INDIANAPOLIS — Just when you thought you’ve seen it all. For a race that’s been around for over a century, you’d think there’s not many records left to be broken. However, Scott Dixon found another one to shatter on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dixon who was provisionally 10th on Saturday improved 2 full mph over the course of a 4-lap run to score his 5th career Indianapolis 500 pole award. That moves him into second place all-time breaking a tie with Rex Mays, AJ Foyt and Helio Castroneves for 2nd most entering the day. Only Rick Mears (6) has more.
The Ice Man went quickest in the opening Round of the Fast 12 and that earned him the distinction of being the final qualifier of the Fast 6. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver went 234.046 mph which becomes the fastest pole speed in the 106 year history of the event. The prior pole record was set by Scott Brayton (233.718 mph) back in 1996.
Dixon’s also the second fastest qualifying four-lap average ever too with Arie Luyendyk’s speed of 236.986 mph still be tops. The reason Luyendyk’s speed wasn’t the fastest pole speed is because Luyendyk’s time in ’96 wasn’t for the pole. He was a second day qualifier.
We’ve not seen speeds like these in nearly 3 decades of action. The last time was 1996 but for the 2022 edition, we have the fastest field in field history. That’s why this weekend’s activity was as difficult as ever before.
A tight field, a wind storm on Friday and as treacherous speeds as we’ve ever seen here and the difference between first and second over the course of four laps came down to a margin of less than 1 mph.
“I think they’re all rewarding,” Dixon told me on Sunday afternoon. “I think if you look at the different configurations that those have all been done, and for me each one demanded a different thing. I think, again, the pole run is such a team effort and so much work goes into it, as I alluded to before. It’s so cool to see all of that work that’s been done for the last sort of is 11 or 12 months pay off. I know it’s not the race win. It’s not any of that, but the effort that goes into just trying to get the pole is huge.
“Yeah, today, I don’t know, I would say that was probably one of the fastest runs I’ve ever done, so that’s cool. I think you think more about the ones that you didn’t get, unfortunately.”
Dixon topped his CGR teammate of Alex Palou (233.499 mph) to score his 28th career NTT INDYCAR Series pole too. He’s won the race 12 times in his previous 27 poles including here for the 2008 Indy 500. Oddly enough too, the last three poles for Dixon all came here. His last INDYCAR pole away from Indianapolis?
Watkins Glen in 2016.
The other times he’s started on the pole he’s finished 4th (2015), 32nd (2017) and 17th (last year).
This is a type of achievement that can also get Dixon’s season back on track. He told us on Tuesday that his 2022 has been “horrendous” and that’s while he’s still sitting 5th in points.
“Not just the pole, but the effort of the whole group. Pumps you up for at least this week. Hopefully we’re this happy come next Sunday as well, and one of us is lucky enough to be drinking milk. Then that’s job well done. Yeah, it’s some bragging rights I guess for a few days, but that’s all this means, man.”
In saying that, Dixon knows that a solid outing in a double points race is imperative if he’s going to win his record tying 7th series title this Fall. That’s because Dixon has had an abysmal start to the season by his standards. Without a podium and not having had just 1 win in his last 26 starts, he’s not having fun right now. Granted, he’s still had a top 10 in all 5 races run too and is currently 5th in points too, he’s still not having a very Scott Dixon like season he feels.
“It’s been pretty horrendous I think in some circumstances,” said Dixon on Tuesday. “Honestly some were pretty big mistakes that we did as a group that should have never happened. That’s probably two of them. And then I think we got into a bit of a weird snowball effect here on the road course, and honestly we just changed way too much stuff, and when you do that, you just miss the balance, and with how tight the competition is right now, then you’re going to be out to lunch, and we definitely were.”
Dixon is happy to get to Indy now next Sunday. He’s qualified on the front row in 4 of the last 6 Indy 500’s.
“Nice to shift gears here at the speedway, and I expect that to continue once we leave here, as well. Look, it’s a totally different environment. It’s a different structure, different track time and obviously a totally different circuit. So yeah, any track is different; you’ve just got to move on. And your weekend, depending on how it starts can be totally different, as well. Yeah, good time to reset.”
For Palou he’s second here again. He was a bridesmaid here on May 30 of last year to have a front row seat at history via Helio Castroneves’ record tying fourth career Indy 500 crown. Now, he has another front row seat at watching Dixon’s greatness.
“There was not a lot of nerves,” said Palou. “I knew he was going to get it. Everybody knew. He is the man here. It was like, okay. To be honest, Chip Ganassi Racing team had a great job having five cars in the Fast 12, four in the Fast 6.
“My car was really good. I think my best car was doing Fast 6, so I was super comfortable. I think I did everything I had. I kind of wish that Scott, knowing that he had already four pole laps here, he could have gave me one, but he doesn’t share much. We’ll try and get it next year.”
Palou has been a qualifying machine this season in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda. His last four starts have been 3rd, 3rd, 2nd and now 2nd respectively.
Third place starter is Rinus VeeKay (233.385 mph) to give us the fastest front row in the 106 year history of this race too. This is also the fastest field in Indy 500 history too.
VeeKay will start third in his No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet for the second straight year and also his 3rd consecutive top four starting spot in as many tries.
“Well, I was actually pretty nervous for today,” he said. “I knew there was, well, many people counted on me to go for the pole position, so we were very fast yesterday. Of course, a bit lucky with the draw and driving in cold conditions, but, yeah, having to go two times today was not ideal.
“The first run just, like Scott’s, was very much on the limit. I could stay flat, but turn four was, yeah, very close to disaster, but stayed flat. Then we changed the car. Took some downforce out for the Fast 6 and really matched the balance of how I liked it. I was more comfortable in my Fast 6 run than my Fast 12 run.”
Ed Carpenter (233.080 mph), Marcus Ericsson (232.764 mph) and Tony Kanaan (232.372 mph) will share Row 2 and rounded out the Fast Six while Pato O’Ward (232.705 mph), Felix Rosenqvist (232.182 mph) and Romain Grosjean (231.999 mph) will make up Row 3 and Takuma Sato (231.670 mph), Will Power (231.534 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (231.264 mph) being in Row 4.
The Fast Six was a Ganassi vs. Ed Carpenter Racing duel with Ganassi winning out and having their first 1-2 starting spot here since 2008. It’s also the year Dixon won his lone Indy 500 too.
This is nearly identical to the front row of last year. Dixon and VeeKay on the two edges but the only difference is Palou in favor of Colton Herta.
If this was the Fast 9, Scott Dixon wouldn’t be on the pole. Dixon was 10th quickest on Saturday which by the old rules he wouldn’t be in this Shootout on Sunday.