Alex Palou will start first in Indy 500 after record-setting pole run

AP photo by Darron Cummings / Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou celebrates after winning the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 during qualifying Sunday afternoon.

INDIANAPOLIS — Alex Palou will lead the field to green in the Indianapolis 500 after the young Spaniard put together the fastest four-lap pole run in history Sunday, edging Rinus VeeKay and Felix Rosenqvist to give Chip Ganassi Racing its third consecutive pole position in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Palou, who won on the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway one week earlier, whipped four laps around the historic 2.5-mile oval at an average of 234.217 mph. That was a mere 0.007 mph faster than VeeKay, who still gave Ed Carpenter Racing a starting spot on the front row for the ninth time in 11 years.

"It means the world to me now, to the boys, to everybody," said Palou, who is likely moving to Arrow McLaren next year.

He roared when Rosenqvist missed out on the pole for Arrow McLaren in the last run of the day.

"I'm just super happy," said Palou, who surpassed the record pole run of 234.046 mph that Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon put up last year. It also was the second-fastest qualifying effort, trailing only Arie Luyendyk's 236.986, which he set the day after pole qualifying in 1996.

"He did exactly what he needed to do. He'll be the first to tell you it was a total team effort," said Ganassi, who put a car on the pole at the Indy 500 for the eighth time. "We're going to sail into the 500 starting on the pole. We're pretty excited."

Palou was confident he had a fast car, even though Rosenqvist was quickest during the Fast 12 efforts earlier in the day.

"We have to go fast. Are you ready to go really fast?" team manager Barry Wanser asked Palou over the radio as the 26-year-old headed off pit road under sunny skies and before a huge crowd lining the old speedway. "Let's get it done."

He did, and his rivals were left looking for more.

"I got everything out of it. Wish I had just a little more," VeeKay said. "It's so close, and the thing really had a shot for the pole position, but also I'm a bit spoiled to say that. This is only the start to the race. Proud of the team, proud of the whole crew."

Santino Ferrucci qualified fourth, on the inside of the second row for underdog A.J. Foyt Racing, which has turned heads all week. Rookie Foyt driver Benjamin Pedersen also made the Fast 12 and will start in 11th position next Sunday.

Pato O'Ward will start alongside Ferrucci. Dixon, who was going for a record third straight pole, qualified in sixth.

Alexander Rossi was the fastest of those who failed to make the Fast Six, putting him seventh on the grid. He'll be on the inside of the third row along with Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan, who will start ninth in what he has said will be his final Indy 500.

The others who failed to advance to the pole shootout were 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who will start 10th for the strong Ganassi contingent, Pedersen and Will Power, the lone Team Penske driver to make the Fast 12 from Saturday's qualifying runs.

"All weekend we've been struggling to do four laps. It's been an issue pretty much every day," Ericsson said. "This morning we did three pretty good laps (in practice) and had a moment. I did stay flat-out for four laps but just had too much sliding."

VeeKay had his own moment during practice when smoke came out of the back of the No. 21 car. The engineers from his Ed Carpenter Racing team determined it was a failed header with no damage to the engine. They felt confident sending him onto the warm track for the qualifying session that lasted an hour.

"This morning was a bit tough. A bit tough. We had some issues," VeeKay said. "But the 21 crew, they gave me their A-game. We even had time to spare. The engine felt great. The car felt great. All I had to do was stay flat-out for four laps."

That's what Ferrucci did, too, as the Foyt team has become the feel-good story of Gasoline Alley. Last month, A.J. Foyt lost his wife of 68 years, Lucy, and the 88-year-old thought about skipping out on May in Indianapolis, where he's one of four drivers who have won the race four times.

Foyt decided to come, though, and has been treated to some of the fastest laps around the track by his own team. He watched both qualifying sessions inside a closed garage and asked that all interview requests be held until the end of the day.

But when Ferrucci returned to the garage to see Foyt after his qualifying run, he was followed by an entourage of well-wishers, including former Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George and Jim Campbell, head of Chevrolet's racing program.

"That's the fastest I've ever been for four laps," said Ferrucci, who nearly clipped the wall on his first lap during the Fast 12, moments after his team told him over the radio: "Remember we have to race this thing. Let's not do anything dumb."

Foyt cars had not advanced into the qualifying shootout rounds for the Indy 500 since the format was introduced in 2010. Foyt himself won four Indianapolis 500 poles — all while he was the team owner. He was the first driver to ever win the Indy 500 four times, a club that only added its fourth member when Helio Castroneves won in 2021.

Earlier in the day, Graham Rahal was bumped from the field by teammate Jack Harvey, who was a mere .007 mph better.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan organization was in a terrible position headed into the last-chance qualifying session because all three of its full-time drivers were in the bottom four after Saturday. Four drivers — rookie Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal, Harvey and their teammate Christian Lundgaard — returned Sunday to compete for the final three spots in the 33-team field

Harvey needed three qualifying runs to bump Rahal from the field, which happened as time expired on the session and Rahal was left watching on an iPad from inside his car. There was no time left for Rahal to make another run, and he was devastated.

"I knew from the start we were in trouble," Rahal said.

Harvey, who is fighting to keep both his job at RLL and save his IndyCar career, took little joy in bumping his teammate from the field.

Said Harvey: "It's an amazing feeling and an awful feeling at the same time."