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.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Drivers were restricted to a single four-lap qualifying run and had to run the same aero and engine configuration they would use in the race – defending Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified his Andretti Autosport entry well down the order in sixteenth.

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.”

Simona de Silvestro

Simona de Silvestro (Andretti Autosports) recovered from a fiery engine blaze in practice to qualify 19th-fastest.

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 nz Chip Ganassi Racing 226.760 mph
2. Will Power au Team Penske 226.350 mph
3. Simon Pagenaud fr Team Penske 226.145 mph
4. Tony Kanaan br Chip Ganassi Racing 225.503 mph
5. Hélio Castroneves br Team Penske 225.502 mph
6. Justin Wilson uk Andretti Autosport 225.279 mph
7. Sébastien Bourdais fr KVSH Racing 225.193 mph
8. Marco Andretti us Andretti Autosport 225.189 mph
9. Josef Newgarden us CFH Racing 225.187 mph
10. J.R. Hildebrand us CFH Racing 225.099 mph
11. Carlos Muñoz co Andretti Autosport 225.042 mph
12. Ed Carpenter us CFH Racing 224.883 mph
13. Oriol Servià es Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 224.777 mph
14. Charlie Kimball us Chip Ganassi Racing 224.743 mph
15. Juan Pablo Montoya co Team Penske 224.657 mph
16. Ryan Hunter-Reay us Andretti Autosport 224.573 mph
17. Graham Rahal us Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 224.290 mph
18. Carlos Huertas co Dale Coyne Racing 224.233 mph
19. Simona de Silvestro ch Andretti Autosport 223.838 mph
20. James Jakes uk Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 223.790 mph
21. Tristan Vautier* fr Dale Coyne Racing 223.747 mph
22. Alex Tagliani ca A.J. Foyt Enterprises 223.722 mph
23. Sage Karam us Chip Ganassi Racing 223.595 mph
24. James Hinchcliffe ca Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 223.519 mph
25. Conor Daly us Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 223.482 mph
26. Townsend Bell us Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing 223.447 mph
27. Takuma Sato jp A.J. Foyt Enterprises 223.226 mph
28. Pippa Mann uk Dale Coyne Racing 223.104 mph
29. Gabby Chaves co Bryan Herta Autosport 222.916 mph
30. Sebastián Saavedra co Chip Ganassi Racing / AFS Racing 222.898 mph
Grid ‘Positions 31-33’ Qualifying Team / Entry Avg. Speed
31. Jack Hawksworth uk A.J. Foyt Enterprises 223.738 mph
32. Stefano Coletti mc KV Racing Technology 222.001 mph
33. Bryan Clauson us Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / KVSH Racing 221.358 mph
DNQ. Buddy Lazier us 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.

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8