Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – SPEEDWAY, IN – Alex Palou won the NTT P1 Award for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday with the fastest pole speed in the history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Palou earned his first career “500” pole, becoming the first Spaniard to take the top spot, with a four-lap average speed of 234.217 mph (2 minutes, 33.7037 seconds) in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda during the dramatic Firestone Fast Six session. He delivered Chip Ganassi Racing its third consecutive Indy 500 pole. CGR is the first team to win three straight Indy poles since Team Penske won four in a row from 1988-91.
“It means the world to me now,” Palou said. “It was really tight, but the 10 car crew did an amazing job. Super proud of the work they did all month, all year to get to this point. We knew we had to go aggressive, to trim the car a lot to get a good first lap and try to be consistent. The fourth lap was really tough to keep it flat, but we did it. I knew it was one chance only.”
This is the fastest field in Indianapolis 500 history. The average speed for the 33-car field is 232.184, shattering the record of 231.023 set last year.
Rinus VeeKay will start second in the No. 21 Bitnile.com Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing after his four-lap average of 234.211. That’s the second-closest margin in terms of speed between the top two qualifiers in Indy 500 history, as the .006 of a mph margin was bested only by the .003 gap between pole sitter Ryan Briscoe and James Hinchcliffe in 2012. The .0040 of a second gap between Palou and VeeKay broke the record for the closest time margin between the top qualifiers, .01 between pole sitter Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford in 1970.
Felix Rosenqvist earned the outside front-row starting spot after qualifying third at 234.114 in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
All three front-row starters were faster than the previous pole record of 234.046 set last year by Scott Dixon. Only Arie Luyendyk’s mighty run of 236.986, set on the second day of qualifying in 1996 and not eligible for pole, is faster.
This also was the closest front row in Indianapolis 500 history by speed, as .103 of a mph separated the top three. The previous record was .112 between pole sitter James Hinchcliffe, No. 2 qualifier Josef Newgarden and No. 3 qualifier Ryan Hunter-Reay in the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016.
Santino Ferrucci continued a magical month for AJ Foyt Racing by qualifying fourth at 233.661 in the No. 14 Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet. Pato O’Ward was fifth at 233.158 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, and six-time series champion Scott Dixon rounded out the Firestone Fast Six and second row at 233.151 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Palou was the third driver on track in the gripping Firestone Fast Six, which put the six fastest drivers from the Top 12 Qualifying session earlier in the day in competition for the pole on the 2.5-mile oval. VeeKay, Ferrucci and Rosenqvist followed but couldn’t topple him.
“It was not ideal, honestly,” Palou said of watching the last three qualifying attempts. “It was tougher than doing the four laps.”
Christian Lundgaard, Sting Ray Robb and Jack Harvey earned the final three spots in the 33-car field in an incredibly dramatic Last Chance Qualifying. Harvey bumped his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate and 15-time Indianapolis 500 starter Graham Rahal by 44 10-thousandths of a second over the 10-mile qualifying run on the last attempt of the session.
Practice for the 33-car field takes place from 1-3 p.m. ET Monday (live, Peacock and INDYCAR Radio Network). Public gates open at 11 a.m. It’s the last on-track session before the final practice from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Miller Lite Carb Day, Friday, May 26.
The 107th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network).