Scott Dixon will start from the front row of the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 after the Kiwi put in a scintillating Fast Nine run, only to be piped to the pole by a last gasp effort by Marco Andretti with the final run of the day.
Andreretti and Dixon were the only two drivers who broke the 231mph barrier over their four-lap average, the Kiwi the first to do so on his run to lay down a 231.051.
That time looked set for pole as one-by-one other drivers struggled to get anywhere close to Dixon’s benchmark.
But yesterday’s provisional pole-sitter and the final driver to set a lap, Andretti lit up the timing screens with his first two laps that both bettered Dixon’s time. A disappointing third lap followed by the No.98 Andretti Autosports Honda but he prevailed in his final tour to notch pole by just 0.017mph over four laps.
The pole gives the Andretti fraternity its first P1 award at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Marco’s grandfather, Mario Andretti, did so in 1987.
“He deserves it,” praised Dixon. “I know what this place means to his family and especially him.
“He did a good job even under this pressure to make it work. If anyone was going to do it, I hoped it was Marco.”
Dixon has scored pole for the great race on three separate occasions, the last of which being in 2017 where an infamous airborne crash ruled him out from a shot at victory. However, the only time the Kiwi has won the race was from the front row back in 2008.
Takuma Sato makes up the final spot on the front row as Honda locked out a 1-2-3. The sole Chevrolet in the shootout was Rinus Veekay will put in a Herculean effort on his run to fall marginally shy of Sato by 0.021mph to miss out on a shock front row start.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe struggled to match the blistering pace of their Andretti teammate and made up the middle and outside positions in the second row.
A lightning first lap by Alex Palou ended up being the fastest one lap speed of the session – 231.901mph – but his pace faded away in the latter stages and could only muster seventh. He will be joined by Graham Rahal and 2016 winner Alexander Rossi.
The 104th running of the famed Indy 500 will start next Monday NZT from 4.30 am NZT.