Scott Dixon claims Indy 500 pole after teammate’s miraculous stoppage
Scott Dixon used a blistering run of over 376.586 km/h to set the fastest run in Indianapolis 500m history on Monday (NZT).
The New Zealander will lead the field to green in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for the fifth time in his career. He earned a bonus of $155,000 for his last pole position.
Considered the best driver of his generation, Dixon completed four laps averaging 376.660 km/h around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His average beat Scott Brayton’s pole record set in 1996 at 376.132 km/h.
Arie Luyendyk holds the qualifying record in four laps at 381.391 km/h, also achieved in 1996, but not in a pole race. That means Dixon’s qualifying run was the second-fastest in 106 races at the world’s most prestigious race.
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Dixon’s first lap was a blistering 377.289 km/h and drew a roar from the fans. His second lap was 376.847 km/h and his wife Emma leaned over the pit wall in amazement, her hands covering her mouth. Dixon’s stall from there was miniscule: his fourth and final lap was 230.6 mph, his consistency giving Chip Ganassi Racing its seventh Indy 500 pole.
Dixon also started from pole in 2008 when he scored his lone Indy 500 victory, as well as in 2015, 2017 and last year.
“That’s what this place is, the ups and downs you have in one day, it’s crazy,” Dixon said. His hands were shaking after his first run earlier Monday.
Ganassi advanced his five riders in the two-lap qualifying shootout to determine the starting order of the front three rows for next week’s race. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson needed a massive stop in the first corner of his opening lap and didn’t make it past the Round of 16.
But Dixon did it, along with his three other Honda-powered teammates. It made Dixon, defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan in a one-on-one “Fast Six” shootout against Chevrolet-powered teammates Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay.
“That’s what real competitors want, real competitors want that,” Ganassi said ahead of the session. “It’s a time made for champions.”
On Sunday, VeeKay had posted the third-fastest qualifying run in track history, but didn’t have enough for Dixon’s big, big laps.
Palou qualified second alongside his teammate and VeeKay finished third.
Carpenter finished fourth followed by Ericsson and Kanaan. But even the slowest cars were flying around Indy, which hasn’t seen such speeds since 1996.
While there was applause for Dixon, there were gasps of amazement for Johnson on a dramatic day at The Brickyard.
Kiwi driver Scott Dixon and his wife Emma talk about his IndyCar career and his freak accident.
Johnson used quick hands to extricate his car from a side-slide that appeared to be headed for a massive crash at 370 km/h. He saved his car, but his Indianapolis 500 qualifying race was ruined.
The seven-time NASCAR champion is locked in his first Indy 500, but Monday had a shot at the pole. The first three rows of the May 29 race were decided by a pair of shootouts, and Johnson, who this week posted some of the fastest laps in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, certainly sent it on as early as as the green flag waved his attempt. .
He navigated his car around the first corner of his opening lap, but drifted too close to the outside wall. Johnson lurched to avoid contact, the car pulled sideways to the left and his dash cam showed his hands frantically struggling against the steering wheel to keep the car from crashing.
Romain Grosjean, who like Johnson is making his Indy 500 debut, dropped his jaw in shock as he watched the pit stop on a monitor from the pit lane.
Johnson rounded the corner and finished the lap, but was well below the pace needed to move from the round of 12 to the “Fast Six” shootout to determine the pole winner.
“The track is a little different than it was this morning,” Johnson said with a laugh in the pit lane after his race. “The same approach was not going to work. We were certainly trying to do that.
He had been third fastest in a two-hour practice session under cloudy skies and cool track temperatures. But the sun came out about an hour before the shootings started and heated the track considerably.
“I just committed to running a flat, and it was so light at the top of the track,” he said. “I was wide and trying to keep him off the fence at the time.”
He attributed his bobble to “inexperience, ultimately.”
“I think the sunlight on the track and the temperature of the track is increasing, and those conditions, just trying to find the right balance in the race car,” Johnson said. ‘These guys are so good at what they do in these difficult conditions. I just need a little more experience.”
Grosjean, who survived a violent accident in Formula 1 in 2020, was even shaken by what is happening around him on the famous IndyCar site.
“It was scary,” said Grosjean, who said earlier this week that going 230 mph around Indy caused “tight ass” moments.
The race will be Grosjean’s first Indy 500 in person – it has only ever been watched on television.
“I watched it from Europe, I was like, ‘Yeah, you know, turn left and be flat out,'” Grosjean said. “It’s a bit more. It really is a bit more than that.”
Grosjean will start ninth.
Scott McLaughlin, the other New Zealand driver will start 26th after being off the pace earlier in the weekend.