Scott Dixon has ensconced himself inside the Fast Nine and within a shot of pole position for next weekend’s 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 as the Kiwi set an electric 231.155mph four-lap average to finish the final two-hour qualifying session fifth overall.
Dixon had three full runs in the session, each time finding a little more performance from the No.9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda but couldn’t unlock enough performance to usurp a dominant Andretti Autosport outfit who romped to a provisional 1-2-3-4.
Yesterday’s pace setter Marco Andretti continued his incredible run of form to set a thundering 231.351 four-lap average to head the timesheets but had his benchmark time under threat from a last-gasp effort by Dixon.
The five-time series champion had the final laugh in qualifying and set the fastest lap time of the day with a 232.5 mph lap one average. He backed that up with a steady second lap before rolling out of the throttle as to shroud his ultimate pace in mystery.
Despite the impressive run, Dixon still believes Andretti have yet to show their full hand.
“We were just checking a few things for tomorrow, just trying to get the right balance,” said Dixon. “It certainly gets a bit chaotic at the end there with cars jumping in the line and things like that.
“But you are fighting such tiny margins tomorrow that if you could time it right and not be the first one out or the last one out.
“I predict they [Andretti Autosport] have something to come too so we’ll work on it tonight and see what we bring out tomorrow. But I think we are in with a shot.”
“Man, when it all comes together it’s beautiful,” said pacesetter Andretti. “The balance was great. Honda brought it this year, so thanks to them, and now we’ve got to do it one more time tomorrow.”
Behind Dixon, rookie pilot Rinus Veekay was the only Chevrolet in top nine as Honda filled 11 of the top 12 positions.
Alex Palou, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato rounded out the top nine for tomorrow’s shootout.
Dixon was the only car of the Chip Ganassi trio seemingly capable of challenging the formidable Andretti lineup. Marcus Ericsson will start the great race from the fourth row in 11th while Felix Rosenqvist will start 14th.
Penske had a horrid session for all of their cars with Josef Newgarden the top-placed finisher in a lowly 13th.
Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves also struggled and ended up a frustrating 22nd, 25th and 28th.
After his Thursday crash, Fernando Alonso responded with a swift time in the final free practice, but the two-time F1 world champion’s best speed of a 229.700 mph was only strong enough for 26th.
Dixon’s sole Indy 500 triumph to date in 2008 came from starting on pole position, a potential omen should the Kiwi’s lightning pace continue into tomorrow.
The fast nine shootout to determine pole for this year’s Indy 500 kicks off tomorrow morning from 4 am NZT.
|6||Rinus Van Kalmthout||231.114|