Spain’s Alex Palou seized pole position for the 107th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday with the fastest pole run ever for the storied race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Palou, who will be the first Spaniard to start from pole, launched his final four-lap qualifying bid in the Fast Six pole position session with a lap at 235.131 mph (378.41 Km/h) and held on through a dicey fourth lap to average 234.217 mph (376.94 Km/h).
The third driver of the session, Palou then could only watch nervously as three more drivers tried to bump him.
Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus VeeKay of the Netherlands was up next and came the closest with an average of 234.211, which would hold up for the second-fastest time of the day.
Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist, who had topped both Saturday’s first qualifying session and Sunday morning’s Fast 12 session, then came close but settled for the third spot on the grid with a four-lap average of 234.114.
All three front-row starters for next Sunday’s race were faster than the previous pole record of 234.046 mph set last year by New Zealand’s Scott Dixon.
Only Arie Luyendyk’s stunning qualifying run of 236.986, set on the second day of qualifying in 1996 when pole position was not at stake, is faster.
Palou’s margin over VeeKay is the second-closest in terms of speed between the top two qualifiers in Indy 500 history.
AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci was fourth-fastest at 233.661, Mexico’s Pato O’Ward was fifth-quickest at 233.158 and Chip Ganassi’s Dixon — a six-time IndyCar champion who was chasing a third straight Indy 500 pole — rounded out the top six at 233.151 mph.
“We knew it was going to be tight — it was really tight,” said Palou, who added that waiting to see if his time would hold up was “tougher than doing the four laps.”
The second day of qualifying produced drama at the back of the grid as well as the four slowest from Saturday’s session fought for the final three spots in the 33-car field in the Last Chance session.
Briton Jack Harvey was the odd man out after the first runs, but made a last-ditch effort without allowing his engine to cool and managed to bump Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal from the field.
“You can’t do anything,” a devastated Rahal told NBC after hugging everyone on his team. “You’ve just got to be positive. We just came up short. This place, it doesn’t come easy.
“It doesn’t just happen. We weren’t good enough. I knew from the start we were in trouble.”
A relieved Harvey found little to celebrate in bumping his teammate by a margin measured at four one-thousandths of a second.
“It’s an amazing feeling and an awful feeling at the same time,” he said.
The weekend’s two days of qualifying produced the fastest Indy 500 field in history with an average speed of 232.184 mph. That shattered the record of 231.023 set last year.
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