Dixon’s Pole More Than Just a Speed Record

Photo by Kyle McInnes

Scott Dixon won the pole for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 with a record pole four lap average of 234.046 mph. It is Dixon’s fifth pole at IMS and second consecutive start at the head of the grid. Those are the facts of this story, but this pole elevates Dixon onto an even higher plane of the Indycar record book than he already occupied.

Dixon now is in second place in three categories, just one away from tying three different legends of the sport. His six championships are one short of A. J. Foyt’s seven titles. He has won 51 races, one less than Mario Andretti, who is in second place on the all- time career list. As of 5:30 pm today Dixon is one Indianapolis 500 pole behind Rick Mears.

We witness greatness every time Dixon takes to the track. I feel privileged to have watched Foyt, Andretti, Mears, and now Dixon.

Quick Thoughts on the Day

The two round format was okay, but i thought the round of twelve took some of the starch out of the Fast Six. I would prefer a return to the Fast Nine.

A better format if the Fast twelve is retained and television windows are available would be an earlier practice, round one around midday, and the final six at 4 pm. Spacing out the sessions would give the engines the needed cooling time.

Going last in the Fast Six continues to be an advantage. The driver knows exactly what he needs to be on the pole.

I was happy to see speed records return. It has been a while. Now Indycar needs to go after the one lap track record.

Has Honda caught up with Chevrolet? The Fast Six had four Hondas and two Chevys.

What a great weekend for Chip Ganassi Racing. The team had all five of their cars in the top twelve, and four of them advanced to the Fast Six. Ed Carpenter Racing had the other two spots in the final round.

Rinus VeeKay starts on the front row for the second straight year. He is going to win this race one day, maybe a week from today.

The record pole average is the second fastest average in Speedway history. The record has stood since 1996.

The provisional grid, which should become official soon.

Dixon Tops Opening Session

Scott Dixon led the first practice for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. His Chip Ganassi Honda put in a lap of 227,119 mph. Teammate Marcus Ericsson was second quickest at 226.965 mph. Four Hondas and six Chevys were in the top 10.

Sage Karam in a Dreyer and Reinbold car was the fastest Chevy in third place a 226.388 mph.

Scott McLaughlin was the first car on track when the green flag waved at 9 am.

The session ran without interruption.

Teams of Note

Chip Ganassi Racing had three cars in the top 10. Alex Palou was eighth at 225.278 mph.

Dreyer and Reinbold put both cars up front. Karam was third and Santino Ferrucci was sixth.

J. R. Hildebrand and Kyle Kirkwood were 10th and 11th for A. J. Foyt Racing.

Kyle Kirkwood

Results:

Dixon Leads Crash Shortened Afternoon Test

Scott Dixon led both sessions involving veterans at the open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. Dixon ran a lap of 227,187 in the afternoon session, which saw just 30 minutes of green flag time and ended 30 minutes early after two crashes exiting pit lane.

Conor Daly had the second fastest time, 226,985 mph.

Conor Daly

Four time and defending race winner Helio Castroneves spun on the pit exit lane and hit the outside wall in turn 2. Castroneves was unhurt. He could not explain what happened.

“I didn’t feel anything strange, anything bottoming, I wasn’t pushing,” Castroneves said. “And the rear just spun out. I was trying to control it, making sure I didn’t crash, and it was a very odd situation. Unfortunately, we couldn’t avoid that. It was very unusual.”

Action resumed, and 21 minutes later, Will Power spun in the pit exit lane in turn 1. Colton Herta went wide to avoid Power, spun and brushed the outside wall, then slid down the track, narrowly missing a collision with Marcus Ericsson, who chose to go low to avoid Herta’s spinning car. Herta’s car came to rest nose first against the inside wall in turn 1.

Will Power talks to media between sessions.

Officials ddeclared the session over to have time to examine the pit lane. Alexander Rossi had spun in the lane as cars left the pits for the morning session.

