Marco Andretti has rocketed to his maiden Indianapolis 500 pole position after a stunning final run in the Firestone Fast Nine shootout.
As the wind picked up for the final day of qualifying ahead of the 104th running of the Indy 500, drivers were handed a huge challenge to set their cars up for the difficult conditions around the speedway.
Andretti had looked strong throughout the practice sessions earlier in the week and was able to carry that form into qualifying with a very solid run beating Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon by just .017mph.
His pole position means it is the first time an Andretti has been on the pole for the prestigious event since 1987.
Dixon set the marker to beat for the Andretti Autosport drivers with a lap four-lap average higher than 230mph, however, the Kiwi was unable to end his own pole drought which goes back three years to the 2017 Indy 500.
Takuma Sato was the first to hit the track out of the nine drivers and set a speed which was still good enough to leave the 2018 Indy 500 winner with a front-row start – his best in 11 attempts at the Brickyard.
Rookie Rinus VeeKay was the only Chevrolet runner inside the Fast Nine shootout, but made his attempt count and nearly toppled Sato in the speed charts. The young Dutch driver will start fourth for his first Indy 500 for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Ryan Hunter-Reay looked set for a solid run but his pace dropped off quickly during his four-lap run, leaving the 2014 winner in the middle of the second row.
James Hinchcliffe ended the first day of qualifying fastest overall, but despite a fast, clean run he couldn’t carry the speed into the final shootout and will start race from sixth.
Dale Coyne’s Alex Palou set the fastest one lap speed at 231.9mph but a huge drop off over the run meant he couldn’t maintain the speed to finish seventh. The Spaniard mentioned on the radio after the run he felt the weight-jacker wasn’t working as intended.
Graham Rahal appeared to suffer from a lot of understeer during his run, on his final lap he had to take a big lift out of Turn 1 which meant a big drop off on the speed charts leaving the 31-year old eighth on the grid.
2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had been one of the favourites for pole position as part of the Andretti Autosport outfit, but a gamble on seteup didn’t pay off leaving the Californian appearing to struggle with a difficult car during his run. He will start on the outside of the third row in ninth.
The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday August 23 at 14:00 local time.