Marco Andretti puts storied racing family back on top with Indy 500 pole

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INDIANAPOLIS — Marco Andretti backed up his blazing speed in Indy 500 qualifying Sunday, knocking off Scott Dixon to win the pole position at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the first time an Andretti driver has been on the pole in 33 years at the Brickyard when Marco’s legendary grandfather, Mario, qualified first in 1987.

“It was awesome,” Marco said, crediting his grandfather with crucial advice (“the wind will scare you, but it won’t crash you”) for dealing with high crosswinds on the 2.5-mile oval Sunday.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Speeds from Sunday’s Fast Nine, Saturday session

Andretti, whose previous best start at Indy was third in 2013, turned a four-lap average at 231.068 mph in his No. 98 Dallara-Honda for the sixth pole position of his career and his first since 2018.

He is trying to join his grandfather (who won in 1969) as only the second Andretti to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

His father, Michael, was winless in 16 career starts at the Indy 500.

The Andretti Autosport team owner said Marco’s pole attempt Sunday was “fantastic, it was unbelievable. The car was so loose, and he just didn’t take his foot off the throttle, and he drove the hell out of it. He did a hell of a job.”

Dixon was second (the fifth front row start of his Indy 500 career), followed by a career-best Indy starting spot for 2017 winner Takuma Sato as Dallara-Hondas swept the top three.

Rinus VeeKay, 19, was the top Chevrolet in fourth after the best qualifying effort by a teenager in Indy 500 history.

Marco Andretti outperformed three other Andretti Autosport teammates in the Fast Nine as Ryan Hunter-Reay (fifth), James Hinchcliffe (sixth) and Alexander Rossi (ninth) all slowed down after they swept the top four spots in provisional qualifying.

Andretti, though, lost none of his pace after turning the fastest laps the past two days at Indy, where drivers given an extra 50 horsepower with a turbo boost mandated for qualifying setups by the NTT IndyCar Series that sent lap speeds skyrocketing over 230 mph.

Alex Palou qualified seventh, and Graham Rahal was eighth as the remainder of the field was set after positions 10-30 were determined in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.