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INDIANAPOLIS — Blissfully unaware of how “sketchy” his car would be, Scott Dixon got in and hung on Sunday for the fourth Indy 500 pole position of his illustrious career.
Backing up a week of consistently being the fastest driver in practice and qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion laid down a four-lap average at 231.685 mph to nip the 231.655 mph by Colton Herta
It was a margin that IndyCar estimated at 6 feet over the course of 10 miles around the 2.5-mile Speedway and capped a typically breathtaking Fast Nine pole qualifying as six drivers took turns atop the famous scoring pylon before Dixon thunderously capped the session with his first pole in four years.
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“This is what this sport is about, and this is what Indianapolis is about is laying this thing on the line,” an unusually exuberant Dixon told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider after his 27th career IndyCar pole and his sixth front row start in his 19th Indy 500.
“Just so proud of everybody on the PNC Bank team. Everybody at Chip Ganassi. Four cars in the Fast Nine. Credit to (Ed Carpenter Racing drivers Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay), they threw in a hell of a fight there at the end.
“That was sketchy. It was pretty loose the last lap, I was hoping that I was going to make it through Turn 3. I was holding on.”
Though his No. 9 Dallara-Honda entered Sunday as the clear-cut favorite after posting the fastest speed in Saturday’s qualifying opener and topping practice Wednesday and Friday, the Fast Nine still tested Dixon’s legendarily cool mettle.
After going first in the qualifying order Saturday and then never being threatened, Dixon faced the opposite Sunday as he sat through 30 minutes of watching other drivers dance closer to the edge on the formidable track.
As Dixon’s team members began making tweaks to the wing angles of his car that would add speed but decrease downforce and handling, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver waved off engineers who wanted to explain the adjustments.
The world’s fastest Kiwi preferred to grip it and rip it.
“It was pretty hairy,” Dixon said. “Glad it’s over. It was definitely pretty tense.
“When I saw the first few cars run, it was pretty calm. I saw the ECR cars run. I was like, that’s pretty strong, wasn’t expecting that. I was able to watch Colton’s four laps, too, wish I hadn’t before I went out. I knew his consistency was probably going to be a tick better than the other two, and it sure was.
“Yeah, Turn 1 for the first lap was very loose, and I was already maxed out on all the controls. I knew it was just going to be holding on for lap three and four.”
The only winner older than 24 in five races this season, Dixon, 40, will have two principal members of IndyCar’s young vanguard beside him at the green flag.
Herta, 21, will start a career-best second at Indy, the first time he’s on the front row in his third start here.
“Obviously, a little frustrated we didn’t get there in the end,” said Herta, who recently signed an Andretti Autosport contract extension after winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “P2 is definitely not a bad place to start for a 500-mile race.
“If I was a fan, I’d be really excited with that Fast Nine qualifying. Really, guys that just kept going faster every single run. It was actually really close for everyone. To beat Dixon, I think we really had to have that first lap and second lap just a tiny bit faster. We were so close.”
Rinus VeeKay, who just scored his first IndyCar victory last week on the IMS road course, will start third — making the Dutchman the youngest front-row starter in Indy 500 history at 20 years, 254 days.
“It’s really special,” VeeKay said. “Really, really happy. The four laps I did was on the limit. I couldn’t have gone any faster really. I had a big moment in the last lap, first corner. Yeah, kept it on track, kept it flat. Very happy, very grateful for the team for all the sleepless nights, all the hard work. Definitely also big kudos to Chevy for giving me the great power to bring me to the front row.
“I was the fastest teenager in 500 history last year. Now I’m the youngest front row. That’s pretty cool, yeah.”
Results of Day 2 final qualifying for the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (position, car number, driver, manufacturer, time and speed in parentheses):
1. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.3837 (231.685 mph)
2. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.4034 (231.655)
3. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.5000 (231.511)
4. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.5047 (231.504)
5. (48) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8229 (231.032)
6. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1039 (230.616)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1827 (230.499)
8. (06) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.2804 (230.355)
9. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.3054 (230.318)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8132 (231.046)
11. (18) Ed Jones, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8148 (231.044)
12. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.9360 (230.864)
13. (51) Pietro Fittipaldi, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.9481 (230.846)
14. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.0168 (230.744)
15. (30) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.0417 (230.708)
16. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1395 (230.563)
17. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.1435 (230.557)
18. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1680 (230.521)
19. (47) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.2314 (230.427)
20. (60) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.3922 (230.191)
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4735 (230.071)
22. (1) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.5354 (229.980)
23. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.5563 (229.949)
24. (86) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.5961 (229.891)
25. (98) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.6089 (229.872)
26. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6732 (229.778)
27. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6964 (229.744)
28. (25) Stefan Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.7166 (229.714)
29. (59) Max Chilton, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9195 (229.417)
30. (4) Dalton Kellett, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.6717 (228.323)
31. (24) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.0982 (229.156)
32. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.2905 (228.876)
33. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.6504 (228.353)