Indycar, IMS, and Firestone were working together to find out what the issue with the pit lane is. There will be an update in the morning.

In the rookie/refresher session the five rookies passed all three phases of the rookie test. Callum Ilott had the fastest lap, 222,184 mph.

Callum Ilott waits for practice to resume.

Ilott talked about his day and learning ovals.

“It’s a real challenge, especially when it’s quite windy, trying to get the positioning in the field at that speed. And then, you know, when we come on after the rookie orientation, and you’re an adult with 33 cars on track, it’s, yeah, it’s a bit tough to find the space and, you know, you start to learn the technicalities of oval racing, which was something I had to learn quite quickly in Texas. But yeah, it’s awesome. The place is ginormous.”

Practice is scheduled to run from 10 AM Eastern time to 4 PM. All 32 cars are eligible to participate. We will wait for word on the pit lane issue. Work on that part of the track may delay the start, but Indycar will probably allow all six hours of running if possible. Tomorrow’s practice will be streamed on Peacock.

Dixon Fastest in First Veterans’ Session; Rookie Test Underway

The open- test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway got underway after a 90-minute delay. The session begun under cool and cloudy conditions. As the two hour time period progressed, temperatures warmed a bit and some sun appeared and the wind got stronger.

Scott Dixon had the quickest lap of 225.622 mph. Dixon ran 20 laps, the fewest of the full time Chip Ganassi Racing team. Jimmie Johnson was sixth fastest in 37 laps, Alex Palou ran seventh in 25 laps, and Marcus Ericsson finished the session 20th, running 31 laps. Tony Kanaan, who is running the 500 only, ran just fourteen laps and ended 21st on the speed chart.

Pato O’Ward on a late session run

The rest of the top 5- Scott Mclaughlin, 223.984; Santino Ferrucci, 223,053; Romain Grosjean, 222.727; and Pato O’Ward, 222.660.

sIx Hondas and four Chevys made up the top ten. Three of the Hondas were from Chip Ganassi Racing.

I talked to Tony Kanaan after practice. He said the conditions were “Okay in the morning, then it got windy and cold. I didn’t do that many laps. It5’s not the same as it’s going to be race week, but it’s good to get a couple things out of the way.”

Tony Kanaan talks to media after the test session

He said “It felt 100% good to be back in the car. I think we can benefit from having five very experienced drivers on the team.”

Kanaan on track

Kanaan plans to run the 500 “As long as they keep bringing me back.” He noted that next year will be his 25th 500.

Currently halfway through the rookie /refresher session, David Malukas is the fastest rookie with a lap at 218.250. Times will vary depending on which phase of the test each driver is in at the moment.

Dixon, Power Look to Equal or Tie Andretti Marks in 2022

Scott Dixon and Will Power have an opportunity this upcoming Indycar season to tie or pass Mario Andretti in different career categories. Dixon, who has won at least one race every year since 2003, needs one victory to tie Andretti’s career mark of 52 wins, second only to A. J. Foyt. It was a shock that he only won one race last season.

Power is four poles shy of tying Andretti’s career mark of 67 poles, first among Indycar drivers. Power won only one pole last season, at the second IMS road race. His single pole was more of a shock than Dixon’s single first place.

Other Storylines for 2022

How will Romain Grosjean fare with his new team? Can Grosjean have the same success as part of a larger team, Andretti Autosport, as he had with Dale Coyne? Can he keep pace with Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi?

Romain Grosjean

Will we have a third OEM announcement by the time of the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500? If we don’t, it will be at least 2025 until Honda and Chevrolet have another competitor.

Will having 14 races on NBC significantly increase viewership? The deal with NBC is probably the best package Indycar has ever had. I hope it pays huge dividends. If not, there may never be another deal this good.

Can Beth Paretta finalize a deal for the Indianapolis 500? It would be a shame if 2021 was a one time effort. The credibility of the Race for Diversity and Change would suffer if her team is not at IMS in May.

