WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Dixon family

Scott Dixon and family. Photo by Anne Proffit.

Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda has the pole position for the 101st running of The 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, with a four-lap average of 232.180 mph, the fastest four-lap average since Arie Luyendyk set the record with a time of 236.986 mph in 1996. Dixon also turned the fastest one-lap average of 38.6938 seconds, fastest since Arie Luyendyk set a 37.895 seconds/237.498 mph first lap in 1996. Dixon has led more Indy 500 laps than any other driver in this year’s field – 434.

This is the third-fastest qualified field in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed of 228.400 mph. The fastest field average was 229.698 mph in 2014; the second-fastest field average was 228.648 in 2002.

It is Dixon’s third Indy 500 pole in 15 starts, and his 26th career pole. For his team, it’s the fifth Indy 500 pole and 88th career pole position. Dixon’s pole also marks the first pole for Honda this season. The previous five have been won by Team Penske Chevrolet.

The top spot changed almost every time one of the Fast Nine drivers went out, giving a few drivers a moment of glory and edgy anticipation as the next driver went out. And the laps just kept getting faster.

Dixon admitted he was surprised about the speeds. “I thought maybe the dash had broken on the steering wheel and brought up a fake number, but yeah, I don’t know, we seriously don’t think we expected to see the speed that we did. The whole pre-lineup for qualifying was debating with Christopher my engineer we trimmed too much, we trimmed too much, and I was basically talking myself out of it and seeing if he could maybe put some for downforce in the car, and he was like, man, don’t worry, it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be fine. When I saw that first number, I was like, wow, this is impressive, so obviously a huge thanks to Honda, too. They’ve been pushing extremely hard, I think, with the engine. They’re definitely pushing it to the limit.”

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Second fastest, starting in the middle of the front row, will be Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, who was fastest Saturday. His lap time was 231.664 mph. “It actually was better than I thought it was going to be from watching some of the earlier runs. That’s all she had. Would it have been fun to win a third pole? Yes, but at the same time to be in the middle of the front row with two former ‘500’ champions, hopefully I can convert from the front row this time and earn a victory.”

Carpenter didn’t rise to any Honda-advantage baiting questions. “I don’t know. I don’t really want to get into that. I think Scott won the pole and congrats to them. You know, like I said earlier, I’m proud of the fact that we put both of our Chevrolets in the Fast Nine and gave it our best shot to win a pole for the whole group.

“But it’s certainly — the level of competition in this series from teams, drivers, engine manufacturers, it’s cut-throat, and you’ve got to be on it all the time. We’re right there, so it’s not for a lack of trying, it’s not for a lack of speed we’re on the front row. You’re not going to hear me complaining, we’re just going to keep getting ready to put the best 500 miles out there we can.”

Carpenter was pleased about the speeds. “I think it’s awesome. Driving cars fast around here is what this place is all about. I’m excited to see what the car next year is going to do. I hope it’s not a drop-off. You hear the crowd when they see those numbers, and I get as excited as they do. I think it’s awesome that we’re pushing that speed back up, and I hope it continues.”

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

Third, starting right in the front row, was last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Rossi spoke to missing out on pole position. “Yeah, I’m always disappointed if you’re not in front, but I think it’s a good effort from the team. Seeing Scott’s speed is pretty impressive. I know we couldn’t have done that. We’ve got to be content with the front row. It was something that really bothered me last year and for a year actually that we didn’t make the Fast Nine, so yesterday was a pretty big relief, and today was just about trying to go as high up as possible. Front row is good. You can win this race from anywhere, so it’s a good place to be, no dirty air, and we’ll just get the race off to a strong start and see where it goes.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie, in fifth position. “The practice felt good on the car, and then we spotted some issues with the engine. At one point in the morning we didn’t know if we were able to run in qualifying because we had to change the whole engine. But the team was amazing. I saw like 20 people around my car changing parts. They were guys from all six teams working on car 29 just to make it possible, so thanks to all that teamwork, I was able to go for qualifying. That was a truly good thing to experience today, how the teamwork plays here. I was extremely proud and happy of them.”

Rossi had an observation for Fernando which caught the F1 driver off-guard.”I’m more relaxed I think than I was last year just because I know what to expect, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday. Sunday was probably even before the end result was my favorite day of the year. I’m really looking forward to watching Fernando go through that because I think from 6:00 a.m. to noon before the race even starts –”

Fernando: “6 am?”

Rossi: “Yeah. Is probably the coolest six hours of your life. He’ll really enjoy it.”

Fernando left muttering and shaking his head.

The Fast Nine Shootout was the highlight of Armed Forces Pole Day. The weather was 76 degrees F, the track temperature was 110F, humidity 56 percent, and the winds were inconsistently windy at 16 mph or barely moving the wind sock. Mostly 2 mph for qualifying

The drivers qualified in reverse order of their finish Saturday, with the Fast Nine Shootout, as well as for the rest of the field which had a separate qualifying session. Marco Andretti/No.27 United data Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda went first in the Shootout, and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet went last.

