Kiwi Driver Sets Fastest Pole Position Time In Indianapolis 500 History

Image: Penske Racing
Image: Penske Racing

This weekend’s Indianapolis 500 qualifying sessions were absolutely owned by the Penske organization as it managed to sweep the three front-row spots with drivers Scott McLaughlin, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden. Of the top four qualifiers—including Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi—McLaughlin on pole is the only driver to not have previously won the 500. This is only the New Zealander’s fourth Indy 500, but despite his lack of high-speed oval practice, he managed to keep his Pennzoil “Yellow Submarine” race car tracking fast as all hell on Sunday to set the fastest pole position time in the history of the sport with a four-lap average of 234.22 miles per hour.

Going into qualifying it was obvious that the three Penske cars managed to figure something out in the setups to find more speed than anyone else on the track. With this chassis now in its 13th season in IndyCar, there is a metric ton of data available to teams. Considering it is a relatively spec series with very little available to teams to modify, we’re talking really fine margins here. Penske, over a four lap qualifying run, managed to find about three quarters of a mile per hour over the Arrow McLaren, Andretti, and Meyer Shank competition. It was obviously going to be McLauglin, Power, or Newgarden on pole. So the fast-six competition to decide pole on Sunday was a battle of teammates.

Qualifying for the Indy 500 has been an affair of pomp and circumstance since the 1910s, a drawn out multi-day elaboration of speed and driver mettle. In the first two years of the 500 mile race, pole position was determined by the order in which the speedway received entries. If you were the first to mail in your entry form, you were on pole. In 1913 the grid was set by a blind draw. It wasn’t until the fifth running of the race in 1915 that driver speed set the field with a minimum one-lap speed of 80 miles per hour. That was when speed started to matter.


Not only was Scott’s 2024 pole time the fastest in race history, but this 2024 field is possibly the fastest on average to ever qualify. Graham Rahal’s Last Chance Qualifying speed of 229.974 is the fastest time ever set by someone starting 33rd and last on the grid.

The Indy 500 qualifying session has seen a new record qualifying speed in the last three runnings, proving that the series only continues to get faster with each passing year. Faster single-lap runs have been completed at the speedway, with Arie Luyendyk setting a 239.260 mile per hour run in practice back in 1996, but nobody has strung together a faster four-lap average for pole, ever. Is it possible that within the next few seasons we’ll see even Luyendyk’s record fall as the introduction of hybrid drivetrains brings a significant power boost to the racers’ fingertips?

This is the first time that a team has locked out the front row of the Indy 500 since 1988. Last time it was also the Penske organization with Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, and Al Unser. Rick Mears ran an almost identical Pennzoil “Yellow Submarine” livery to McLaughlin, and went on to win the race. Will we see a repeat of that run next Sunday?

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