Keep an eye on Ernie Francis, Jr. in Indy Lights as well. I hope he does well enough to get a shot the 500 in 2023. It is just as important to have African American representation in Indycar as it is to have a female presence.

Some predictions:

Season champion- I give a narrow edge to Colton Herta over Pato O’Ward in a tight yearlong battle.

Winners- Eight drivers will win races this season, with Herta and O’Ward winning at least three each. Scott McLaughlin may be the only first time winner in 2022.

David Malukas

Rookie of the Year- This is a tough contest to decide. Christian Lundgaard has better equipment, but David Malukas is more familiar with most of the tracks Indycar will run. I think Malukas will win, but it will come down to the final race.

On September 12 we can all look at this post again and have a good laugh. Thanks for reading my preview series. Now let’s go racing!

Indycar’s Second Half- More of the Same Would be Fine

Update- Marti is improving as the medical team works out a treatment plan. Thank you all again for your kind wishes and concerns. We will get through this.

Photo: Alex Palou leads Colton Herta at Road America. Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Indycar had itself one heck of a first half- seven different winners, including four first time winners; only two winners over the age of 30; dramatic finishes, and really good racing. Only two drivers have won more than once, and four of the top seven in points are under the age of 25.

Alex Palou holds the trophy for the REV Group Grand Prix. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Road America traditionally marks the end of the first half of the season, but with the cancellation of Toronto, which will not be made up, last Sunday was the first race of the season’s second half. The loss of the race, which is not a shock, narrows the field for the championship to three drivers-Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, and Scott Dixon.

I think the title fight comes down to a battle between Palou, the current points leader, and O’Ward. Only O’Ward and Palou have won more than one race. Palou has led seven of the nine races. Palou has been on the podium five times, O’Ward finished in the top three four times. The 28 point lead Palou enjoys is essentially the difference in points between the two drivers at the Indianapolis 500.

I think Palou will prevail this season. Here’s why.

O’Ward Oddities

Both of Pato’s wins came in the second race of the two double headers. He finished third in the first race of each double header, and he was on pole for the first race in Detroit. In both of his victories, O’Ward overtook Josef Newgarden late in the race.

There are no more double headers this season It seems the Arrow McLaren SP team needs a bit of a longer window to figure things out. I’m not sure O’Ward wins another race in 2021, and he may have trouble holding on to second place in the standings.

The Iceman Lurketh

Six time champion Scott Dixon sits on the verge of history on two fronts. His next win, which is very likely this season, will tie him with Mario Andretti for second place on the career win list with 52. Winning the title will tie him with A. J. Foyt with seven championships.

Dixon has been competitive, as always, but the car looks to be just a step behind the front runners. The Indianapolis 500, despite Dixon winning the pole, did not turn out well. Dixon is 53 points behind, and 49 points of that gap are from the 500. He has come from larger deficits to win take a couple of his titles, but I don’t see it happening this year. Still, dixon will continue an amazing string of finsihes in the top five in points.

More Winners

There will be more drivers winning a race this season. It is inveitable that Josef Newgarden and/or Will Power will win a race before the season ends. Newgarden has won the last two poles and has had victory in his grasp the last two races. He has lost the lead with three laps remaining in Detroit and with two laps left at Road America. Mechanical gremlins and tire strategy have kept Team Penske out of the winner’s circle so far in 2021, but I think we see that situation change in the next three months. It is hard yo believe we are nine races into the season and wondering when a Penske will win a race.

Look for another win by an Andretti Autosport driver as well. Either Colton Herta wins another time, or Alexander Rossi will finally break through. This team has been just as puzzling as Team Penske. Herta has been the only bright spot for the team.

Nice Surprises

The biggest surprise this year is the overall performance of Romain Grosjean. The former F1 driver has won a pole, took a podium spot, and has been overall competitive in his 6 races in 2021. Grosjean is an outstanding qualifier, starting in the top six three times and seventh twice. Missing the Indianapolis 500 and the two Texas races will probably cost him Rookie of the Year since the award is based solely on points. He would win it if the trophy were awarded based on his performance on track.

