Alex Palou finished a close second in the 2021 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and qualified second Sunday for this year’s race, but he jumped to the top spot in practice Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, continuing a magical Month of May for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Palou led with a top lap of 229.441 mph in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He was the pacesetter of four Ganassi team cars in the top five.
“We were just getting everything ready for race trim,” Palou said. “The car is even stronger than qualifying. We had a really good day as well.”
Six-time series champion Scott Dixon, who earned the NTT P1 Award for his fifth Indy 500 pole Sunday, was second at 229.000 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and “500” rookie Jimmie Johnson was third at 228.467 in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“It shows the effort this team puts in,” Dixon said about the strong qualifying runs by the organization. “What is even crazier about is that was an effort of five cars and almost all five made it to the Fast Six. Sometimes that effort can get diluted when you add extra cars. For me, it’s huge. I feel privileged and lucky in some ways to be in this position. But it’s all about the race.”
“I’m as determined as ever,” Dixon continued. “The longer you come to this place, and you have four or five second-place finishes and three of those have been under caution, those are the ones that hurt the most because you couldn’t even fight for it. But that is also what keeps the fire really strong. This place owes me nothing. I love coming here. It’s a privilege, and I’m very lucky coming with one of the best teams in the sport.”
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 Nurtec ODT Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with RWR. Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top five at 228.017 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, as Honda-powered drivers swept the top five spots on the 2.5-mile oval.
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 for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge this Sunday (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden was the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver, sixth at 226.962 in the No. 2 Shell Team Penske Chevrolet.
Veteran Dalton Kellett became the first driver during “500” 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 K-LINE/AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet. The car incurred heavy damage, but Toronto-area native Kellett was unhurt in the accident.
“I don’t think this sets us back that far,” he said. “I still feel like on Sunday we’ll be ready to go. I got a run on him on the outside and he stayed in it and I’m thinking he’s going to slot back in, but it’s fair that Grosjean didn’t fall back because I’m the passing car.”
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 2.5-mile IMS oval will stay quiet until Friday, when the Miller Lite Carb Day practice takes place from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. It’s the final session before “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday.