With recent changes to the Indy 500 qualifying schedule in the past few years, the Sunday before the race is called pole day, since it sets the first three rows of the grid—and yes, that includes the polesitter. And for 2021, your number-one driver will be reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Since there were more cars entered for this event than are allowed to start the race, that meant we’d have two cars getting bumped. Basically, that means the two slowest cars in the field would fail to make it to the grid and would not make the 104th running of the Indy 500. But that’s determined by sending out the slowest five drivers for a session of their own, where each of these drivers duke it out for the final three slots on the grid. It’s always a high-strung and ultra-tense session, but those emotions are ramped up when there are drivers on the brink of getting bumped and failing to make the race.
This year, there were five drivers competing for those three slots: Sage Karam, Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, RC Enerson, and Charlie Kimball.
It was a tense moment as qualifying wrapped up, but as it happened, RC Enerson of Top Gun Racing and Charlie Kimball of AJ Foyt Racing. Top Gun’s failure to make the show was unsurprising, since the team lacked pace all weekend. But it did mean that Beth Paretta and Simona de Silvestro managed to put the first-ever female-forward Indy 500 team on the grid.
On the absolute opposite end of the qualifying spectrum is the Fast Nine Shootout session, which determines the first three rows of the grid as well as the polesitter. These positions are the cream of the crop; you’re always in a good position if you’re in one of the first three rows, since you have a great shot at jumping into the lead at the start of the race and avoiding any rear-row chaos.
But, obviously, everyone wants pole position or, at the very least, a front-row starting spot. And you’re always going to see a mad dash to get there. It kicked off with Rinus Veekay at Ed Carpenter Racing setting the first 232 mph lap of the day and only continued to pick up from there as Colton Herta usurped him. Then, Scott Dixon went out and pipped Herta for pole.
The full grid is as follows:
Row One: Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, Rinus Veekay
Row Two: Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Alex Palou
Row Three: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Marcus Ericsson
Row Four: Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones, Pato O’Ward
Row Five: Pietro Fittipaldi, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato
Row Six: James Hinchcliffe, Scott McLaughlin, Graham Rahal
Row Seven: Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Josef Newgarden
Row Eight: JR Hildebrand, Santino Ferrucci, Juan Pablo Montoya
Row Nine: Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais
Row Ten: Stefan Wilson, Max Chilton, Dalton Kellett
Row Eleven: Sage Karam, Will Power, Simona de Silvestro
Correction May 24, 2021: This article originally listed the Indy 500 as the 104th running of the race. It was actually the 105th. Jalopnik regrets the error.