Scott Dixon, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud

Indianapolis 500 Mile Race qualifying results

Road course, street circuit or oval, rain or wind (or both), starting from the rear of the field or dealing with the pressure of being the pole sitter in the biggest motorsports race in the world, Scott Dixon hasn’t been able to claim 36 Indy car victories without a strong measure of adaptability.

A stirring example was May 17, when the long-tenured Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver earned the Verizon P1 Award for the pole position in qualifications for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Rain on May 16, which eventually canceled the first day of the scheduled format, began pelting the 2.5-mile oval just after Dixon’s first of four qualifying laps at 231.357 mph.

The next morning, Dixon acknowledged he’d be a pole contender if the weather and track conditions cooperated. But all projections became muddled when INDYCAR removed the 40 horsepower derived from an uptick in engine boost pressure and instructed entries to use their race set-ups in the revised format because of an early morning practice crash involving CFFH Racing co-owner/driver Ed Carpenter. The incident in Turn 2 was the third in the past five days in which a race car became briefly airborne.

Because of track repairs and implementing the aerodynamic bodywork and engine control unit changes, the new schedule gave each entry one four-lap qualifying attempt. Dixon was the fourth to get on the track, and he waited through 29 other runs before raising a hand in celebration.

“It's a tough week, no matter which way you look at it,” said Dixon, who said he returned to his motorcoach for much of the remainder of the session. “The curveballs that you get with the weather, but you understand that's part of the Month of May. It's very tough, the conditions are tough, and especially when you're trimming out.

“Huge credit to Chevrolet. They've done an amazing job with these body kits. The low downforce, high boost, our car was extremely fast in that configuration and then having to switch to the other configuration brings uncertainty because we had a 30‑minute session to try and work out what the competition had and what we needed to improve on, which makes it very tough.

“Safety is obviously a big part of the sport, and it's a big part of motor racing in general.  I think if you look at oval racing as some of the most dangerous, (May 15) we were going into Turn 3 over 240 miles an hour.  The speeds are definitely up, and I think when you have manufacturers spending money on trying to make the cars go faster with horsepower and aero kits, that's going to create these bigger speeds.

“I think with the crashes we've seen, they've all been in very different scenarios, very different situations.  Two were in low boost, one was a flat tire, one was very close in traffic.

“We don't want to see cars getting in the air, and there's only a few tools that you have in the toolbox to use, and INDYCAR, whether it's the right or wrong situation, for safety, it's kind of all they had.

Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, recorded a four-lap average speed of 226.760 mph. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power (226.350 mph) and Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud (226.145 mph) also qualified on the front row.

Dixon’s best lap in practice before the superspeedway aero platform alterations was 233.001 mph. Helio Castroneves topped the speed chart at 233.474 mph, which is the fastest lap at the Speedway since Eddie Cheever Jr.’s 236.103 mph lap in the 1996 Indy 500.

“(In qualifying) the speeds came down. With the speeds down, obviously I think the safety is going to get better anyway,” Dixon said.

Dixon returned to the racetrack May 18 to fine-tune the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet for the 200-lap race May 24. The last time he started from pole at Indianapolis he won the 2008 race.

“For me, the effort for qualifying and how it was for pole, Team Target just did an amazing job,” Dixon said. “The whole Chip Ganassi organization did a phenomenal job to obviously set their sights on a different way to try and go for the pole that they had to for later this afternoon.

“Excited we're on the pole for the 99th running of the Indy 500. We've got a lot of work to do and a lot of laps before we can try and have a crack at the race win.”