Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dixon Balances ‘Fine Line’ in Historic Performance to Capture Indy 500 Pole

Scott Dixon celebrates capturing the pole for the 106th Indianapolis 500.
Scott Dixon celebrates capturing the pole for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

It is hard to truly encapsulate the legend of Scott Dixon.

Honestly, the best description is probably not met with words but simply a replay of his Fast Six run for the 106th Indianapolis 500.

The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion lived up to his nickname as the “Iceman” with a cold and fierce performance, setting a pace of 234.046 mph – the fastest four-lap average speed for pole in history.

By virtue of setting the quickest pace during the Fast 12, Dixon was among the six to advance and went out last for the pole shootout. One by one each driver delivered maximum effort, including Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

Dixon, patiently waiting for his turn, finally was given the opportunity to seize the moment and set the tone immediately with a thunderous opening lap at 234.437 mph. From there, it was simply about holding a smooth wheel and not allowing much falloff lap-to-lap en route to the pole-winning run.

“The first number does mean a lot,” Dixon said of the opening lap speed. “When I think we had a 234.7 or something. When I saw that I was, like, ‘Okay, this is going to be a good run.’ Then because of the sequencing you have to do now with so many changes of buttons and switches and controls and weight jacker and roll bars, you are busy, so you are consumed. Gone are the days in the early years where you would kind of just try to hit your apexes and enjoy the speed that you had.

“There’s a lot going on, and if you miss one part of the sequence, it will take you out of it, so it’s stressful. But that first number is definitely – that’s what you want to see. It makes the rest of it go a little bit easier.”

One element that simply comes down to the mercy of the ‘Racing Gods’ is how the conditions will be when the time comes to hit the 2.5 miles of asphalt that consumes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It kind of depends,” said Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champion. “You kind of are just seeing where the numbers are. When I saw the numbers that were run, I knew that our first run, even though we had a big hiccup on the last lap, really brought our average down quite a bit. Probably two or three tenths (of a second).

“I knew we still had a pretty high 33 in the car in that configuration. And knowing what Alex had done and what we were going to do, I think we knew we had a pretty big number. It was just such a fine line of it being comfortable and nice to drive to it just completely taking off.

“Huge credit to all the drivers the last couple of days because everybody has taken big risks, and the track is really tough to read, and sometimes you nail it, and sometimes you don’t. It makes it fun when you get it right.”

Sunday’s result gives Dixon his fifth pole – second consecutive – in the Indy 500, moving him into sole ownership of second on the all-time list behind only Rick Mears (six). While the achievement is monumental in its own right, Dixon noted he would prefer to equal Mears’ record of four victories in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I would much rather have the three more victories he has than I do,” Dixon said. “That’s plain and simple. A pole is fantastic and it is a privilege, but everybody wants to win, man.”

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