Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon ripped Colton Herta’s heart out to close qualifying for the 105th Indianapolis 500, taking pole in the No. 9 Honda by an impossibly small margin of 0.030mph over four hair-raising laps. When he was done, the fourth Indy 500 pole of his career was secured with a four-lap average of 231.685mph.
“This is what this sport’s about,” Dixon said after jumping from the car and raising his fist to the sky. “Indianapolis is about laying this thing on the line. Just so proud of everybody on the PNC Bank team, everybody at Chip Ganassi; four cars in the Fast Nine.”
Herta, the penultimate qualifier, played a similar role of spoiler in the No. 27 Honda as he knocked provisional polesitter Rinus VeeKay out of P1. Together, the Indy 500’s front row is the latest confirmation of the old and new guards battling for supremacy with Dixon (40), Herta (21), and VeeKay (20) in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy flexing their muscles.
“Credit to ECR — they threw in a hell of a fight there at the end,” Dixon added after helping his championship-winning race engineer Michael Cannon earn his first Indy pole. “And that was sketchy. I could see [ECR] we’re making some adjustments to the car before I rolled out. Nobody told me anything. I told Cannon no, I didn’t want to hear about it.
“[The No. 9 Honda] was pretty loose. The last lap, I was hoping that I was going to make it through [Turns] 2 and 3. I turned in a little too early. I was holding on and obviously you could see towards the end of that last lap, it got pretty sketchy and we scrubbed a ton of speed. But I went three-hundredths of a mile an hour [faster than Herta]. It doesn’t matter what it is, we’re gonna take that.”
Bryan Herta had one message for his son over the radio after the 231.655mph run was finished: “You’re my hero.”
The fastest Andretti driver in the race wondered aloud as to whether that missing 0.031mph could have been found with a touch less downforce.
“It’s easy to say we should have trimmed more now,” Herta said. “I think we probably could have done a little bit more of a trim, hard to say, though. So happy to even have the chance to qualify [for the Fast Nine] today. I just can’t wait for next Sunday. I know we have a good race car. We’ll keep tweaking it through this weekend. And yeah, second place, it’s not too bad to start.”
VeeKay thrilled fans with his commitment to Turn 1 on his run, which had the tail of his No. 21 Chevy trying to meet the front.
“I turned in; I thought the car felt edgy, but I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna change the [anti-roll] bar,” he said of his wild 231.504mph performance. “I wanted it to be as on the limit as possible, so I kept the power in and it’s wiggling, wiggling, wiggling. Wow.”
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Behind VeeKay, team owner Ed Carpenter’s 231.504mph average in the No. 20 Chevy was just 0.008mph shy of beating his young star, and between Dixon in P1 and Carpenter in P4, a remarkably tiny 0.181mph separated the foursome.
Dixon’s teammates Tony Kanaan in the No. 48 Honda (231.032mph) and Alex Palou in the rebuilt No. 10 Honda (230.616mph) took P5 and P6, with Palou, like VeeKay, earning two Fast Nine starts in his first two Indy 500s.
Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.499mph) was P7 in the No. 28 Honda and shares the third row with Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves in the No. 06 Honda (230.355mph) and Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson in the No. 8 Honda (230.318mph).
AS IT HAPPENED
Working in reverse order from slowest to fastest from Saturday’s top nine, Marcus Ericsson was the first to run and delivered an average of 230.514mph. Ryan Hunter-Reay was next and put up a big opening lap over 231mph, but had the speed fall off on the ensuing laps to end up slightly ahead of Ericsson with a 230.499mph average.
Alex Palou was up third and went to the top in his repaired car with a 230.616mph average. Helio Castroneves fired onto the Speedway and was the first driver to break the trend of going to P1. One his four laps were done, he was P3 of four with a 230.355mph, behind Palou and Hunter-Reay, but ahead of Ericsson.
Rinus VeeKay threw down with a big performance as the first Chevy-powered driver took their shot at pole. Almost 1mph clear of Palou, VeeKay had a big moment in Turn 1 on his final lap that brought his last tour just below 231mph, but he was fast enough to go to P1 with an average of 231.511mph.
His boss Ed Carpenter was tracking to take P1 until his last lap, which left him in P2 at a nearly identical average of 231.504mph.
Tony Kanaan fell in behind the ECR drivers for P3 at 231.032mph. Two drivers were left with Herta and Dixon. No matter what happens, at least one Chevy-powered driver would be on the front row, and if the final Honda runners failed to go faster, Chevy would have an amazing 1-2 in qualifying after taking on seven Hondas.
Herta was up big to start his run, over 232mph like VeeKay and Carpenter, but fell off enough to settle in the 231mph range. He was good enough, though, to take P1 at 231.655mph.
Dixon closed the Fast Nine and was up big on his first two laps, fell a bit on his third, and fell quite a bit on his fourth, but the good work to open the run left the defending series champion with enough of an edge, beating Herta by 0.030mph for P1 with a 231.685mph.