Dixon wins 101st Indy 500 pole with electrifying run

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon claimed his 26th Indy car pole today in thrilling fashion, posting a four-lap average of 232.164 miles per hour to earn the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. 

Dixon's run generated the fastest single- and four-lap qualifying speeds around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval since Arie Luyendyk's record run in 1996 (237.498 mph for one lap, 236.986 mph for four laps) and the fastest pole run since Scott Brayton (233.718 mph four-lap average) that same year.

"I thought maybe the dash had broken on the steering wheel and brought up a fake number," Dixon said of his first lap in the No. 9 Honda, which clocked in at 232.565 mph. "We seriously didn’t expect to see the speed that we did. Big day for us. ... Today we managed to get it done and we're starting in the right place. The hard part now is to keep it there."

101st INDIANAPOLIS 500: Qualifying results

It is Dixon's third pole at the 500, the others coming in 2008 (when he led 115 laps en route to victory) and 2015, and the fifth Indy 500 pole for Chip Ganassi Racing (Luyendyk in 1993, Bruno Junqueira in 2002). The Kiwi also broke Team Penske's streak of six consecutive Indy car pole positions in Verizon IndyCar Series races. In fact, Dixon was the last non-Penske driver to win a pole, claiming the Verizon P1 Award at Watkins Glen in September 2016.

Dixon will be joined on the front row for the Indy 500 on May 28 by Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda). Carpenter, who won the pole at Indianapolis in 2013 and 2014 and was the fastest qualifier on Saturday at 230.486 mph, posted an average of 231.664 mph today in the Fast Nine Shootout to make his third front-row start at Indianapolis. 

Rossi's four-lap average of 231.487 mph places him on the outside of Row 1 for his second Indy 500 start. The Californian famously won the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 after starting 11th in 2016.

Rossi's teammate and rookie Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda) impressed in his run, temporarily holding pole with a four-lap average of 231.300 mph. It placed the two-time Formula One champion in the middle of Row 2. Alonso, who drives full-time for McLaren-Honda's Formula One program, will miss next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indianapolis 500, a storyline that has taken the motor racing world by storm.

"The car was on the limit," said Alonso, "but I don't know if it was possible to be on pole position, but definitely very close."

Alonso had an "overboost" during his second lap, which briefly costs a driver horsepower, and forced the Spaniard to downshift. While not uncommon nor largely damaging to the engine, it cost the rookie time on track, but it was less than the Spaniard initially thought.

"It was like hitting the brakes," he said. "I went one gear down and started again picking up the speed, and I crossed the line and it was (230.7 mph) or something like that. When I thought it was 225 or something, I nearly came to the pit lane because (I thought), 'This qualifying run is over with this problem.' Still running, still putting the laps together and then I was happily surprised with the total time."

Joining Alonso on the second row will be Takuma Sato (inside, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, 231.365 mph) and JR Hildebrand (outside, No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 230.889 mph). Other noteworthy qualifying performances included Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, 231.442 mph), who paced Group 1 which determined starting positions 10-33 for Sunday's race and will start 10th; Oriol Servia (No. 16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 230.309 mph), who was the fastest non-regular Indy car driver other than Alonso and will start 12th; and 2016 pole sitter James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 229.860 mph), who struggled in his run and will start 17th.

At 228.400 mph, it is the third-fastest Indianapolis 500 field based on qualification speeds in the history of the event and includes plenty of storylines that should make for an exhilarating 500 miles come May 28.

The day started with good news as INDYCAR announced that Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais, injured in an incident during his qualification attempt on Saturday, underwent successful surgery Saturday night for pelvic injuries he sustained. Bourdais remains in IU Health Methodist Hospital recovering from multiple fractures to his pelvis and a fracture to his right hip, but was in good spirits today.

"I want to thank everybody for the support and the messages," Bourdais said in a statement. "Quite a few drivers have already dropped by. It’s going to take time, but I’m feeling pretty good since the surgery. I’ll be back at some point. Just don’t know when yet.”

Team owner Dale Coyne announced this afternoon that Australian James Davison will replace Bourdais for the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 18 GEICO Honda. Davison last raced an Indy car in 2015 when he drove for Coyne at the 500, when he finished 27th.

“My thoughts are with Sebastien and (wife) Claire Bourdais,” Davison said. “This is never the circumstance that a driver wants to secure an opportunity to drive in the Indianapolis 500. With that said, I’m extremely excited and ready to take on this challenge. The prime goal will be to secure a strong result for the team, Sebastien and all our sponsors. I can’t wait to get started.”

Davison did not get in the car today but will be permitted 30 minutes alone on track for a refresher at noon ET Monday. The track is open to all 33 cars for practice from 12:30-4 p.m., with live streaming available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Live television coverage of Miller Lite Carb Day airs on NBCSN from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, including the final one-hour practice before the Indy 500 at 11 a.m.

Coverage of the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins at 11 a.m. May 28 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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