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Indy 500 Qualifying 2021: Start Time, TV Schedule and Pole Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMay 23, 2021

Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, drives through the first turn during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Nine drivers will be vying for the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. And just about half of them are members of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ganassi's Scott Dixon had the fastest four-lap average speed during Saturday's first qualifying session, so he will be the last driver to take the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Sunday's Fast Nine shootout. During that session, the nine fastest drivers from Saturday will have an opportunity to win the pole by participating in another four-lap run.

That won't be the only Indy 500 qualifying action Sunday. There will also be the Bump Day session, in which the five slowest drivers from Saturday will try to secure spots in the Indianapolis 500, set for May 30. Only three of them will make it into the field, while the other two won't qualify.

Here's everything else you need to know heading into Sunday's qualifying sessions.

                      

Indy 500 Qualifying Information

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Date: Sunday, May 23

Start Time: 1 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Live Stream: NBC Sports app

                       

Preview, Pole Prediction

It's been quite a while since Scott Dixon earned his lone career win in the Indianapolis 500. He raced to victory in 2008, which is also when he won one of his six IndyCar Series championships.

However, it's no surprise that Dixon had an average speed of 231.828 mph during Saturday's qualifying session or that he could win the pole Sunday. He's started first in the Indy 500 three times (most recently in 2017), and he's fared well in the marquee event in recent years, even though he hasn't claimed a second victory in the race.

Dixon finished second in the 2020 Indianapolis 500, marking the eighth time that he's placed eighth or better since he won the race more than a decade ago. But if Dixon is going to win the pole again, he will have to best eight other drivers, including his three Chip Ganassi Racing teammates: Tony Kanaan, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson.

"To have all four [Ganassi] cars in the Fast Nine is pretty massive, especially with the competition level we have these days," Dixon said, per Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. "Obviously a huge shoutout to Honda for bringing the performance that they have."

The four Ganassi cars aren't the only Hondas competing in the Fast Nine. There will also be two from Andretti Autosport (driven by Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay), as well as Helio Castroneves' Meyer Shank Racing car. The only two non-Hondas will be the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets driven by Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay.

While Dixon was the fastest Saturday, Kanaan was third, Palou was seventh and Ericsson was ninth. If they keep it up heading into May 30, perhaps Chip Ganassi Racing will have its first Indianapolis 500 victory since Dario Franchitti won the race in 2012.

It's worth noting that none of the four Team Penske cars will be in the Fast Nine, even though the team has won two of the past three Indy 500s. Not only that, but 2018 winner Will Power will be one of the five drivers in the Bump Day session who will be in danger of missing the race.

Still, there are plenty of experienced drivers in the Fast Nine shootout. In addition to Dixon, Castroneves (2001, 2002 and 2009), Kanaan (2013) and Hunter-Reay (2014) are former Indy 500 winners. So if Dixon is going to pace the field again, he will have to outperform some strong competition.

But there's a good chance that happens. Dixon's greatest competition will likely be Herta (231.648), Kanaan (231.639) and Carpenter (231.616), all of whom also had fast times Saturday. However, Dixon was a notch above that trio.

Expect that to be the case again Sunday. Dixon will benefit from being the last driver on the track because he will know what speed he needs to beat. And by the time he's completed his laps, he will have secured his fourth career Indy 500 pole.

Perhaps this will even be the year when Dixon finally goes on to notch his second career Indianapolis 500 win.

Prediction: Dixon wins Indy 500 pole.

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