Recording the fastest qualifying average since Arie Luyendyk’s 1996 record of 236.986, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon earned the pole position for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis. His four-lap average speed of 232.164 mph was a half mile per hour faster than the field and nearly two miles per hour faster than his time set a day earlier. The Kiwi took his third Indianapolis 500 pole, the 26th pole of his Verizon IndyCar Series career. His No. 9 Honda led a six-car strong effort for the Japanese marque in the Fast Nine, after recording times on Saturday to determine the top nine.
Not many have won the race from the pole, but Dixon last completed the feat in 2008. No one was more surprised by Honda and Chip Ganassi Racing’s speed than the driver of the No. 9 machine.
“We didn’t expect to see the speed that we did,” Dixon said. “When I saw that first number, I said ‘Wow, this is impressive!’ We’re starting in the right place. The hard part now is trying to keep it there.”
Ed Carpenter’s Chevrolet stood in the way of a front-row sweep for Honda. Qualifying last of the day after setting Saturday’s fastest time, Carpenter managed to improve upon his time set Saturday by 1.2 mph, but it was only good for second on the speed charts. He capture an average of 231.664 mph with a roaring crowd cheering him on.
Alexander Rossi was the fastest of Andretti Autosport’s six-car stable, completing the first row. His 231.487 mph average was good enough for third which satisfied the young American after missing the Fast Nine in 2016.
Takuma Sato, Fernando Alonso and JR Hildebrand qualified on the second row. Alonso’s speed of 231.300 mph came after a rushed engine change. A job that normally takes two hours was completed just before qualifying went green. When asked if he was nervous about the engine change, Alonso responded “No, I’m used to it,” with a smile alluding recent issues experienced in his Formula One tenure.
Completing the Fast Nine and row three was Tony Kanaan Marco Andretti and the lone Team Penske Machine of Will Power. Power expressed concern over the temperatures experienced at the hot, sunny track, admitting that they would not be ideal for the setup his Penske crew used on the No. 12 Chevrolet.
Ryan Hunter-Reay topped Group 1 qualifying with a four-lap average of 231.036 mph in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda, 0.75 mph faster than anyone else in the session. First of the drivers outside of the first three rows, Hunter-Reay will roll off the grid 10th for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. Rookie Ed Jones recorded a speed of 230.286 mph in the NO. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda to start next to Hunter-Reay. One-off entry, Oriol Servia completed row four with his No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, just besting Russian Mikhail Aleshin.
Zach Veach was able to join the session after sitting out the first day of qualifications due to legnthy repairs being made on his No. 40 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; the results of an accident in during Friday’s practice session. The rookie posted the slowest speed of the session, a 221.081 mph, 10.4 mph off of Hunter-Reay’s pace.
Another rookie, Jack Harvey, qualified 27th with a speed of 225.742 mph in his No. 50 Michael Shank Racing/Andretti Autosport Honda. A slight brush with the wall slowed his time, but the No. 50 crew has already endured contact with the wall due to failed steering component as well as transmission and engine issues.
Last year’s pole-sitter, James Hinchcliffe was 17th fastest in his Honda, but the real surprise was Team Penske’s performance. Only Power was able to record a time fast enough for the Fast Nine, but Juan Pablo Montoya was the Captain’s fastest driver in 18th, just ahead of Helio Castroneves. Both Joseph Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud will start from deep in the field, 22nd and 23rd.
The 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 at 11:00 AM on ABC. With a healthy field of rookies including some favorable international flair, plenty of storylines continue to develop for this year’s main event.