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Ganassi Parade Marches On During Monday Practice

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 24 2022

Spaniard Alex Palou had a bright Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou led a fast line of four Chip Ganassi Racing drivers atop the speed chart Monday as post-qualifying preparation continued for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Palou _ who finished second to four-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May_ put up a top lap of 229.441 mph in his No. 10  Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon, who earned  his fifth Indy 500 pole Sunday, was second-fast at 229.000 mph in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. And seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, an Indy 500 rookie, was third at 228.467 mph in the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato was the only non-Ganassi driver inside the top five, fourth at 228.381 in the No. 51 Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing. Marcus Ericsson rounded-out the top five at 228.017 mph in the No. 8 Ganassi Racing Honda, as Honda-powered drivers swept the top five spots around the 2.5-mile oval.

Recall that Palou, then 24, became the seventh-youngest NTT IndyCar Series champion and first from Spain in 2021. In his second series season and first with Ganassi, Palou earned the first three wins of his career and recorded 10 top-five finishes in 16 starts.

Palou has since made it clear his goal this season is to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

The front-row starters for Sunday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 took part in photo day at IMS. They are, left to right, Rinus Veekay, Alex Palou and pole-sitter Scott Dixon.

“Yes, absolutely,” Palou said during a scheduled oval test at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on March 7. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t want another championship. But yes, for our team, No. 1 is the Indy 500. It’s the biggest event in motorsports and we were really close last year.”

Indeed, Palou parlayed what he learned during a double-header weekend on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval on May 1-2, 2021 into a solid second-place finish to Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing on May 30 at IMS. After battling Palou for 19 laps, Helio completed the winning pass on the outside of Turn 1 on Lap 199 of the scheduled 200. Castroneves’ margin of victory was just 0.4928-seconds. Castroneves joined A.J. Foyt Jr., the late Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of the Indy 500.

Chip Ganassi Racing drivers occupied four of the top six spots in qualifying, with all five of its drivers in the top-12 of the starting grid on Sunday. NBC’s coverage will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) along with Telemundo Deportes on Universo and INDYCAR Radio Network.

Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden was the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver, sixth at 226.962 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Meanwhile, series regular Dalton Kellett became the first driver during practice or qualifying this month to make significant contact with the wall. At 2:27 p.m., Kellett did a half-spin in Turn 1 and made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier with the left side of his No. 4 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. The car suffered heavy damage, but Toronto-area native Kellett was uninjured.

All 33 drivers in the starting field participated in the session, which featured plenty of traffic. The field combined to turn 2,602 laps in just two hours, with Sato leading the laps-completed column with 106.

The track will remain quiet until Friday, when the traditional  Carb Day practice takes place from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Last driver to qualify Sunday during the Firestone Fast Six, Dixon delivered a four-lap/10-mile average speed of 234.046 mph. Dixon’s run broke the all-time pole record speed of 233.718 mph set in 1996 by the late Scott Brayton. Dutchman Arie Luyendyk set the all-time four-lap qualifying average speed record of 236.986 mph in 1996, but his run came on the second day of qualifications and wasn’t eligible for the pole.

Chip Ganassi Racing earned its first 1-2 start at Indianapolis since 2008 _ when Dixon scored his sole victory in the race from pole and the late Dan Wheldon started second _ as Palou qualified second at 233.499 mph.

Rinus VeeKay of The Netherlands earned the last spot in the three-car front row for the second consecutive year, qualifying at 233.385 mph in the No. 21 Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing.

Dixon, Palou and VeeKay are sharing the fastest front row in Indy 500 history, with an average speed of 233.643 mph, breaking the record of 233.233 set in ‘96.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing). 

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Starting grid for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event on Sunday, May 29, at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:33.8162 (234.046 mph)
2. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 02:34.1761 (233.499)
3. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 02:34.2516 (233.385)
4. (33) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:34.4532 (233.080)
5. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 02:34.6630 (232.764)
6. (1) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:34.9243 (232.372)
7. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 02:34.7022 (232.705)
8. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 02:35.0506 (232.182)
9. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 02:35.1729 (231.999)
10. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.3935 (231.670)
11. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:35.4846 (231.534)
12. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 02:35.6664 (231.264)
13. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 02:35.4356 (231.607)
14. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:35.4541 (231.580)
15. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 02:35.5019 (231.508)
16. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 02:35.6590 (231.275)
17. (11) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.7684 (231.112)
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:35.8451 (230.999)
19. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 02:35.8707 (230.961)
20. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.9713 (230.812)
21. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.0022 (230.766)
22. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.2064 (230.464)
23. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.2875 (230.345)
24. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 02:36.3002 (230.326)
25. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 02:36.3620 (230.235)
26. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 02:36.4167 (230.154)
27. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 02:36.7741 (229.630)
28. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 02:36.9269 (229.406)
29. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 02:37.2628 (228.916)
30. (6) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:37.4655 (228.622)
31. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 02:38.5531 (227.053)
32. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:38.6944 (226.851)
33. (25) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, no time (no speed)

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 24 2022
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