The Fast Nine results were: Dixon; Carpenter; Rossi; Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Alonso; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

RHR's No.28 Honda

RHR’s No.28 Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was The Best of the Rest, slotting into tenth position – the highest he could attain, no matter how fast he went. And he went fast. His four-lap average of 231.442 mph would have placed him fourth in the line-up, based on speed alone.

Jack Harvey's No.50 Honda

Jack Harvey’s No.50 Honda

Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda tagged the Turn Two wall but kept his foot in it and qualified twenty-seventh.

Another Rookie, Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet made his first qualifying run Sunday, having missed Saturdays while his crew repaired his crash damage from Friday.

Good news from Dale Coyne Racing regarding his injured driver, Sebastien Bourdais. After his successful surgery Saturday night, Bourdais had a statement Sunday. “I want to thank everybody for the support and the messages, quite a few drivers have already dropped by. It’s going to take some time, but I’m feeling pretty good since the surgery. I’ll be back at some point. Just don’t know when yet.”

Dale Coyne Racing has announced that James Davison of Australia will drive the No.18 GEICO Honda in the Indianapolis 500. He has driven for DCR before: the 2015 Indy 500 and two races in 2013. The car won’t be ready for Pole Day Qualifying, and therefore will start last. Davison will have Monday to practice plus an hour practice on Carb Day.

The Last Row will be Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet, Veach, and James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with No Time. In years past a bigger deal was made about the Last Row.

IMG_9788

Sebastian Saavedra No.17 Chevrolet

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

The Group Two crowd (qualifiers 10-32) had their qualification session 2:45-4:45pm. They queued up in reverse order from how they finished Saturday, with the slowest going first and so on.

The afternoon started with open practice for all the Group Two drivers – those who didn’t make the Fast Nine level. They had a shortened, 35-minute session of 35 minutes, with 30 minutes guaranteed track time. There had been a short delay to complete drying from Sunday morning’s gully washer hit and run rain storm. It bucketed with the rain coming down hard from all directions. I mean hard, so loud it could be heard.

Rainy IMS

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Only 22 drivers used Practice Seven. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda was one of the first out and he held the top spot the entire session. He was the only driver who didn’t have any No Tow laps. His speed was a whopping 233.008 mph, which he turned after he had already shot to the top with a 232.685 mph. He only ran four laps, all with a tow. All the other drivers turned a lap faster than 230 mph.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was second fastest, turned early on – 231.733 mph and with No Tow, making him number one on that NT list.

Also MIA were two Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas of Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba; all three Hondas of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7, and Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team OneCure; and Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.

In the open practice for the Fast Nine drivers, the two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets didn’t go out – fastest Saturday driver, Carpenter/No.20 and his teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services.

INDY 500 Factoids and Stats:

There are seven former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field who have ten victories amongst them: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Buddy Lazier (1996), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000, 2015) and Alexander Rossi (2016). The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992.

Buddy Lazier is the oldest driver in the field at the age of 48 and has the most experience – 19 starts. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet is the youngest, at 22, albeit with four Indy 500 starts; but is only three months older than Rookie Veach.

The 2017 starting field has a total of 191 previous Indy 500 starts. The record number is 260, in 1987 and 1992.

Twenty-four starters are graduates from the Indy Lights Series: Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Gabby Chaves, Max Chilton, Conor Daly, James Davison, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann, Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra, Oriol Servia and Zach Veach.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:35.0630 (232.164)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:35.3976 (231.664)
3. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.5163 (231.487)
4. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.5981 (231.365)
5. (29) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 02:35.6423 (231.300)
6. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.9191 (230.889)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:35.9601 (230.828)
8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.1998 (230.474)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.3859 (230.200)
10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:35.5463 (231.442)
11. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 02:36.1293 (230.578)
12. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:36.3118 (230.309)
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:36.3377 (230.271)
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.3499 (230.253)
15. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 02:36.4758 (230.068)
16. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 02:36.5514 (229.956)
17. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:36.6169 (229.860)
18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:36.8180 (229.565)
19. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.8528 (229.515)
20. (77) Jay Howard, Honda, 02:36.9213 (229.414)
21. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.9447 (229.380)
22. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:37.5488 (228.501)
23. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:37.8303 (228.093)
24. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 02:37.9497 (227.921)
25. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 02:38.6458 (226.921)
26. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:38.9831 (226.439)
27. (50) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:39.4741 (225.742)
28. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:39.9944 (225.008)
29. (11) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 02:40.6768 (224.052)
30. (44) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:41.1340 (223.417)
31. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:42.7911 (221.142)
32. (40) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 02:42.8360 (221.081)
33. (18) James Davison, Honda, no time, (no speed)

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