Dixon Leads Busy Carb Day After Delay

Photo of Scott Dixon by James Black, Indycar

Scott Dixon had the fastest lap in today’s rain delayed and rain shortened Carb day practice for Sunday’s 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. The session began more than two and a half hours late due to morning rain and ended about ten minutes short of the two hour time limit as more rain moved in.

Dixon parked his car for the day after 45 minutes of running. Colton Herta ended his day about 20 minutes early, Both drivers seemed very happy with their cars. Herta hopes for similar conditions on race day.

Rossi and fuel at Indy- Alexander Rossi experienced a fuel spill before the prasctice session began, delaying the start by about six minutes. Indycar assessed a five minute penalty on the 27 car. Rossi has had issues during the 500 with fueling the car, even in 2016 when he won. A longer than normal pit stop due to a fueling issue may have cost him the race in 2019,

“Let’s hope we got our fuel issues out of the way early in Indianapolis,” Rossi told NBC Sports.

From earlier:Indianapolis 500 Preview

Indianapolis 500 Preview- A Battle of Generations

Notes

Eight Chevys were in the top twelve today, including all four Penske cars. Chevys were virtually invisible during qualifications.

Personal observation- I liked the way and the seemingly easy way Herta and Graham Rahal were able to pass other cars.

Herta and Dixon exchanged the point for several laps, possibly a preview of what we might see Sunday.

The 33 drivers ran a total of 2,350 laps this afternoon.

The results:

19Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda228.323647
222Simon PagenaudTeam PenskeChevy227.1575789
32Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevy226.8568893
447Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevy226.3995370
598Marco AndrettiAndretti Herta-Haupert w/Marco & Curb-AgajanianHonda226.3966465
612Will PowerTeam PenskeChevy226.223882
73Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevy226.1922166
848Tony KanaanChip Ganassi RacingHonda225.929748
930Takuma SatoRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda225.7016594
1024Sage KaramDreyer & Reinbold RacingChevy225.5423661
115Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevy225.5115793
1259Max ChiltonCarlinChevy225.3488489
1327Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda225.3244751
1414Sebastien BourdaisAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy225.1632733
1506Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda225.1611762
1686Juan Pablo MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevy225.1493354
171JR HildebrandAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy224.9453070
1818Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing with Vasser SullivanHonda224.9101271
1915Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda224.8728100
2028Ryan Hunter-ReayAndretti AutosportHonda224.7193371
2129James HinchcliffeAndretti Steinbrenner AutosportHonda224.5461992
2210Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda224.5005871
238Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda224.4686184
247Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevy224.4282061
254Dalton KellettAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy224.0511954
2625Stefan WilsonAndretti AutosportHonda224.0477174
2745Santino FerrucciRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda223.8841177
2826Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda223.6702678
2960Jack HarveyMeyer Shank RacingHonda223.664876
3020Ed CarpenterEd Carpenter RacingChevy223.6542461
3121Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevy223.0681056
3216Simona De SilvestroParetta AutosportChevy223.0232572
3351Pietro FittipaldiDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda222.1736488

How the Front Row Fares in the Race

The 2021 front row. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Starting in the front row has been a great place to begin the Indianapolis 500 over the last three years. There is no reason to think 2021 will be any different. the cars are basically the same, passing will be difficult, and the front row starting teams have shown great reliability over the course of an entire season.

Forty-four of the 104 Indianapolis 500 Mile Races have been won from the front row. The pole winner has won the most times, 21. Simon Pagenaud is the most recent driver win from the pole in 2019. His win from pole was the first win from the top spot since Helio Castroneves won in 2009. Since 2006, when Sam Hornish, Jr. won at the line from Marco Andretti, the race winner has started on the pole just three more times. In addition to Pagenaud and Castroneves, Scott Dixon won from pole in 2008. Pagenaud’s victory saved the 2010 decade from being just the third decade without a race winner starting from pole. The first decade of the race, 1911-1920, and the 1940s did not see the pole winner in Victory Lane.

