Day By Day At Indianapolis: Pole Day

Scott Dixon and team owner Chip Ganassi. Pole winner for the 2015 Indianapolis 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Scott Dixon (with team owner Chip Ganassi) won the pole for the 99th Indianapolis 500.  [Russ Lake Photo]


by Mary Champion


Sunday, May 17 – When all was said and done, after a very strange day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver and 2008 Indy 500 winner, Scott Dixon was on the pole for the 99th Indianapolis 500.

The qualifying schedule had been altered for the day after yesterday’s qualifications were scrubbed due to rain.

The day’s original schedule called for two practice sessions, the first to begin at 8:00 a.m., and qualifying to start at 10:00 a.m.

Practice did begin at 8:00 a.m. with speeds over 230 mph being recorded by 10 drivers in just 15 minutes of practice.

At 8:15, after recording a lap at 231 mph, Ed Carpenter spun and hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. The car then overturned and the rear of the car hit the catch fence. The car then slid down the track on its side and came to rest on the inside of the track.

Carpenter was unhurt and cleared to drive by the track medical staff.

Carpenter’s incident was the third this week in which a car got upside down in an accident. All three cars had Chevrolet engines and aero kits.

The track went green and promptly again went yellow as track and fence repairs were required after Carpenter’s incident.

On Friday and Saturday, when the boost was increased for “Fast Friday” and qualifying, speeds increased dramatically.

While the track was being repaired, a meeting ensued with INDYCAR officials, car owners, drivers and manufacturers.

The meeting continued on past the original time for qualifying to start and the time for qualifying kept getting pushed back.

Finally an announcement was made of a revised schedule for the day.

There would be two 30-minute practice sessions, which would begin at 1:30 p.m. and qualifying would begin at 3:15 p.m. Qualifying would consist of one attempt for all cars in the original qualifying line.

After the original line was through, there would be a 30-minute break and the 31st through 33rd qualifiers and any unqualified cars would have a 45-minute session in which the final three would have their times with drawn and would have to re-qualify and unqualified cars also would have a chance to “bump” their way into the last row. Also, there would be no “Fast Nine Shootout.”


Shortly before noon, Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, parent company of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway released the following statement:


“This morning we saw a third car get into the wall, turn backward and lift into the air. We’ve said all along we want to go faster, but we want to do so safely.

“As a precautionary measure, INDYCAR will require that the cars qualify today in the same aero setup that they will run in the Indianapolis 500 next weekend. Also, for today, boost levels will return to race conditions. Given these changes, we have elected to not award points for today’s qualifications.

“Safety for drivers and fans is the top priority for INDYCAR and we will continue to be proactive in our research and development to improve all safety aspects of our sport.”


In another statement, Miles said, “The decision is based on out commitment to safety. We’re committed to protecting the safety as best we possibly can of the competitors, the drivers and our fans, and perhaps we’re being cautious, but we think that that’s the responsible thing to do.”


The engine boost was originally scheduled to be 40 kPa for qualifying but was reduced to the 30 kPa the cars will run in the race.

The announcement meant that the teams had to make a lot of changes to the cars in a very short time. Bodywork had to be reconfigures to reduce downforce on the cars and the engines had to be retuned to reflect the lower boost.

One of the reasons for the change was to reduce the speeds of the cars in hopes of preventing further serious incidents.

When the afternoon practice started it was evident that the attempts to lower track speeds had been successful.

Will Power set the fastest practice speed at 227.377 mph, while the fastest morning practice speed was set by Scott Dixon at 233.001 mph.

With everything transpired off track, qualifying itself was almost anticlimactic.

The qualifying order was the same as it had been on Saturday. Saturday’s first two qualifiers, Carlos Huertas and Ryan Hunter-Reay, had to qualify a second time as their times from yesterday were erased when the rest of qualifying was rained out.

Saturday, Scott Dixon, who was the third driver who went out to qualify, turned in one lap at 231-plus mph before the rest of the run was washed out.

Today, as the fourth driver to qualify, Dixon posted a four-lap average of 226.760 mph.

Following the run, Dixon waited to see where the time would put him in the field.

As car after car qualified, Dixon waited. Tony Kanaan qualified. Will Power qualified. JR Hildebrand qualified,

As the number of qualified cars increased, Dixon’s time still held up as the fastest.

Simon Pagenaud qualified, then Helio Castroneves.

As Dixon’s chief rivals for the pole continued to set times not as fast as Dixon’s, he realized the pole might well be his.

As it turned out, when all 33 cars in line had qualified, the pole belonged to Dixon.

“We knew we had a really good combination with the extra boost and the low downforce, we worked pretty hard on them. Today was a little bit of an unknown. I knew we’d be good to start near the front, but whether you can get the pole is a totally different story,” Dixon said.

“We knew Penske, the foursome, would throw a big punch today. The weather with us going a little bit early might have helped too. (I give) a huge, huge credit to the team,” he added.

When qualifying ended, the cars in positions 31-33 (drivers Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti and Bryan Clauson) had their times withdrawn and, along with Buddy Lazier, who had not previously attempted to qualify, were given a 45 minute time period to again qualify as many times as they were able to do so in the allotted time.

Hawksworth, who was second quickest in the pre-qualifying practice session commented on his poor performance in qualifying, “We thought the day was going quite well and that we would be competitive, but then it went terrible. The car felt fine in the corners but we couldn’t pull the gear down the straight for whatever reason.”

Hawksworth, Coletti and Clauson all re-qualified in their original positions and, in spite of taking two attempts, Buddy Lazier, did not have the speed to bump his way into the field.

The field will have a short practice session tomorrow to work with the changes to the cars.

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