By: Spencer Neff
May 23, 2021
Following an intense Day 1 that saw dramatic moments from start to finish, Day 2 for Indianapolis 500 Qualifying would fill the first three and the last row.
With three of the 33 spots in the field for the 105th running presented by Gainbridge up for grabs, here’s how things played out.
Fast Nine Shootout: Scott Dixon earns fourth Indianapolis 500 pole
In a 1-2 start for Honda-powered entries, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon edged out Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Colton Herta by .0197 of a second for the pole.
This is the fourth-closest margin 1st and 2nd on the grid in the race’s history.
Dixon earns the pole for the fourth time in his career. He also earned the top spot in 2008, 2015 and 2017. In 2008, he won the race from the pole, his only “500” victory to date.
The points leader and six-time INDYCAR Champion earns his 26th career pole and ties Al Unser for tenth all-time.
Chip Ganassi Racing earns their sixth pole in 28 appearances, second to Team Penske. In addition to Dixon’s four pole, the team also earned pole with Arie Luyendyk in 1993 and Bruno Junqueira in 2002. It is their 89th pole as a team and first INDYCAR pole since 2019’s IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor SPeedway’s Road Course with Felix Rosenqvist.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay was the fastest Chevrolet-powered car of the session and starts on the outside of the front row in third. He is the youngest front row starter in “500” history at 20 years, 254 days old).
VeeKay’s Car owner Ed Carpenter starts fourth, with Dixon’s CGR teammates Tony Kanaan and Alex Palou completing Row 2.
Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson round out Row 3.
Ericsson, Palou, VeeKay and Herta earn their best career “500” starts, as does Castroneves’ MSR team.
Ericsson took to the track first and ran a four-lap average of 230.318.
After him, Hunter-Reay (230.499) and Palou (230.616) took turns at the top of the scoring pylon. Running between those drivers, Castroneves barely edged out Ericsson at 230.355 for third-best at the time.
VeeKay then improved the pole speed to 231.511. After a faster opening two laps, Car Owner Ed Carpenter fell to 231.504, just shy of his teammate’s best run.
Herta ran at 231.655 mph to guarantee he and VeeKay earned their first career front row starts:
Last to run was Dixon. After starting with a 232.757 mph lap, Dixon edged out Herta to match A.J. Foyt, Rex Mays and Castroneves for second all-time in “500” poles (Rick Mears has six).
Prior to the Fast Nine running, the 11th row was filled. With five drivers running for three spots, two drivers would go home.
Last Row Shootout: Karam, Power and de Silvestro fill Row 11- Kimball and Enerson miss the field
Making the first run of the day, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam ran a four-lap average of 229.156 mph, fastest of the session.
This is the fourth time since his 2014 debut Karam will start 31st and the third consecutive year he does so.
Next, Team Penske’s Will Power turned a 228.876 mph average over four laps despite brushing the wall on his last lap.
Power (32nd) starts from behind 21st for the second straight year (22nd last year) and third in his career (23rd in 2008 debut).
Third out in line Paretta Autosport’s Simona de Silvestro averaged 228.353, putting her on the bump spot. She will start on the last row for the first time since 2012, when she qualified 32nd.
Despite withdrawing their original attempts, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Charlie Kimball and Top Gun Racing’s RC Enerson did not find the speed to qualify the second time around either.
Kimball’s attempt at an 11th “500” ended after a 227.584 mph average.
Enerson’s bid for an Indianapolis 500 debut and Top Gun’s first race fell short after his 226.813 mph average was not fast enough as well.
By the end of both qualifying sessions, the field average speed was set at 230.294 mph, the fastest in history and the first field to average faster than 230 miles per hour.
Palou leads Sunday Practice
After qualifying was completed and the grid was set, the Field of 33 took to the track for a two-hour practice session.
With turbocharger boost levels turned back down and teams no longer working in qualifying trim, speeds were expected to be where they’d been during the first three days of practice.
Capping off a weekend full of ups and downs, Alex Palou led the Sunday Eve practice.
The sophomore driver posted a best lap of 225.649 (39.885 seconds), one of four drivers with a lap above 225 mph. Just .003 of a second back was teammate Marcus Ericsson.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly, who qualified 19th yesterday, was fastest among the Chevrolets in the field in third. Kanaan and Dixon bookended the Top Five to make it a 1-2-4-5 finish of the day for CGR.
The session did not come without issues unfortunately. Less than a quarter of the way into practice, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud lost an engine in Turn 1.
The 2019 pole sitter and race winner evaded any further trouble for he or the field as he dove onto the road course surface off the oval Turn 2. Fortunately, his status for Sunday’s race is unchanged. The 2016 INDYCAR Champion will roll off the grid 26th, the middle of Row 9.
For the 33 drivers and teams, Friday will be the last day of on-track activity.
The two-hour “Carb Day” Practice session will begin at 11:00 a.m. on May 28.
Stay with IndyCar1909.com for all the latest regarding the Indianapolis 500 and check out our social media accounts for photos and videos from IMS this week.
Header Image By Karl Zemlin/INDYCAR