Starting second has produced the fewest winners among the the front row starters, 11. That number seems pretty good, but only once since 1970 has the winner come from the middle spot of row 1. Juan Pablo Montoya won from the second starting spot in 2000. The 21 year drought has a decent chance of ending this year with Colton Herta.

The outside of the front row is the preferred starting spot for many drivers. Some say it presents a better approach to the first turn. 12 winners have started third, including Takuma Sato last year

.

A look at the chart below shows that starting places 1-7 have produced 68 of the 104 winners. The most wins further back than that come 15th, where four winners have emerged.

A 500 mile race is long, and many things happen. there have been pole winners who haven’t completed the first lap. Roberto Guerrero in 1992 spun into the the inside fence on the pace lap. Scott Sharp in 2001 crashed in turn 1 of the first lap. There are no guarantees, but if you are playing the odds, the pole and the third place starters are decent wagers.

Squeakers: Dixon Edges Herta for Pole; Simona Makes the Grid

Don’t play King of the Mountain with Scott Dixon. You will lose. Colton herta and Rinus VeeKay tried to knock Dixon off the pole for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. They came close, but couldn’t do it. Dixon won his fourth Indianapolis 500 pole by just 0,0197 seconds, 0.03 miles an hour. Just moments before, Herta had knocked Rinus Veekay off the pole by 0.0966 seconds, 0.1 miles an hour.

Scott dixon pulls in after his pole winning run. Photo by Tim Holle, Indycar

It was a history making front row. It is the youngest front row in history, despite Dixon’s advanced age of 40.. VeeKay is the youngest front row starter in history. Today’s pole is Dixon’s fourth at Indianapolis, tying him for second place all time with A. J. Foyt, Rex Mays, and Helio Castroneves. Dixon also won the pole for the 500 in 2008, 2015, and 2017.

The rest of the Fast nine saw several drivers change spots from yesterday. Helio Castroneves went from sixth to eighth, Tony Kanaan went from third to fifth. Alex Palou moved from seventh to sixth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay went from eighth to fifth.

VeeKay had a big wiggle in turn 1 on his lap, but he saved it to complete the lap. The bobble may have cost him the pole. VeeKay qualified fourth last year and now starts third. He is the fastest Chevy in the field again.

The first three rows have a mix of drivers that represent former series champions and 500 winners and the younger generation of drivers. Five of the first nine drivers are 40 or older and represent six 500 victories. Three are in their early twenties. Marcus Ericsson is 30.

The Last Row- Power’s Close Call

In the Last Chance Shootout, the biggest drama came on Will power’s qualifying run when his right rear tire hit the outside wall. It was a glancing blow and he completed the run to qualify for the middle of the last row. I heard that the tow link was broken, which meant he would have had to withdraw his time to repair it and possibly not have another chance to make the field. next Sunday will be Power’s worst career start will be Power’s worst career start.

Simona DeSilvestro made her qualifying run, then sat in her car for the remaining hour of the Last Chance period to see if she would need to go again. Neither Charlie Kimball nor R C Enerson had anything close to her speed. kimBall took two shots at her time, but didn’t come close.

Kimball had started the 500 for 10 consecutive years through 2020. Enerson, a rookie, and his new team, accomplished a lot just by putting a car together and having it run a qualifying set.

DeSilvestro’s team, Paretta Autosport, is a team consisting 75% or women on the crew, some of whom will be working the pits on race day. It is great to have a woman back in the field for the 500.

Beth Paretta, team owner, watches nervously as Simona DeSilvestro qualifies.Phot by James Black, Indycar
Simona DeSilvestro waves to the crowd after clinching the final starting spot. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

I will have some thoughts on the qualifying weekend tomorrow. I wish to thank everyone for following along this weekend, which set a viewership record. I appreciate all of you.