For the first time since 1987, and Andretti will lead the field of 33 to the green flag for the Indianapolis 500.
Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those words mean so much to racing fans across the world, and today’s Fast Nine qualifying delivered the goods. The excitement level is always high, but even more so today with the tricky wind throwing a curveball into things. The drama played itself out perfectly, as the battle for pole position came down to Scott Dixon and the final run of the day by Marco Andretti. When the checkered flag fell, it was Marco narrowly edging out Dixon for his first career Indy 500 pole.
Mario Andretti started on pole 33 years ago and led 170 laps before an ignition issue ended his day. The Andretti Curse could finally come to an end this year, although it be in August instead of May. Stranger things have certainly happened in 2020, as well have all witnessed. Dixon nearly had his fourth Indy 500 pole in hand, but that one didn’t turn out very well for him either. That 2017 race ended badly for him when he got airborne after launching off the back of Jay Howard’s car.
Joining Marco and Dixon on the front row this year will be the winner of that 2017 race, Takuma Sato. It is the first career front row start for the Japanese driver, who was the first to qualify on Sunday. His time held up, and he fared much better than his RLL Racing teammate Graham Rahal. Rookie Rinus VeeKay, the only Chevrolet driver in the Fast Nine, put on an impressive performance and will start 4th in his maiden Indy 500. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 race winner, will start in the middle of Row 2, while teammate James Hinchcliffe will start 6th on Sunday. Row 3 features another rookie in Alex Palou, a veteran in Graham Rahal, and a former winner in Alexander Rossi.
Qualification Results for the Indianapolis 500
It was surprising to see the majority of the Andretti cars struggle after dominating practice and qualifying leading up to today. Still, they are in prime position to capture yet another Indy 500 win, with Marco on pole, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe in Row 2, and Rossi and Colton Herta starting in 9th and 10th. This is the second-fastest Indy 500 field in history. Only the 2014 field had a faster average speed among the 33 entries.
Marco’s four-lap average speed during his pole-winning run was 231.068 mph, besting Dixon by .017 mph. His Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay said it best. “Andretti on the pole at Indianapolis. Too bad we couldn’t hear the place blow up with cheers.” Imagine the uproar of the crowd that would have descended upon Marco and the team following his incredible run. IMS President Doug Boles was out with some fans along 16th street and got a small taste of what it could have been like.
With the field now set for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, the teams and drivers can now focus on race day setups. Qualifying may be over, but there is still plenty of action on tap for today. Practice will continue at 3:30 today and run until 6 PM tonight. This session will air live on NBC Sports Network. Once practice concludes this evening, the only other time the cars will see the track before the race will be the 2 1/2 hour final practice on Carb Day on Friday. That will also air live on NBC Sports Network.
NBC’s coverage for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 will begin at 1 PM ET with the green flag waving around 2:30 PM.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar