Scott Dixon Drives To Pole Of 2015 Indianapolis 500

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 17 2015
Scott Dixon ruled a bizarre 2015 Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Scott Dixon ruled a bizarre 2015 Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Scott Dixon conquered strong gusting winds, a morning decision by INDYCAR officials to alter the specs of all cars and a field of 33 other drivers to win the pole for next Sunday’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Dixon went out early in the rain-delayed, one-and-only session and put down a four-lap/10-bugindy500mile average time of 2 minutes, 38.7579-seconds and speed of 226.760 mph around the iconic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

“Winning the pole means a lot,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “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. 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.

“To be honest, it was a little better than what we thought, especially on the first lap. I thought we would be around a mid-226 mph or a low 226 mph. I’m not sure if we got a gust of wind, but we’ll take it. I think the Team Target guys did a hell of a job to get the combination together. You just have to take your best guess at it and hope it works.”

Team-owner Chip Ganassi said the pole-winning effort was a credit to an organization that has produced four Indy 500 champions _ Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Dixon (2008) and Dario Franchitti (2010, 2012).

“The driver really comes into play during the race,” Ganassi said. “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.”

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power (226.350 mph) and Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud (226.145 mph) also qualified for front-row starts under a revised format. The change in qualifying was prompted by a lengthy delay for track repairs and aerodynamic and engine boost revisions mandated by INDYCAR following a crash involving CFH Racing co-owner/driver Ed Carpenter during a morning practice session.

“Obviously, with the rule change this morning, we did all we could,” said Power, driver of the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “The car was pretty stuck. The race is very different. We felt like we were pretty strong in traffic. I’m pretty focused on winning this thing. I would have loved to win the pole, but this is Indianapolis. Things change quickly _ as they did this morning. We reacted as best we could and just didn’t have the pole today.”

A three-time IndyCar Series champion, Dixon won the 2008 Indy 500 from the pole and has five top-five finishes in 12 career 500 starts. Dixon’s 22nd career pole broke a tie with 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran for 13th on the all-time Indy car list. Dixon also snapped a streak of eight consecutive series races dating to August 2014 in which a Team Penske driver started from P1.

“It’s always a lot better than starting anywhere else,” said Dixon, who was presented a $100,000 check for winning the pole.”Obviously we try to keep Chip happy and that’s not always an easy thing to do. I just have to thank all the people on the team. All these people that work with us. Obviously my teammates too, TK (Tony Kanaan) had some good humor back at the truck as we were watching some of the other competitors go. I thank all of them for their support. We’re starting in the right place, but it’s a long race. We want to replicate what we did in 2008.”

Dixon admittedly spent a couple of long hours wondering if his time would hold.

“It’s daunting,” the native of New Zealand said. “I hadn’t been in that situation before. I can’t exactly remember how 2008 played-out, but I don’t think we went that early. I think not having the ‘Fast Nine,’ there is no second chance _ that was it. You have a 30-minute practice to try and combine your best effort with the new configuration that we have and I don’t know…I’m just so damn happy for this team. It’s fantastic, so happy for Target, we’re starting on the pole for the Indianapolis 500. Now we just got to try and stay there for the last one.”

The second row includes Kanaan and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske _ both former Indy 500 champions _ and Justin Wilson of Andretti Autosport, who emerged with the fastest Honda-powered car in the session.

Castroneves, who qualified his backup car after crashing in Turn 1 on Wednesday, praised the sanctioning body for erring on the side of safety.

“Changing the plans like that, it gets everybody surprised especially with just 30 minutes of practice,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet. “The good news is it went to some of the numbers we already know what to do. Don’t get me wrong because it was numbers we ran in only 30 minutes, but the team did a great job. I couldn’t support the series more in this situation, because you’ve got to make sure everybody’s in the same position.”

Wilson, a former IndyCar and Champ Car regular without a fulltime ride this season, was satisfied with his four-lap average of 225.279 mph, which placed him two spots higher than Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti.

“It’s good for your comfort level to be near the front,” said Wilson, driver of the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda. “You want to get to the front and stick around there for most of the race. I was pushing really hard and it felt pretty good. 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’s 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. I just have to thank everyone there who has worked so hard the last few months to put this deal together. It was a difficult decision that was made for all the teams and when something like that happens you have to react. I also want to thank everyone at 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; I’m looking forward to bringing a decent result home.”

The scheduled two-day, multi-tier qualifying format was altered by rain Saturday after only two of the 34 entries made qualifying runs. By rule, both runs were thrown out and qualifying started anew Sunday.

However, the scheduled “Fast Nine Shootout” _ in which the top entries were slated to return to the track after their initial qualifying attempts for a single, four-lap run to determine the Verizon P1 Award winner and the first three rows _ was canceled. Instead, each entry was allowed one qualifying attempt to lock-in positions 1-30.

Positions 31-33, contested among four drivers, were determined in a separate session after the initial qualifying session. Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 champion, did not make the field.

During Sunday morning’s pre-qualifying practice, Carpenter lost control of his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet, and contact with the wall flipped it over. Carpenter’s crash was the third airborne incident of the week involving a car featuring Chevrolet’s new superspeedway aero kit. Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 champion, and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing also experienced airborne crashes earlier in the week.

