Facts and stats from Indy 500 qualifying

Some interesting stats and facts have emerged after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 was completed over the weekend.

The first belongs to IndyCar communications veteran Arni Sribhen, who shared this observation Sunday night after Team Penske swept the front row (pictured above) for the first time since 1988: In 1988, pole sitter Rick Mears drove a yellow Pennzoil-sponsored car, No. 2 starter Danny Sullivan was a one-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and No. 3 starter Al Unser was the defending winner of the ‘500.’ This year, Scott McLaughlin drives a Pennzoil-sponsored car, No. 2 starter Will Power is a one-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and No. 3 starter Josef Newgarden is the defending winner of the ‘500.’

Racing statistician Scott Richards went overboard with fascinating nuggets and shared the following to digest leading into Sunday’s race:


Front Row:
– 31 previous starts among the starters, the 2nd most in the last 30 years (2020 – 41)

– First time since 1991 there have been two former winners on the front row, each with at least 12 previous 500 starts (Power, Newgarden)
– Chevrolet sweeps the front row for the 9th time in history, 2nd most among engine brands behind only Offenhauser (15) and the first time for Chevrolet since 2019.

Scott McLaughlin (Pole):
– Became the 13th driver to win the pole in their 4th 500 start, tied for most amongst experience levels with 2.  However, Scott is only the 2nd to do this since 1978 (2000 – Ray, 2005 – Kanaan)
– Won the pole after 3 previous starts with never starting higher than 14th.  The only other driver to have such a statistic is Jimmy Snyder in 1939, who won the pole in his 5th start after having 4 starting spots 14th or lower.
– McLaughlin is the 22nd polesitter to have never led a lap before in the 500 (excluding rookies), and the most experienced in this category since Scott Sharp in 2001 (had 6 previous starts with 0 laps led)

Will Power (2nd):
– Tied Harry Hartz and Wilbur Shaw for the most front row starts in 500 history without winning a pole (5)
– 6 races since his last front row start (2018), combined with Newgarden’s 8 year drought, it’s the first time in 500 history two front row droughts of that length were broken in the same year.

Josef Newgarden (3rd):
– 8 races since his last front row start (2016), the longest gap of its kind since Scott Brayton’s 10 race gap between 1985-1995.
– First time a defending champion has started on the front row since 2017 (Alexander Rossi)
– Tied Raul Boesel (2002) for the most experienced 3rd place starter since 1993 (12 starts).

Alexander Rossi (4th): Its his first starting position inside the first two rows in 7 races (3rd in 2017).  That’s the longest drought of its kind since Gary Bettenhausen’s 14-race gap between 1973 and 1992.

Kyle Larson’s debut qualifying performance matched that of a certain Fernando Alonso. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Kyle Larson (5th):  Best start for a driver in their first IndyCar race since Christian Lundgaard’s 4th at the Indianapolis RC in August 2021, and the best for an IndyCar debut at an oval race since Fernando Alonso’s 5th at the 2017 500.

Santino Ferrucci (6th):  The last time an AJ Foyt Racing driver qualified inside the first 2 rows in two consecutive 500s was Billy Boat (1998-99).

Rinus VeeKay (7th):  Joins Harry Hartz (1922-26), Mario Andretti (1965-69), Parnelli Jones (1961-65), Mark Donohue (1969-73) and Tony Kanaan (2002-06) as the only drivers to start 7th or better in their first 5 500s.

Pato O’Ward (8th):  Has the 2nd best average starting position through their first five 500s without starting in the first two rows (10.0) ever, behind only Marco Andretti (9.8 – 2006-2010).

Chip Ganassi Racing: For only the 4th time in their history (1990, 2013, 2019), the team will not have any starters higher than 14th.

Row 7:  Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon:
– Have a combined 62 previous starts at the 500, the 2nd highest in history behind the front row of 1991 (Rick Mears, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti – 71 starts)
– The first time in history a row had 3 drivers with at least 16 previous 500 starts

Four-time winner Helio Castroneves had another forgettable qualifying run. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Helio Castroneves (20th):  After 18 years of qualifying 19th or better, this is the 4th time in 5 years he has qualified 20th or worse (lone exception was 8th in 2021, when he won).

Scott Dixon (21st):  His 21st place qualifying run is the lowest in his 22-year career at the 500.  No other driver had started inside the Top 20 in each of their first 21 starts at Indianapolis.

Rows 8 and 9: Consist of three veterans (Agustin Canapino, Sting Ray Robb, Romain Grosjean) and 3 rookies (Christian Rasmussen, Tom Blomqvist, Linus Lundqvist) and combine for 4 previous 500 starts.  That’s the fewest for back-to-back rows in a 500 since Rows 9 & 10 in 2008 had a combined 1 previous start with Milka Duno.

Graham Rahal (33rd):  Becomes the second driver ever to start 33rd in two consecutive 500s, following on from Bill Cheesbourg (1964/1965).

Story originally appeared on Racer