Target Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon has claimed the coveted pole position and the Verizon P1 Award for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Brisbane-born Kiwi, recorded a four-lap average of 226.760 mph (364.935 kph) on the 2.5-mile oval and will lead the 33-car field to the green flag in the 200-lap race on Sunday May 24.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series Champion Will Power (226.350 mph) and Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud (226.145 mph) also qualified on the front row.
Rain on Saturday saw qualifying condensed into a one-day schedule, with the format further revised after a lengthy delay for track repairs following a massive crash involving CFH Racing owner/driver Ed Carpenter in the morning practice session.
Carpenter’s accident – which saw him flip and slide along the track on his roll hoop, mercifully without injury to the defending two-time pole-winner – was the third such incident for a Chevrolet aero kit-fitted driver in the week: the American’s accident came in the wake of similar frightening incidents for Hélio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden.
Worried that the increased engine boosts and resulting higher speeds could trigger more accidents in qualifying, IndyCar organisers quickly moved to rule that all qualifying-spec engine boosts (amounting to an extra 40bhp) were banned and that all qualifiers had to run in the same aero set-up they would use in the race.
Championship points would also not be awarded for the qualifying results – the decision denied Dixon a valuable 33 points, while also denying defending champion Will Power a move to the lead of the championship standings by dint of outqualifying teammate and current points leader Juan Pablo Montoya.
The scheduled ‘Fast Nine Shootout’, in which the fastest nine qualifiers would return to the track after first qualifying attempts for a single four-lap run to finalise the first three rows of the grid, was cancelled.
Instead, each entry had one qualifying attempt to secure positions from pole to 30. There being 34 entrants, the starting order for the back row of the grid (comprising positions 31-33) would be contested in a separate session.
The ignominious honour of failing to qualify for the race went to 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier. The 47-year-old veteran had barely driven in his family-run car during the ‘Month of May’, and despite a valiant effort in the ‘bump’ session, he was predictably slowest.
At the pointy end of the timesheets, Dixon – a multiple IndyCar champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner – claimed his 23rd career pole to move him ahead of Gil de Ferran on the all-time list, as well as breaking Team Penske’s run of eight consecutive races where one of its drivers has started from pole position.
“We’re starting in the right place but it’s still a long race. Hopefully, we can replicate what we did in 2008 [winning from pole],” said Dixon, who also pocketed a $100,000 bonus for his efforts. “We’re starting on pole for the Indianapolis 500 and now we just have to finish first. I’m just so proud of everybody at Team Target, whether it’s engineers and everybody that has worked so hard to get the speed out of this car. It was definitely a tough day.”
Power, who won the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis from pole barely a week ago, matched his best Indy 500 start since 2010. Pagenaud’s highest was eighth in 2013.
“I think we have a good chance here, the entire team,” said Pagenaud speaking on behalf of the four Team Penske drivers including three-time Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves (who qualified fifth) and 2000 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (who battled to 15th).
“But the Indy 500 is a bit like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you’re never ready enough for this race. There are so many things, nine to 10 pit stops, a yellow can come out at the wrong time; something can happen in the pit lane. It can go all right up until the end of the race and something can happen at the last moment where you don’t expect it.
“I’m just going to keep being like I have been, like pretty non-emotional about it, and do my job, even though I’m super excited.”
|2015 IndyCar Series 99th Indianapolis 500 – Final Qualifying Results|
|Grid||Driver||Team / Entry||Avg. Speed|
|1.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||226.760 mph|
|2.||Will Power||Team Penske||226.350 mph|
|3.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||226.145 mph|
|4.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||225.503 mph|
|5.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||225.502 mph|
|6.||Justin Wilson||Andretti Autosport||225.279 mph|
|7.||Sébastien Bourdais||KVSH Racing||225.193 mph|
|8.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||225.189 mph|
|9.||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||225.187 mph|
|10.||J.R. Hildebrand||CFH Racing||225.099 mph|
|11.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||225.042 mph|
|12.||Ed Carpenter||CFH Racing||224.883 mph|
|13.||Oriol Servià||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||224.777 mph|
|14.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||224.743 mph|
|15.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||224.657 mph|
|16.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||224.573 mph|
|17.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||224.290 mph|
|18.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing||224.233 mph|
|19.||Simona de Silvestro||Andretti Autosport||223.838 mph|
|20.||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||223.790 mph|
|21.||Tristan Vautier*||Dale Coyne Racing||223.747 mph|
|22.||Alex Tagliani||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||223.722 mph|
|23.||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing||223.595 mph|
|24.||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||223.519 mph|
|25.||Conor Daly||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||223.482 mph|
|26.||Townsend Bell||Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing||223.447 mph|
|27.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||223.226 mph|
|28.||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne Racing||223.104 mph|
|29.||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||222.916 mph|
|30.||Sebastián Saavedra||Chip Ganassi Racing / AFS Racing||222.898 mph|
|Grid||‘Positions 31-33’ Qualifying||Team / Entry||Avg. Speed|
|31.||Jack Hawksworth||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||223.738 mph|
|32.||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||222.001 mph|
|33.||Bryan Clauson||Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / KVSH Racing||221.358 mph|
|DNQ.||Buddy Lazier||Lazier Partners Racing||220.153 mph|
* Vautier qualified on James Davison’s behalf
Practice is scheduled for today with the final practice session (Coors Light Carb Day) on Friday May 22, before Sunday’s 200-lap race.
Image via Motorsport.com
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