Alex Palou’s record run earns Ganassi a third straight Indy 500 pole
INDIANAPOLIS — Alex Palou will lead the field to green in the Indianapolis 500 after the young Spaniard completed the fastest four-lap pole race in history on Sunday, edging out Rinus VeeKay and Felix Rosenqvist to give Chip Ganassi Racing its third straight pole in “The Greatest Racing Show.”
Palou, who won the road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend, completed four laps around the historic 2.5-mile course averaging 234.217 mph. It was just 0.007 mph faster than VeeKay, which still gave Ed Carpenter Racing a front-row starting spot for the ninth time in the last 11 years.
“It means the world to me now, to the boys, to everyone,” said Palou, who will likely move to Arrow McLaren next year.
He roared when Rosenqvist missed pole for Arrow McLaren in the final round of the day.
“I’m just super happy,” Palou said.
Palou surpassed the pole record of 234.046 mph that Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon set last year. It was also the second-fastest qualifying effort, behind only Arie Luyendyk’s 236.986, which he set the day after qualifying pole in 1996.
“He did exactly what he had to do. He’ll be the first to tell you it was a total team effort,” said Ganassi, who put a car on pole at the Indy 500 for the eighth time. “We’re going to navigate the 500m starting from pole. We’re very excited.”
Palou was confident he had a fast car, even though Rosenqvist was fastest in the Fast 12 effort earlier in the day.
“We have to go fast. Are you ready to go very fast? team boss Barry Wanser asked Palou over the radio, as the 26-year-old left pit road under sunny skies and in front of huge crowds lining the old speedway. “Let’s do it.”
It did, and its rivals sought more.
“I got everything out of it. I wish I had a little more,” VeeKay said. “It’s so close, and the thing definitely had a chance for pole position, but also, I’m a bit spoiled to say. It’s just the start of the race. Proud of the team, proud of the whole crew.”
Santino Ferrucci qualified fourth, inside row 2 for underdog AJ Foyt Racing, which has been turning heads all week. Rookie driver Foyt Benjamin Pedersen also did the Fast 12 and will start 11th for the May 28 race.
Pato O’Ward will start alongside Ferrucci with Dixon, who was aiming for a record third straight pole, qualifying sixth.
Alexander Rossi was the quickest of those who failed to make the Fast Six, placing him seventh on the grid. He will be inside row 3 with Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan, who will start ninth in what he says will be his last Indy 500.
Others who failed to qualify for the pole vault shootout were defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who will start 10th for the strong contingent of Ganassi, Pedersen and Will Power, the lone driver of Team Penske to do the Fast 12 in qualifying on Saturday.
“All weekend we struggled to do four laps. It’s a problem pretty much every day,” Ericsson said. “This morning we did three very good laps. [in practice] and had a moment. I stayed flat out for four laps, but I slipped too much.”
VeeKay had his own moment during practice when smoke came out of the back of the #21 car. Engineers from his Ed Carpenter Racing team determined that it was a faulty header and that no damage had been done to the engine. They said they were confident to send him out onto the warm, sunny track for the hour-long qualifying session.
“This morning was a bit difficult. A bit difficult. We had some problems,” VeeKay said, “but the 21 team members gave me their A-game. We even had some free time. great. Everything what I had to do was stay flat out for four laps.”
That’s what Ferrucci did too, as the Foyt team became Gasoline Alley’s feel-good story. AJ Foyt lost his 68-year-old wife, Lucy, last month, and the 88-year-old Foyt thought about skipping May in Indianapolis, where he is one of four four-time race winners.
Foyt decided to come on, however, and was treated to some of the fastest laps around the track by his own team. He watched both qualifying sessions in a closed garage and asked that all interview requests be held until the end of the day.
But when Ferrucci returned to the garage to see Foyt after his qualifying race, he was followed by an entourage of well-wishers that included former Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George and Chevrolet’s racing program manager Jim Campbell. .
“It’s the fastest I’ve ever done for four laps,” said Ferrucci, who nearly cut the wall on his first lap in the Fast 12, moments after his team told him on the radio “Remember we have to run this thing. Let’s not do anything stupid.”
Foyt cars had not advanced through the qualifying rounds for the Indy 500 since the format was introduced in 2010.
Foyt himself won four poles in the Indianapolis 500 while he owned the team. He is the first driver to win four Indy 500s, a club which added its fourth member in just 2021 when Helio Castroneves won its fourth.
Foyt was quick to point out after Ferrucci finished fourth that Foyt himself had never won the 500 from the front row, but did so twice from fourth and both were his last two wins in Indy 500.