INDIANAPOLIS — The Fast Nine is set. Nine drivers (Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, Rinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves, Alex Palou, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marcus Ericsson) will vie for a shot at the pole on Sunday for next weekend’s 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). The Shootout will be a barnburner between four Chip Ganassi Racing drivers, two Andretti’s, one Meyer-Shank Racing entry and two ECR cars.
That’s seven Honda’s vs. two Chevy’s.
Honda swept the front row last year. Chevy did the same in 2018 and again in 2019. Does a manufacturer do the same for a fourth straight year?
What about the Last Row Shootout? We have Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Simona de Silvestro and RC Enerson in this.
The main question now is, who wins the pole on Sunday and which two drivers miss out on making the race for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing?
Trends say it’s Castroneves. We’ve had five straight different pole winners from five different teams for this race. We’ve also had five different pole winners in 2021 too in as many races run. That would eliminate Ganassi’s four car group, Andretti and ECR’s tandem leaving way for MSR and Castroneves.
But, do you follow that trend?
Castroneves was sixth quickest on Saturday. The worst spot a pole winner came from during this Shootout format from the day before’s qualifying was fifth in 2013. So, a trend may have to give.
The last six pole winners here during this format were all on the provisional front row from Saturday. Dixon, Herta and Kanaan were those drivers.
Dixon hasn’t qualified on a pole in an Indy Car race since here actually in 2017. Herta, won a pole in St. Pete last month while Kanaan’s last pole came back in 2011 in Las Vegas. Talk about a diverse group there. Herta’s actually only won five career poles and none have come away from a natural road course. He’s also the only other driver in the Fast Nine outside of Alex Palou to make a second run and he did so in the heat of the day right about the time the Fast Nine Shootout would almost be over. Did he learn enough to net him a pole?
Dixon does have seven Fast Nine appearances, Herta two and Kanaan four. Dixon’s the only one among them to turn a Fast Nine into a front row starting spot. Herta was fifth in 2019 and Kanaan’s best was fourth in 2015.
That’s why I may be leaning on Carpenter. This is his sixth Fast Six, the previous five he started in the top two. He’s had four career poles, three of them came here with his last top starting spot coming in 2018.
Rinus VeeKay has one career pole, which was actually here last October but that was on the road course. He qualified fourth last year. Castroneves has eight Fast Nine appearances now with just one of them being on the front row.
We go to Row 3 and Palou was seventh last year in his only Fast Nine appearance as he has never won an Indy Car pole, Ryan Hunter-Reay who has five Fast Nine appearances now too but his last oval pole came in Milwaukee back in 2004. the final driver would be Marcus Ericsson who’s never won a pole nor had a top 10 starting spot here.
Fast Nine Prediction
- 9 Dixon
- 20 Carpenter
- 26 Herta
- 48 Kanaan
- 06 Castroneves
- 21 VeeKay
- 28 Hunter-Reay
- 10 Palou
- 8 Ericsson
Last Row Shootout
It’s a fight among five Chevy drivers for the final three spots and a heavy hitter among them. They get unlimited attempts to find a spot into the field of 33, so who does it go to?
31. 12 Power – he’s in a Penske and the class of this shootout field.
32. 24 Karam – he started 31st in each of the last two years and in three of his previous seven Indy 500 starts. Unfortunately he’s become a veteran of his end of the Shootout and he gets himself in.
33. 16 de Silvestro – she has just enough to escape to find her way into the field. Indy magic will make this work in the end.
34. 11 Kimball – He was 34th on the no tow list on Fast Friday and struggling to make the speed all week. Foyt has shown up to Indy with four cars four times previously and in three of them, at least one car didn’t make the show. That trend continues unfortunately.
35. 75 Enerson – he’s not had the pace all week and I don’t see him getting to a 229 mph which is what I think it will take to make it to next Sunday’s race.