Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon claimed his 26th Indy car pole today in thrilling fashion, posting a four-lap average of 232.164 miles per hour to earn the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Dixon's run generated the fastest single- and four-lap qualifying speeds around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval since Arie Luyendyk's record run in 1996 (237.498 mph for one lap, 236.986 mph for four laps) and the fastest pole run since Scott Brayton (233.718 mph four-lap average) that same year.
"I thought maybe the dash had broken on the steering wheel and brought up a fake number," Dixon said of his first lap in the No. 9 Honda, which clocked in at 232.565 mph. "We seriously didn’t expect to see the speed that we did. Big day for us. ... Today we managed to get it done and we're starting in the right place. The hard part now is to keep it there."
Alonso fastest rookie
Two time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, who will skip Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix to participate in the Indianapolis 500 mile race qualified 5th, and fastest of all rookies by a margin. The Spaniard impressed in his run, and after briefly holding provisional pole, he ended up 5th, good for a start in the middle of the second row.
"The car was on the limit," said Alonso, "but I don't know if it was possible to be on pole position, but definitely very close."
Alonso had an "overboost" during his second lap, which briefly costs a driver horsepower, and forced the Spaniard to downshift. While not uncommon nor largely damaging to the engine, it cost the rookie time on track, but it was less than the Spaniard initially thought.
"It was like hitting the brakes," he said. "I went one gear down and started again picking up the speed, and I crossed the line and it was (230.7 mph) or something like that. When I thought it was 225 or something, I nearly came to the pit lane because (I thought), 'This qualifying run is over with this problem.' Still running, still putting the laps together and then I was happily surprised with the total time."
Before that however, Alonso and his team had a scare, as an engine problem popped up after his final practice run, just 2 hours before qualifying kicked off. The team swiftly opted to change the engine, which they managed in 66 minutes, bringing together people from all of the 5 cars run by Andretti Autosport.
"We saw something we didn’t like or Honda saw something they didn’t like on the vitals with the engine (during the practice session)," said Rob Edwards, COO of Andretti Autosport. "Obviously it’s important to have a good, safe run, so in view of that we decided that the smart thing to do was to go ahead and change it."
The Spaniard himself said after qualifying he was unfazed, joking "No worries, I'm used to getting engine changes before qualifying and the race", pointing at his troubles with the Honda power unit in his McLaren Formula One car.
The first three rows for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 will roll off as follows:Row 1
1) Scott Dixon - 232.164 mph
2) Ed Carpenter - 231.664 mph
3) Alexander Rossi - 231.487 mph
4) Takuma Sato - 231.365 mph
5) Fernando Alonso - 231.300 mph
6) JR Hildebrand - 230.889 mph
7) Tony Kanaan - 230.828 mph
8) Marco Andretti - 230.474 mph
9) Will Power - 230.200 mph
The 101st Indianapolis 500 mile race will be run on Sunday, 28th May.