INDIANAPOLIS — Alex Palou had the fastest four-lap pole run in Indianapolis 500 history Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a four-lap average of 234.217 miles per hour in the No. 10 American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The driver from Spain had one of the fastest cars all week at the famed 2.5-mile oval and back it up in Sunday’s Firestone Fast Six with a run so fast, it amazed his fellow competitors.
Rinus VeeKay of The Netherlands put the Ed Carpenter Racing No. 21 Chevrolet to the middle of Row 1 with a four-lap average of 234.211 mph. Felix Rosenqvist, the fastest driver in both Saturday’s round of qualifications and in Sunday’s Fast 12, was third quick at 234.114 mph.
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All three front-row starters were faster than the previous pole record of 234.046 set last year by Scott Dixon.
Only Arie Luyendyk’s mighty run of 236.986, set on the second day of qualifying in 1996 and not eligible for pole, is faster.
“It was really close last year when we lost it against Dixon, which he did an amazing four-lap run,” Palou said afterward. This year we knew it was going to be even closer against these two guys. They were really fast all month.
“We went aggressive. It worked this time. Super proud.”
“It’s been a good month of May so far.”
VeeKay came close, oh so close, to winning the pole against the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion from Spain.
“Yeah, it was very close,” VeeKay admitted. “Wow, very happy, but also a bit bummed. We had that shot, and I wish we could have done it. It would have been so great for the team. But also, I’m bummed to be starting the Indy 500 second.
“Not bad, definitely, but yeah, I think it just has to sink in a little bit. What is in my head now is I lost, but no, I will enjoy this one, and it’s my best starting position so far in the 500, which fourth, third, third and second, we all know what comes in my car number after second, and that’s a 1.
“I’m very proud of the team, also. We had a tough morning, kind of went downhill for a bit, and we still — the team still made it happen. The only thing I had to do was stay flat for four laps, and the ECR BitNile crew gave me the best possible car for this moment.
“I’m not sure how much better it could have gone. The car felt the best it’s felt in qualifying trim, and yeah, should have had a bit less lunch. I think that’s it.”
Rosenqvist earned the outside front-row starting spot after qualifying third at 234.114 in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
“It’s mixed feelings right now,” Rosenqvist said. “I think overall it’s a very good day for us. I think these two found something in the Fast Six that we didn’t find. We felt like we were kind of on top of it going into it. We were not confident, but we felt like we put the best possible scenario on the car.
“Big thanks to all the group for Arrow McLaren and Team Chevy, as well. I think the whole team came together for this final run where we threw everything, we had at it, and we missed out, and it’s the second time in not so long I’m sitting here and missing pole with I think one or two thousandths. It’s what it is, but overall, we have to be proud to have all the cars in the top 12. It’s just been a phenomenal month for us so far.
“Congrats to Alex and also to Rinus. That was a hell of a run. We couldn’t match that today.”
Row 2 includes Santino Ferrucci of Woodbury, Connecticut who put the A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet into the inside position with a four-lap average of 233.661 mph. Pato O’Ward is in the middle at 233.158 mph in the No. 6 Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren Racing and five-time Indy 500 pole winner Scott Dixon is in the outside position after running four laps at 233.151 mph.
Last Row Heroics For Harvey
Last Row Qualifying saw Jack Harvey knocked his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal off the bubble with a last-second, four-lap average of 229.166 mph in the No. 30 Honda. Rahal will miss the Indy 500 next Sunday.
“We had done two attempts,” Harvey recalled. “Neither of them seemed to be enough to get it done, and actually on the final one, I said to the guys, do you even think we can do this. The car is hot, engine is hot, and they said, yeah, you’ve got to try; it’s the Indy 500. In that moment just tried to forget about everything else for a moment.
“It’s not a good feeling, to be honest with you. It’s not a moment necessarily for celebration. As a team we’re going to be starting 30th, 31st and 33rd, and I hated it today, felt like we were in the Hunger Games with our own team.
“But of the four people driving, three of them are in. I know it’s not great odds and it’s not a great feeling. To be honest, it’s unbelievable relief. I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s actually quite hard to process it.
“There’s a lot of emotions. Like massively grateful to be in the race, massively sad that we bumped out a teammate because I know what that means for the entire team.
“I was just looking — I didn’t really get to see any of the pole shootout for the Fast Six, but obviously congratulations to these guys, but when I look at the speed that they can do, we’re comfortably five miles an hour off. There’s an enormous amount of work to try and do, in truth, and hopefully we’ve got here to try and figure it out. For anyone who thinks we’re jumping up and down celebrating, there’s a little bit mistaken today.”
Another Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, Christian Lundgaard, will start on the inside of Row 11 alongside Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing.
Lundgaard’s four-lap average was 229.649 mph in the Hy-Vee Honda and Robb’s speed was 229.549 mph in the No. 51 Honda.
Palou’s Blistering Run
While that drama played out just before the run for the pole, it was Palou that put on the real speed show by becoming the fastest pole winner in Indianapolis 500 history.
“It’s been amazing for the 10 car, honestly,” Palou said. “This start of the season, especially the month of May, couldn’t be better with the GMR Grand Prix and obviously the pole today. We knew we had a fast car since the beginning. We had to take advantage of that.
“I’m enjoying my time here. Last year, as I said, we were really close, learned how we could go be more aggressive if we were in that position again, and lucky if we were in that position again today, we took it.”
When the final run by Rosenqvist was complete and Palou was on pole, he let loose with a wild celebration on pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He even lost a bit of his voice in the celebration.
“We just did a good job,” he said. “We just live. We know that this time doesn’t come very often. We celebrated last week because it was a big win, and today we were the best on track, so we had to celebrate.
“We couldn’t celebrate last year, and we don’t know if we’re going to be able to celebrate next week.
“When there’s chances like that, especially nowadays in IndyCar, you have to celebrate. You could see on everybody, it was not just me, that I lost my voice, which maybe it was too much, but I’m Spanish, so…
“You could see on every mechanic, every engineer, even Julian Robertson, my engineer, that — he’s really quiet — when we win, he’s normally like yeah, that was a good race, good job. But he was super excited today. It means a lot. It’s a big deal. It’s the pole for the Indy 500.
“It’s not the win for the race, but it’s as best we could do today.”