Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) – Scott Dixon will start on the pole for the May 24th Indianapolis 500 after posting a four-lap average speed of 226.760 mph in Sunday’s qualifying session, which had to be revised following Ed Carpenter’s spectacular crash in morning practice.
Dixon, the driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, claimed his second pole for the Indy 500. The New Zealander started on the pole and won this prestigious 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2008, leading 115 of 200 laps in that event. Dixon is a three-time IndyCar Series champion.
“We’re starting in the right place, but it’s still a long race,” said Dixon, who scored his 22nd career pole in IndyCar. “Hopefully, we can replicate what we did in 2008. We’re starting on pole for the Indianapolis 500, and now we just have to finish first.”
Dixon was the fourth driver in the 34 entries to make his qualifying run.
Team Penske driver Will Power, the defending IndyCar champion, qualified in the middle of the front row (226.350 mph), while Power’s teammate, Simon Pagenaud, secured the outside of row 1 (226.145 mph).
A Penske driver had won the pole for the past eight IndyCar races, a streak dating back to August 2014.
“I’m happy with the front row, but I’ve been here before. I definitely would have liked to get the pole,” Power said.
Tony Kanaan, who is Dixon’s teammate at Ganassi, Helio Castroneves, the three- time Indy 500 winner from Penske, and Justin Wilson from Andretti Autosport will make up row 2.
The third row will include Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing), Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport) and Josef Newgarden (CFH Racing).
J.R. Hildebrand (CFH Racing), Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) and Carpenter (CFH Racing) secured the positions in row 4.
Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending winner of the Indy 500, qualified 16th, the inside of row 6, while current points leader Juan Pablo Montoya from Penske placed 15th, the outside of row 5.
About 15 minutes into the morning practice, Carpenter, who had won the pole for the Indy 500 the previous two years, spun out and backed it hard into the wall as he exited turn 2. His car ricocheted off of the wall and then rotated upside down while airborne before it slid down the backstretch on its left side. He was checked and released from the track’s infield medical care center.
It was the third time within five days that a major crash had happened during practice at this famed 2.5-mile oval. Castroneves was involved in a horrifying wreck on Wednesday, and Newgarden had a similar incident as well on the following day.
Carpenter’s wreck prompted IndyCar officials to make modifications to the Indy 500 qualifications format. Day 1 of qualifying here was rained out. The start time of Sunday’s qualifying was rescheduled from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. ET.
“When I was upside down in turn 2 this morning, I didn’t know the delays in the schedule we would have,” Carpenter said. “The way things worked out, it gave the team the time it needed to get the car ready to go. I didn’t think we expected to win the pole with the morning we had, and I’m just thankful to the whole team.”
The aerodynamic bodywork package for both manufacturers had been changed, with teams using the same package for qualifying that will be used for next Sunday’s race. The engine horsepower was also reduced, meaning speeds were lower for qualifying than they had been in practice. On Saturday, Castroneves recorded the fastest lap here this month at 233.474 mph. No points were awarded for qualifying.
“We knew we had a really good combination with the extra boost and the low downforce, and we worked pretty hard on them,” Dixon said. “Today was a little bit of an unknown. I knew we’d be good to start near the front, but whether you can get the pole is a totally different story.”
Before Carpenter’s accident, Dixon had the quickest lap in practice at 233.001 mph. Power led the way in the 60-minute practice session held just prior to qualifying with a lap at 227.337 mph.
Each of the 34 entries had one four-lap qualifying attempt for positions 1-30. The “Fast Nine Shootout,” in which the top-nine cars return to determine positions 1-9 (the first three rows) for the Indy 500, had been canceled due to the late start time of qualifying.
Positions 31-33 — the 11th and final row — were decided later in the evening.
In qualifying, Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti, and Bryan Clauson had placed 31-33, while Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, did not make an attempt.
The second qualifying session was 45 minutes in length. Hawksworth (223.738 mph), Coletti (222.001 mph) and Clauson (221.358 mph) will be on the 11th row for the 99th running of the Indy 500.
Lazier’s four-lap average speed of 220.153 mph made him the only driver who failed to qualify for this year’s race.