fast car and put everything we had on the table. It was probably a little too much for the track conditions, but it was a great team effort.”
2018 winner Will Power was the best qualifier for Team Penske and will start 11th in his bid for a second 500 win (won in 2018).
Defending race champion Helio Castroneves, who hopes to become the first driver in history to win the Indy 500 five times, qualified a disappointing 27th on Saturday. The qualifying result is Castoneve’s second-worst in 22 attempts. He finished 11th after qualifying 28th in 2020.
“Qualifying was going well, but I could see the rears letting go in the first run,” Castroneves said. “In Turn 3 Lap 2, I had a huge snap, and I wasn’t going to make it. The car was getting really difficult to run, and unfortunately, I had to bail out. I finished the lap just to finish because who knows what's going to happen, somebody could crash and we still have some sort of average.
“The guys worked really hard to make some changes to the car back in the garage and we went straight to Lane 1 to try again. “We improved a bit, which was good. I know that we have a really strong race car, so I’m not too worried come race day.”
Live coverage of the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins on Sunday, May 29 at 11:00 am ET on NBC. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 12:45 pm ET.
OFFICIAL STARTING GRID FOR THE 106TH RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
Starting position, car number, driver name, engine manufacturer, average speed
(W) - Former winner, (R) - Rookie driver
All cars utilize Firestone tires and a Dallara chassis
1. (9) Scott Dixon (W), Honda, 234.046
2. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 233.499
3. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 233.385
4 (33) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 233.080
5. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 232.372
6. (1) Tony Kanaan (W), Honda, 232.372
7. Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 232.705
8. Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 232.182
9. Romain Grosjean (R), Honda, 231.999
10. (51) Takuka Sato (W), Honda, 231.670
11. (12) Will Power (W), Chevrolet, 231.534
12. (48) Jimmie Johnson (R), Honda, 231.264
13. (18) David Malukas (R), Honda, 231.607
14. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 231.580
15. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 231.508
16. (60) Simon Pagenaud (W), Honda, 231.275
17. (11) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 231.112
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 230.999
19. (77) Callum Ilott (R), Chevrolet, 230.961
20. (27) Alexander Rossi (W), Honda, 230.812
21. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 230.766
22. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 230.464
23. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 230.345
24. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco (R), Honda, 230.326
25. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 230.235
26. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 230.154
27. (06) Helio Castroneves (W), Honda, 229.630
28. (14) Kyle Kirkwood (R), Chevrolet, 229.406
29. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 228.916
30. (6) Juan Pablo Montoya (W), Chevrolet, 228.622
31. (30) Christian Lundgaard (R), Honda, 227.053
32. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 226.851
33. (25) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, no speed