Scott Dixon wins fifth Indy 500 pole and second consecutive to lead fastest front row

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INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon dethroned teammate Alex Palou to win the pole position for the 106th Indy 500 as Chip Ganassi Racing dominated qualifying Sunday.

Dixon earned his fifth pole position on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval with a four-lap average of 234.046 mph, the second-fastest qualifying speed in Indy 500 history behind Arie Luyendyk’s 236.896 mph in 1996.

Dixon has the fastest four-lap average by a pole-sitter in Indy 500 history, and he ranks second all time in Indy 500 poles behind Rick Mears (six, 1979, ‘82, ‘86, ‘88, ‘89, ‘91).

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For the second consecutive year, the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion’s No. 9 Dallara-Honda will start first in the Indy 500 on May 29 (11 a.m. ET, NBC).

“This what this place is about,” Dixon told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “It’s so amazing. The ups and downs that you have just in one day is crazy.

“Hard work and people. I’m one of the lucky guys part of this team that gets to drive it and gets to take it across the line. The amount of effort back in the shop and through HPD and Honda, the speed that they bring. And huge thanks to all my teammates. We’ve worked really hard to put this team together and try to get the most of it.”

Palou qualified second at 233.499, followed by Rinus VeeKay (233.385 as the top Chevrolet after turning the fastest four laps Saturday).

The front row posted three of the top five qualifying speeds in Indy 500 history while taking advantage of a 90 extra horsepower turbo boost added for qualifying. It’s the fastest front row in Indy 500 history, breaking a 26-year-old mark.

“I think we could have put rocket fuel in our engine and still not beat Scott,” VeeKay said. “He was not just a fraction faster. He was a lot faster than everyone else.”

The speeds of Palou and VeeKay slotted in behind the late Scott Brayton, who posted the third-fastest qualifying speed (233.718) with the 1996 pole position.

Dixon, the first repeat pole-sitter since Ed Carpenter in 2013-14, earned his lone Indy 500 win in 2008, the first time he qualified first at the 2.5-mile track. In his other pole starts, he has finished fourth (2015), 32nd (2017) and 17th (2021).

“This is Stage 1,” Dixon said. “Obviously doesn’t mean nothing come next Sunday. We’re starting in the right spot. We haven’t had a good record in keeping in the right spot, but we’ll definitely be trying come next Sunday.”

Chip Ganassi Racing put four of its five Hondas in the top two rows but came up short of the first front-row lockout of an Indy 500 since 1988 (Team Penske with Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser). It’s Ganassi’s first 1-2 start in the Indy 500 since Dixon and Dan Wheldon in ’08.

Ed Carpenter (233.080), Marcus Ericsson (232.764) and Tony Kanaan (232.372) qualified on the second row Sunday.

Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Romain Grosjean, Takuma Sato, Will Power and Jimmie Johnson occupied the next two rows after being eliminated during the first round Sunday.

Though there remained no major crashes during five days of on-track activity over the past week, there were some harrowing moments Sunday for two famous rookies.

Johnson will start 12th in his Indy 500 debut after coming inches from smacking the Turn 1 wall with his No. 48 Dallara-Honda on the first lap of green.

“The track’s a little different than it was this morning,” the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns with a laugh. “The same approach wasn’t going to work. We certainly were trying for it. That’s the most effort in the setup of the car and trim settings that we’ve had. Just committed to run one flat, and it just was so light on top of the track.  I was wide and trying to keep it off the fence at that point.

“Inexperience, ultimately. I think the sunlight on the track and the track temp coming up, and these conditions. Just trying to find that right balance in the race car. These guys are so good at what they do in these trickier conditions. I just need a bit more experience.”

Grosjean also had a major moment and nearly tagged the Turn 1 wall during the second lap of his qualifying run.

“That was scary,” the Formula One veteran told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee with a laugh. “Track conditions changed a lot from the morning.

We tried everything we had to go fast to get some speed in the car, but it was definitely a run that wasn’t easy. Honestly, I used all the tools in the car and wasn’t (fast enough), so I’m glad it’s behind me. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.”

At least they had some good company Sunday as IndyCar unveiled a new format that required the pole-sitter to make three four-lap runs — two within two hours — around the punishing 2.5-mile oval.

Dixon exaggerated a shaking right hand before starting an NBC Sports interview, emphasizing how much bravery was required by the six-time IndyCar Series champion to post the fastest first-round speed of 233.510 mph.

“This place does it to you every time,” Dixon said with a smile to NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Combined speeds