For the fourth time in his iconic career, Scott Dixon has qualified on pole for the Indianapolis 500. He was the final car to make a pass based on times from Saturday, and it came down all the way to his fourth and final lap. This year, it would be Dixon who took home the pole position at the buzzer. The Kiwi driver was able to beat then pole-sitter Colton Herta by exactly three-hundredths of a mile per hour. Dixon’s final of four laps was significantly worse than Herta’s, but his opening two laps were excellent.
Dixon now enters a three-way tie for the second most poles ever with Helio Castroneves, Rex Mays, and the iconic A.J. Foyt. Dixon’s lone Indianapolis 500 win came all the way back in 2008, he also qualified on the pole that year as well. His 2015 pole resulted in a fourth-place result. In 2017 his pole resulted in a 32nd, large in part due to this horrifying incident that he miraculously walked away from.
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Rest of The Fast Nine
Unfortunately for Herta, Dixon’s bad final lap would not be enough for him to earn the pole. However, a second is something to be happy about. The man joining them on row one will be Rinus VeeKay. He was the middleman in the qualifying order but ended up improving from a fifth on Saturday to a third on Sunday. VeeKay also is the highest starting Chevrolet, ahead of his teammate/boss Ed Carpenter. Speaking of Carpenter, he will start on the inside of row two next Sunday. Despite a relatively significant decrease in speed on Sunday, over a tenth mile-per-hour from Saturday, Carpenter still ended up fourth.
The middleman of both row two and of the Fast Nine is Tony Kannan. Kannan did in fact secure his best starting spot in the 500 since 2015 when he started in fourth. Now the former two-time 500 winner looks to at minimum, get his first 500 top five since 2017. Staring in the middle of row two next to Kannan will be Alex Palou. After a brutal wreck on Saturday, his Chip Ganassi squad worked into the evening hours to get his car ready for Sunday.
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After a wreck like that, Palou’s sixth is a credit to both his driving ability and his team to get his car back together.
Inside of row three will be 2014 race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Andretti Autosport driver now looks for a fourth consecutive top-10 500 result. Castroneves will man the middle of row number three. He now starts outside of the man who cost him a fourth 500 win back in 2014. To the outside of Castroneves will be Marcus Ericsson. The Swedish driver for Chip Ganassi Racing looks to back up a career-best qualifying effort with a career-best 500 finish.
Last Chance Qualifiers
Will Power after a brutal effort on Saturday managed to qualify into the 500. The bad news is that the 2018 race winner will be starting in 32nd. This is just the third time that power has qualified outside the top 10 and the second year in a row. He was on an 11-year streak of qualifying no worse than ninth going into last year as well. In a historical context, this is borderline the worst-case scenario for Power. The worst starting spot to end up winning The Indianapolis 500 is 28th and it has happened twice. The problem here is those wins happened in 1911, and 1936. So obviously not a great situation for Power for next week.
The gentleman starting ahead of him in 31st is Sage Karam. This is the third consecutive year that Karam has qualified 31st, all three with the part-time Dreyer and Reinbold team. His rookie year in 2014, he also qualified in 31st and was able to finish in ninth. So Karam has the talent to work his way up the field and give his team a nice result next week.
The final spot in this year’s Indianapolis 500 went to Simona de Silvestro from Switzerland. She is the lone woman in this year’s field, and this is de Silvestro’s first 500 start since 2015. This is, however, the first start in the 500 for her Paretta Autosport squad in just their first attempt. Just to throw it out there, the five best finishes by a woman in the Indianapolis 500 all belong to Danica Patrick. A third in 2009 was her best, and while unlikely that de Silvestro bests that mark, never say never.
Now with the field set, the 33 drivers locked in have already begun race prep for the 500 next week. Just hours after the Fast Nine concluded their qualifying session, Simon Pagenaud suffered a significant setback. His Team Penske Chevrolet appeared to lose the engine right past the start/finish line. Then Pagenaud brought his car to a stop on the backstretch with a small fire in the right rear of the car.
Whatever caused this engine failure must have been significant. Not a great sign for Chevrolet when this has not been a good Indianapolis 500 prep for them as it is. Keep Pagenaud’s engine failure here in mind for next week for his Penske teammates, Ed Carpenter Racing, and Arrow McLaren. These engines are not built to last, to begin with.
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
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