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Indy 500: Scott Dixon claims 2015 pole position

Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon resisted pressure from his Penske rivals to secure pole for the Indy 500 for only the second time in his career.
Scott Dixon will start the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 from pole position, only the second time in 13 years of competing in the greatest spectacle in motorsports. The last time he started at the front was 2008, when he went on to win the race for the first and to date only time.

"It means a lot," said a delighted Dixon as his pole was confirmed. "I think with all the preparation that goes into qualifying alone we still have the race to come next week. I'm just so proud of everybody at Team Target whether it's the engineers and everybody that has worked so hard to get the speed out of this car.

"It was definitely a tough day," he added. "I'm stoked. Just extremely happy that we are on the pole I wasn't sure we went so early that it was going to stick."

CLICK: Full starting grid for the 2015 Indianapolis 500
CLICK: Qualifying times from Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

"This is a real testament to the team," said Chip Ganassi. "The driver really comes into play during the race. Obviously you need a great driver here, but qualifying is just all about the team. Preparation and the Target team just did a great job here today. I couldn't be more happy with them, Scott Dixon, Mike Hull, the engineers, everybody. I'm blessed to have great guys like that to work with."

Dixon set a four-lap aggregate lap speed of 226.760mph, a significantly slower time that last year's pole effort of 231.067mph as a result of last-minute technical regulation changes in the wake of a third big accident this week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Citing safety concerns, series officials mandated that the extra turbocharger pressure boost traditionally available to teams for qualifying should be removed and teams required to run with race set-ups rather than special qualifying low-drag configurations. Before the new rules were rushed in, Dixon had run a lap of 233.001mph to top the Sunday morning practice session.

Even at the slower speeds, Dixon was fast enough to outrun the best efforts from Penske pair Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, who will start alongside Dixon on the three-wide front row for the start of the race next Sunday.

Because of the late rule changes and the fact that qualifying was already running late, having been postponed from Saturday because of heavy rain, there was no time to run a Fast 9 pole shootout, so all positions int he top 30 were set by a single run consisting of a warm-up lap and four fast qualifying laps, with the final position determined by the average of those four circuits.

Dixon's team mate Tony Kanaan, who won the Indy 500 in 2013, will start from fourth place immediately behind him. Alongside Kanaan will be another of the Penske contingent, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

The last driver on the second row is the highest-placed of the Honda-powered cars, Justin Wilson in the #25 Andretti Autosport entry.

“I was pushing really hard and it felt pretty good,” said Wilson. “It was a little bit tense the last couple of days, but it's always nice to get out and run on your own with no one else on track, there is always more grip.

"Andretti Autosport is a very professional team, they just worked through all the decisions that were made today and gave me a great race car," he continued. It's only his second outing with the team, and currently his last announced appearance in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

"I just have to thank everyone there who has worked so hard the last few months to put this deal together," he said. "I also want to thank everyone a Honda for letting me have the opportunity to be here. I'm hoping today's qualifying run is a good omen going into next weekend, we'll see how it all works out, looking forward to bringing a decent result home."

A front row position suited Simon Pagenaud just fine, the Frenchman confident that this would give him a strong chance for a win next week. "I think we have a good chance here, the entire team," he said. "But the Indy 500 is a bit like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. You're never ready enough for this race. There's so many things, nine to 10 pit stops, a yellow can fall out at the wrong time, something can happen in pit lane.

"It can go all right up until the race and something can happen at the last moment where you don't expect it," he pointed out. "I'm just going to keep being like I have been, like pretty non‑emotional about it, and do my job, even though I'm super excited."

KVSH Racing's Sebastien Bourdais, Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti, and CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden take up row three of the grid, with Newgarden's team mates JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter on row four sandwiching Andretti's Carlos Munoz in the middle lane.

It was a remarkable comeback for Carpenter, whose morning crash sparked off the crisis meetings and urgent rule changes. The damage to the #20 primary car was so bad that there was some doubt Carpenter would even be able to participate in qualifying at all, but astonishing work by the CFH pit crew got the pare car assembled and fired up in time for him to head out for a shakedown in the second warm-up practice of the day, thanks to delays in the schedule caused by the rule changes which meant that the other teams also had their work cut out to enact the required alterations in time.

“When I was upside down in Turn 2 this morning, I didn't know the delays in the schedule we would have. The way things worked out, it gave the team the time it needed to get the car ready to go,” said Carpenter, who has started the last two Indy 500 races from pole position. "I didn't think we expected to win the pole with the morning we had and I'm just thankful to the whole team."

Even so it seemed the best that Carpenter could hope for was to be in a position to take part in the 'bump qualifying' session after the main time trials had been completed, in which the slowest four cars (or those yet to set a time) would fight it out for positions at the back of the grid. With 34 cars entered and the Indy 500 limited to 33 starters, one driver is sure to be packing up and going home early after this weekend.

