INDIANAPOLIS — Alex Palou will lead the field to the green in the Indianapolis 500 after the young Spaniard set the fastest four-lap pole run in history Sunday, edging out Rinus VeeKay and Felix Rosenqvist to take the lead. will give Chip Ganassi Racing its third consecutive pole in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Palou, who won the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week, turned four laps of the historic 2.5-mile speedway at an average of 234.217 mph. That was just 0.007 mph faster than VeeKay, who still gave Ed Carpenter Racing a front-row starting spot for the ninth time in the past 11 years.
“It means the world to me now, to the boys, to everybody,” said Palou, who will probably move to Arrow McLaren next year.
He roared when Rosenqvist missed out on pole for the Arrow McLaren in the final run of the day.
“I’m just super happy,” said Palou.
Palou surpassed the record pole run of 234.046 mph set by Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon last year. It was also the second-fastest qualifying effort, trailing only Arie Luyendyk’s 236.986, which he set the day after qualifying on the pole in 1996.
“He did exactly what he had to do. He’ll be the first to tell you it was a total team effort,” said Ganassi, who put a car on the Indy 500 pole for the eighth time. “We’re going to the 500 starting from the pole. We’re very excited.”
Palou is confident he has a fast car, even though Rosenqvist was fastest during Fast 12 efforts earlier in the day.
“We have to go fast. Are you ready to go really fast?” team manager Barry Wanser asked Palou on the radio, as the 26-year-old headed down pit road under sunny skies and in front of a crowd lined up at the old pace. “Let’s do it.”
He did, and his opponents were left looking for more.
“I got everything out of it. I wish I had a little more,” VeeKay said. “It’s very close, and the thing has a shot for pole position, but again, I’m a little spoiled to say that. This is just the beginning of the race. Proud of the team, proud of the whole crew.”
Santino Ferrucci finished fourth, inside Row 2 for underdog AJ Foyt Racing, who had been in the headlines all weekend. Rookie Foyt driver Benjamin Pedersen also made the Fast 12 and will start 11th for the May 28 race.
Pato O’Ward will start alongside Ferrucci with Dixon, who will go for his third pole in a row, qualifying sixth.
Alexander Rossi was the fastest of those who failed to make the Fast Six, placing him seventh on the grid. He will be inside Row 3 with Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan, who will start ninth in what he says will be his final Indy 500.
Others who failed to advance in the pole shootout were defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who will start 10th for the strong Ganassi contingent, Pedersen and Will Power, the lone driver of Team Penske will make the Fast 12 from Saturday’s qualifying run.
“Throughout the week we struggled to do four laps. It’s an issue almost every day,” said Ericsson. “This morning we did three good laps [in practice] and there was a moment. I stayed flat for four laps, but the sliding was too much. “
VeeKay had his own moment during practice when smoke came out of the back of No. 21 cars. Engineers from his Ed Carpenter Racing team determined it was a failed header, and that no damage was done to the engine. They said they were confident of sending him to the hot, sun-splashed track for an hour-long qualifying session.
“This morning was a bit difficult. A bit difficult. We had some issues,” said VeeKay, “but the 21 crew, they gave me their A-game. We even had time to spare. The engine felt like good. The car felt good. All I had to do was stay flat-out for four laps.”
So did Ferrucci, as the Foyt team became a great story in Gasoline Alley. AJ Foyt lost his wife of 68 years, Lucy, last month, and the 88-year-old Foyt is thinking about skipping May in Indianapolis, where he is one of four four-time winners. in the race.
Foyt decided to come, though, and was treated to some of the fastest laps on the track by his own team. He watched the two qualifying sessions inside a closed garage and asked that all interview requests be made by the end of the day.
But when Ferrucci returned to the garage to see Foyt after his qualifying run, he was followed by an entourage of well-wishers that included former Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George and Jim Campbell, head of the program. in Chevrolet racing.
“That’s the fastest I’ve done in four laps,” said Ferrucci, who nearly clipped the wall on his first lap during the Fast 12, moments after his team told him over the radio: “Remember we have to race this thing. Let’s not do something stupid.”
Foyt cars have not advanced to the qualifying shootout rounds for the Indy 500 since the format was introduced in 2010.
Foyt himself won four Indianapolis 500 poles — while he owned the team. He is the first driver to win four Indy 500s, a club that added its fourth member only in 2021 when Helio Castroneves won his fourth.
Foyt was quick to point out after Ferrucci finished fourth that Foyt himself has never won the 500 from the front row, but has twice done so from fourth and both were his last two Indy 500 victories.