Scott Dixon slammed the brakes on IndyCar’s current youth movement by winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 pole by a mere 0.03 seconds on Sunday.
The six-time IndyCar champion was the ninth and final driver to make his four-lap qualifying attempt around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he had to beat a pair of IndyCar’s rising young stars to grab the pole.
Colton Herta, the 21-year-old American signed just last week to a contract extension with Andretti Autosport, made his attempt moments before Dixon. Herta’s average speed of 231.665 mph put him on the pole ahead of Rinus VeeKay, the 20-year-old Dutchman who became a first-time winner a week ago on the road course at Indy.
But then it was time for Dixon, the driver called “The Iceman” who is considered the best of his generation.
He had noticed his crew tinkering with his car but asked no questions. And Dixon didn’t want feedback from his three Ganassi teammates who had already made their qualifying runs.
“It’s so easy to get yourself out of sorts, but you’ve really got to get yourself out there and feel it out,” Dixon said.
His average speed of 231.685 knocked Herta to second and VeeKay to third for the front row for next Sunday’s race. Dixon turns 41 in July — the combined age of the two drivers starting next to him in the Indy 500.
Herta, who is rapidly becoming a star in the series, didn’t complain about being bumped by Dixon.
“I just can’t wait for next Sunday, we’ve got a good race car,” Herta said. “Second place is not too bad of a place to start.”
Honda rolled into the Fast Nine qualifying session with seven drivers compared to two for rival Chevrolet. But the Chevy power seems just fine as VeeKay and team owner Ed Carpenter qualified third and fourth and sat atop the leaderboard until Herta and Dixon made the final two runs of the day.
Lining up next to Carpenter on the second row will be Tony Kanaan, at 46 the oldest driver in the field, and Alex Palou. Kanaan and Palou are Dixon’s teammates at Ganassi, as is Marcus Ericsson, who qualified ninth.
Ryan Hunter-Reay for Andretti was seventh and Helio Castroneves eighth for Meyer Shank Racing.
“If I was a fan I’d be really excited by that Fast Nine qualifying,” said Herta, who then muttered a curse word when he learned his starting position earned him an 8 a.m. Monday photo shoot for the front-row qualifiers.
The first three rows account for six Indy 500 wins and eight series championships among four drivers — proving veteran experience still matters at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s very weird that the guy starting ahead of me was wearing diapers when I started my first Indy 500,” Kanaan said of VeeKay, who will be the youngest driver to start the Indy 500 in its 105 runnings.
In a 75-minute shootout for the final three spots in the field held right before the Fast Nine session, Sage Karam, Will Power and Simona de Silvestro made the race. Charlie Kimball and R.C. Enerson were knocked from the 33-car field.