The four cars who were recalled to the track to fight for survival included Bryan Clauson (KVSH Racing/Jonathan Byrd's Racing), Jack Hawksworth (AJ Foyt Racing) and rookie driver Stefano Coletti (KV Racing Technology).

"This is definitely not how I wanted to qualify for my first Indianapolis 500, so I'm disappointed with how today went," said Coletti. "In my first qualifying attempt, I was completely flat the whole way round and the car was easy to drive, but the end result was the slowest I had been all week. I ended up having to then re-qualify for the last row, with the potential of being bumped out.

"The guys did a quick gear change for me and the car felt good and I was able to do four very solid runs, to put me in the field. The good thing is we have a good race car that I feel comfortable to drive, so I'm looking forward to being able to make my dream a reality and race in the Indianapolis 500 next week."

Also in the mix was 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier who had been unable to set a time in the main qualifying session because of technical problems with the #91 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet.

"We broke an upright and an axle this morning in practice and, for us, that took every minute of the qualifying time to get that back on the car," he explained. "Even though we got a late start and had one problem after another, yesterday morning I thought we looked pretty good or for the last day and a half."

Lazier's car was still not co-operating even when the bump qualifying session got underway, meaning that he was looking likely to be eliminated despite some major downforce adjustments to his rear wing before his final attempt. He left it as late as possible so that in the event that he did 'bump' his way in, Clauson would have no opportunity to respond in kind. However not even the veteran racer's best efforts could squeeze enough pace out of the race car, and as the clock counted down to zero Lazier was still left on the outside looking in.

"I don't know. I don't know what to tell you," he said, looking distraught at the outcome. "It's just disappointing. Certainly we could do better than that. You get a late start and you are a small effort, you are really going to be up against it. No question."

But he insisted that this wouldn't be his final go at the famed race, and that he was intending on returning again for the 100th running in 2016. "I hope so. Just not like this. Obviously, we don't want to roll in with one day of practice and go and qualify. So, I hope so. Owner and sponsor willing."

Elsewhere on the grid, veteran driver Oriol Servia will start from 13th place for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing while his team mate Graham Rahal will take the green flag from 17th after overcoming technical problems that put him on the back foot for much of the day.

"The car decided it didn't want to shift anymore," said Rahal. "It was a pretty frustrating thing because the balance of the car was very good, very consistent. I thought we were looking at a really good run there and, all of a sudden, it didn't want to go anymore. I'm just frustrated because the car decided it didn't want to shift on the third lap, and our whole gear strategy was to shift. If it doesn't want to do that, you're going to hurt yourself. Unfortunately, the Steak 'n Shake machine isn't going to start as high up."

Juan Pablo Montoya - who famously won his first=ever Indy 500 in 2000 before moving to Formula 1 and NASCAR - will start from 15th place, one position ahead of the reigning Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Tristan Vautier qualified the #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in 21st place, although he will not be at the wheel in seven days time as he will be handing the car back to James Davison, who had a scheduling conflict this weekend with a prior commitment to the Nissan Motorsports GT-R GT3 car in the Pirelli World Challenge race in Mosport, Canada.

Alex Tagliani, who won pole position with am Schmidt Motorports in 2011, will start on the eighth row for AJ Foy Racing alongside Ganassi's Sage Karam and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports's James Hinchcliffe, who qualified one place ahead of his young team mate Conor Daly. Joining Daly on row 9 will be Indy 500 veteran Townsend Bell in 26th place for Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing, and AJ Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato.

The final trio of drivers locking themselves into the race in the main qualifying session and avoiding the sudden death play-off were Dale Coyne Racing's Pippa Mann, Bryan Herta Autosport rookie Gabby Chaves and Ganassi part time driver Sebastian Saavedra.

A further practice session is scheduled for Monday May 18 from 12.30pm until 4pm local time, and Friday May 22 sees the final one-hour Carb Day practice from 11am until noon which is the last track opportunity the drivers will have before the green flag for the start of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday May 24.

CLICK: Full starting grid for the 2015 Indianapolis 500
CLICK: Qualifying times from Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Scott Dixon car after winning pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Doug Mathews for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) celebrates winning the 2016 IndyCar title with victory at Sonoma   [pic credit: Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Ed Jones celebrates winning the 2016 Indy Lights championship
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) celebrates at Laguna Seca
Kyle Kaiser - Juncos Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing crew working on the boss` car   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Indy Lights action
Indy Lights title contender Santiago Urrutia, Ed Jones, Dean Stoneman, Felix Serralles, Kyle Kaiser and Zach Veach   [pic credit: IndyCar Media]
Santiago Urrutia - Schmidt Petersen Motorsport
Will Power - Team Penske
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Graham Rahal celebrates victory in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway   (image credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens)

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