Dixon earns his first Indy 500 pole

Dixon earns his first Indy 500 pole

Scott Dixon will start from the pole position for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. He averaged 226.366 mph over the ten mile qualifying run, earning his third pole this season and the third at the Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi ...

Scott Dixon will start from the pole position for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. He averaged 226.366 mph over the ten mile qualifying run, earning his third pole this season and the third at the Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Pole Winner Scott Dixon.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Dixon after the signal ending Pole Day qualifying ensured the Kiwi had the pole. "It means a lot. You know, it's not just for me. I think Chip and Mike (Hull) and all the guys in the team are adamant on putting up a strong fight for this year's '500.' You know, all the time that they put in back at the workshop and the guys that a lot of time you don't even see at the track, it's a lot of effort from them. And from me a lot of thanks goes to them."

Dan Wheldon, Dixon's teammate, will start from the second position. "We've been playing poker here for a lot of years now," said team owner Ganassi. "Sometimes you're holding all the aces and sometimes you're bluffing. Today we had a good hand and today we were holding all the aces."

Both Ganassi drivers practised at speeds over 227 mph in the morning session but speeds fell off without help from other cars while the qualifying attempts were made. Dixon went out early, posting a speed of 225.178 mph, which held up for 20 minutes before Danica Patrick ripped off four laps at 225.197 mph.

An hour into qualifying Wheldon claimed the top spot with a speed of 225.840 mph and held that position through challenges from Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.

With two and a half hours remaining in qualifying, Ryan Briscoe withdrew the car he had qualified at 224.833 mph to make a second attempt. The run was successful, knocking Wheldon from the pole with a speed of 226.080 mph.

Dixon was the very next car on the track, trimming more than two-tenths of a second from Briscoe's time and upping the pole speed to 226.366 mph. "I turned around and Dixon was taking the pole from me," said Briscoe. "I thought I had a really good run. The car was balanced really well for the downforce level we trimmed out to, and it was a solid gain. Dixon put out a pretty quick time there."

With more than two hours remaining after Dixon completed his run, the Ganassi team expected challenges from Team Penske and Andretti Green Racing. The only challenge came from Wheldon.

"For me, I think amongst the drivers it means a lot," said Dixon on what it meant to earn the pole, his first at Indianapolis. "If you talk to any of the drivers out there, they know how on the limit you are, and for a general person I don't think that they realize that stuff. So, you know, I think between the small group of drivers and obviously people like Chip that have raced cars before, it means a lot to them just because, you know, you're definitely right on the limit and giving it your all, you know. It's definitely right at the top of accomplishments that I've done."

Wheldon would wait an hour to attempt to knock his teammate from the pole, making his run with 20 minutes remaining in the allotted six hours. Wheldon trimmed more than three-tenths of a second from his previous run but his speed (225.840 mph) was only good enough for second starting position.

"It was a great team effort," said a disappointed Wheldon. "The biggest thing is to be happy for the team. They did a terrific job."

Briscoe's speed held up for third while his Team Penske teammate Castroneves (225.733 mph) made only one attempt and will start fourth.

Ganassi drivers each made two runs for the pole. Additional qualifying attempts from Castroneves, Kanaan and Patrick never materialized.

The Andretti Green Racing trio of Patrick, Kanaan and Marco Andretti qualified fifth through seventh, respectively. Andretti made a second qualifying run, improving his speed slightly from 224.162 mph to 224.417 mph. AGR's Hideki Mutoh made two runs after his first (223.653 mph) was disallowed following a post-qualifying technical inspection. Mutoh's second run (223.887 mph) placed him ninth on the starting grid.

Kanaan was philosophical about his qualifying run. "Do I want the pole? Yes, I do. Is it going to be a big deal if we don't get it? Not really. Five years ago, I came here and just wanted to be the fastest guy. Then you race and you realize that that really doesn't matter. I try to look at the big picture."

Vitor Meira (224.346 mph) claimed the eighth starting spot while Ed Carpenter (223.835 mph) and Tomas Scheckter (223.496 mph), who made two runs, filed the final two spots on the first day of qualifying. Scheckter's second run effectively lowered the bubble speed as his first attempt netted a speed of 223.779 mph.

Graham Rahal thought he had a shot at knocking Scheckter out the field with his lower speed but the team was not prepared with new tires. He never made a third run. Rahal waved off his second run and just missed securing a place in the top-11 starting positions with his first run at 223.355 mph.

"Scheckter lowered the bump speed so much that I think we could have made it," said Rahal. Several teams pulled out of the qualifying line at the last minute, presenting Rahal with enough time to make a third run.

"They [Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing] should have told me before I got my helmet on," Rahal continued. "They waited until I got ready and they were like. 'Oh well by the way, we don't have tires.' They didn't think we were going to make it, so we didn't bring tires, and that is my point. You need to be prepared."

Rahal's NHLR team will be prepared when second day qualifying fills positions 12-22 at noon Sunday. Rahal is slated for the fourth run of the day.

Sunday, May 11 update:

Rain continued to put a damper on the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, canceling today's practice and more importantly, the second day of qualifying attempts. The 11-car field stands as is with no further attempts today due to the constant rain storms.

The teams and drivers have two days off until practice resumes on Wednesday for three days plus Saturday morning's final practice prior to qualifying. There are now only two days to make it onto the starting grid, May 17 (Saturday) followed on Sunday by the famous 'Bump Day'. Of course, the weather needs to cooperate for the 33 car field to be determined.

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Series INDYCAR