Both Chevrolet and Honda marked the debuts of their superspeedway aero kits at IMS this month as complements to their 2.2-liter, turbocharged, direct-injection V-6 engines. The manufacturers ran the first five races of 2015 with their new road-course/street and short-oval aero packages.

“We were on the fourth lap of a qualifying sim (simulation run),” said Carpenter, an oval specialist who had qualified on-pole for the past two Indy 500s. “The car felt good; a lot better than yesterday. We’ve seen the data, and it just went. I wish I knew why it happened.”

As a result, INDYCAR officials announced a series of specification changes prior to time trials. “This morning we saw a third car get into the wall, turn backward and lift into the air. We’ve said all along we want to go faster, but we want to do so safely,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent of INDYCAR and IMS. Miles issued the following changes:

– Turbocharger boost level, which was increased from 130 kPa to 140 kPa for “Fast Friday” practice May 15 and scheduled qualifications over the weekend, was returned to 130 kPa. That related to about a 40 horsepower reduction to the Chevrolet and Honda engines. The boost level will remain at 130 kPa for final practices Monday and Coors Light Carb Day on Friday, as well as the 200-lap race on May 24. ABC’s live coverage of the race will start at 11 a.m. (EDT).

– The aerodynamic bodywork package that the Chevrolet- and Honda-aligned entries qualified with must be utilized in the race. Downforce was increased on the superspeedway platforms for added stability.

“That rule alone will cause the manufacturers to select certain components that are biased toward the race, which in effect will give them more downforce, which is really part of the exercise we’re going through here,” said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR president of competition and operations.

Carpenter’s crew prepared a backup chassis in less than five hours following the morning crash and he participated in the afternoon practice preceding qualifications. The third driver in the qualifying order, Carpenter recorded a four-lap average of 224.883 mph and qualified 12th.

“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 partnered with former IndyCar Series regular Sarah Fisher and businessman Wink Hartman. “I didn’t think we expected to win the pole with the morning we had and I’m just thankful to the whole team.”

The last-minute changes did not sit well with the Honda camp, who felt the rules changes favored their corporate rivals.

“It’s unfortunate that Honda had to change our cars, but that ship has sailed so we’ll get on with the job, really,” said reigning Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who qualified 16th at 224.573 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport. “That’s my job and everyone else’s on the team. It was a reset and we lost some of the balance on the car. But our job at that point when they redid the configuration and the rule, it was just get to the job at hand and do the best you can.

“Really, when you look at it, it’s a very short amount of time to react to a very serious situation. When we have three warning signs like that, you’ve got to do something. We were forced with a situation today and safety’s first. That’s what we did. At the same time, Indy comes with a lot of risk. It’s always been dangerous, and we know that going into it. There have always been options. You don’t have to qualify with the least amount of downforce. It’s your call at that point. But dealing with the short timeframe we had today, it’s very tough to make all the right calls in all the right places. Either way, we’re going to go out and have a good show next week.”

Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing added, “I’d like to just go run them as they were. I think that’s the fair thing to do. The changes that they made play more into Chevy’s favor even though that’s what originally caused this thing. There’s no proof that a Honda would do the same thing. I think it would only have been fair to just let us run like we were.” Rahal, son of 1986 Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal, will start 17th after a four-lap average of 224.490 mph.

Row 11 features Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda (223.738 mph); the No. 4 Monaco KV Racing Technology Chevrolet of rookie Stefan Coletti (222.001 mph) and the No. 88 Jonathan Byrd’s/Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chevrolet of Bryan Clauson (221.358 mph).

“It’s exciting. This place is magical, especially as a kid growing up here at the track,” said Clauson, a resident of Noblesville, Ind. “To be a part of it is something special.”

Results of qualifying Sunday for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 02:38.7579 (226.760 mph)
2. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:39.0458 (226.350)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:39.1900 (226.145)
4. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 02:39.6428 (225.503)
5. (3T) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet , 02:39.6439 (225.502)
6. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 02:39.8022 (225.279)
7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 02:39.8626 (225.193)
8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:39.8659 (225.189)
9. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:39.8670 (225.187)
10. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:39.9297 (225.099)
11. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 02:39.9703 (225.042)
12. (20T) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:40.0830 (224.883)
13. (32) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:40.1585 (224.777)
14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 02:40.1828 (224.743)
15. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:40.2446 (224.657)
16. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:40.3041 (224.573)
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:40.5064 (224.290)
18. (18) Carlos Huertas, Honda, 02:40.5473 (224.233)
19. (29) Simona de Silvestro, Honda, 02:40.8304 (223.838)
20. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 02:40.8651 (223.790)
21. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 02:40.8960 (223.747)
22. (48) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 02:40.9140 (223.722)
23. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:41.0051 (223.595)
24. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:41.0602 (223.519)
25. (43) Conor Daly, Honda, 02:41.0865 (223.482)
26. (24) Townsend Bell, Chevrolet, 02:41.1119 (223.447)
27. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:41.2718 (223.226)
28. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:41.3600 (223.104)
29. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 02:41.4958 (222.916)
30. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:41.5086 (222.898)
31. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 02:40.9022 (223.738)
32. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 02:42.1617 (222.001)
33. (88) Bryan Clauson, Chevrolet, 02:42.6328 (221.358)


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 17 2015
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