It came down to the last driver and last lap. Scott Dixon couldn’t watch and Marco Andretti couldn’t lift.
As it turned out, Andretti executed perfectly to snatch the pole position from Dixon for the 104th Indianapolis 500 in one of the more dramatic endings to qualifying.
The third generation driver’s four-lap average of 231.068mph in his US Concrete No. 98 Honda just pipped Dixon’s 231.051mph run in the PNC Bank No. 9 Honda and that was the third closest margin in IMS history — 0.017 of a second for 10 miles.
The five closest Indy 500 poles (data courtesy of Russ Thompson):
|YEAR||POLE SPEED||2ND||DIFF.||POLE WINNER||2ND QUALIFIER|
|2012||226.484||226.481||0.003||Ryan Briscoe||James Hinchcliffe|
|1970||170.221||170.213||0.008||Al Unser||Johnny Rutherford|
|2020||231.068||231.051||0.017||Marco Andretti||Scott Dixon|
|1958||145.974||145.926||0.048||Dick Rathmann||Ed Elisian|
|1955||140.045||139.985||0.060||Jerry Hoyt||Tony Bettenhausen|
“It feels great and what a job by this team and Honda,” said Andretti, who had been quickest in Saturday’s first round of time trials and was the ninth and final driver to make his run Sunday afternoon. “It got a little sketchy on Laps 3-4 with the wind and I knew it was going to be close.
“But now I’ve got the best seat in the house on race day. Clean air and speed are always good here.”
After Andretti Autosport posted the four fastest speeds on Saturday, it was looking like a potential front row sweep. But when James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled on their runs Sunday, it was looking like Michael Andretti’s squad might get shut out.
“After our first three guys I figured we got no shot but Marco saved the day for us,” said Michael Andretti. “The car was loose and he drove the hell out of it.”
It was the first pole at Indy for the 33-year-old grandson of Mario and denied Dixon his fourth fast time at IMS.
“It’s crazy — just a gust of wind can change things but Marco did a great job,” said the five-time IndyCar champion. “I know what this place means to his family and I’m happy for him.”
The first run of the day turned out to be third fastest as Takuma Sato did a masterful job of laying down all four laps at 230mph in his Panasonic Honda.
“It was very consistent — not necessarily fast, but consistent,” said the 2017 Indy 500 winner who along with teammate Graham Rahal was the only driver to practice Sunday morning as the winds picked up to 15-18mph gusts.
Rookie Rinus VeeKay impressed everyone in the paddock by winding up fourth overall at 230.704mph in Ed Carpenter’s SONAX No. 21 — the lone Chevrolet in the Fast Nine.
“We went for it,” said the 19-year-old native of the Netherlands who is also being coached by two-time Indy winner Arie Luyendyk. “I’ve got a great car and team and this has been an amazing experience so far.”
Hunter-Reay wound up fifth in the DHL Honda and Hinch sixth in his Genesys Honda, while the third row line-up is rookie Alex Palou, Rahal and Rossi.