Every year since 1996, the hallowed track record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been safe. Arie Luyendyk's 236.986 MPH 4-lap record, which was set in a later session after pole qualifying, has been untouchable for generations of slower cars that have followed in the years since. It was in no danger entering this weekend, but another record was. The second-fastest run at Indianapolis ever was that year's run to pole, a 233.718 by Scott Brayton. Yesterday, one-lap times in the mid-234s suggested that it might be beaten. Today, 26 years later, it was.
Scott Dixon showed he had the potential to eclipse Brayton in the day's first session, a 12-car run to set both the order and field for the Fast Six session that decided pole an hour later. He put down a 233.510 over four laps, headlined by two straight laps at 233.9, without putting a wheel wrong once. That led the session. Three of the other four Ganassi cars followed, joined by two Ed Carpenter Racing cars.
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The fifth Ganassi car did not get a competitive run. Seven-time NASCAR champion and Indianapolis 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson instead just missed the wall off 1 on the very first corner of his run, saving the car from some aggressive understeer to avoid what would have been by far the biggest crash of the Month to date. He finished his run in 12th. He'll be joined by Pato O'Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Romain Grosjean, Takuma Sato, and Will Power on the third and fourth rows.
The track cooled in a brief waiting period between sessions, then the remaining six drivers were given just one chance to fight for the pole. Ganassi's Tony Kanaan and Marcus Ericsson settled for sixth and fifth, respectively, with solid runs. Rinus VeeKay and Ed Carpenter showed blazing speed in earlier sessions, but neither Ed Carpenter Racing driver could eclipse 234 MPH on any single lap in the Fast Six. Carpenter himself will start fourth, while VeeKay will be Chevrolet's only representative on the front row in third. Reigning champion Alex Palou came up just short of Brayton's record with a 223.5 run of his own, enough for second.
But none could come close to touching Scott Dixon. His first lap was a 234.4, the fastest of the day. Then a 234.1, a 233.8, and a 233.7. Together, that is 234.046 MPH, an average as fast as any single lap by anyone else today. And the run was effectively perfect, more stable than anyone else in the Fast Six competition.
It is the second-fastest qualifying run in the century-plus history of this race. It is the first in the 234s since Luyendyk's record. By eclipsing Brayton's record, it is the Indianapolis 500's fastest pole time ever.
Dixon is a six-time champion, a five-time pole sitter at Indianapolis, and the winner of the 2008 500. Those laps may be the biggest moments of his career. Not only did he take pole for the fastest 500 field in a generation, he did it by half a mile an hour over the whole field. None of his four teammates came close at any point. It isn't the track record, but it is a record that IndyCar had never planned for this generation of cars to ever touch. Dixon eclipsed it comfortably. No matter what happens on race day, he's the 234 mile-an-hour man at Indianapolis.
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