The field in the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 is the fastest in the storied race’s history. The driver leading that field is the fastest pole qualifier in the 500’s history. And front and center on that driver’s car is the initiative addressing the most important issue for The American Legion right now – an initiative that will be seen by hundreds of thousands at the race and millions watching on television.
Eight days after winning the GMR Grand Prix on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou captured the pole position on Sunday, doing so with a record qualifying four-lap average of 234.217 miles per hour. The 26-year-old did so in a car prominently displaying the Legion’s “Be the One” message aimed at reducing the number of veteran suicides.
“I am so proud of the No. 10 American Legion Honda. It’s been so fast all month, honestly. We went big today. We knew we had to go aggressive, to trim the car a lot to get a good first lap and try to be consistent. It couldn’t be better starting on the pole with the ‘Be the One’ car. It’s not a race win, but it’s a win for the pole of the Indianapolis 500. It’s the only win we could get today,” Palou said.
Palou said winning the pole is an opportunity to amplify the “Be the One” message even louder. “It’s a privilege to have all that attention from the media … and try and spread the ‘Be the One’ campaign from The American Legion as much as possible. I’m hoping we can not only enjoy our wins in the track but enjoy our wins out of the track helping veterans and saving lives,” he said. “That would be a huge win for us.”
Palo started the 2022 Indy 500 second and went into the Firestone Fast 6 on Sunday with the fourth-fastest speed from the day’s previous session. But he went out on his first lap and delivered a speed of 235.131 mph – announced as the fastest qualifying lap since 1996.
Following his effort, Palou had to watch and wait as Felix Rosenqvist, Santino Ferrucci and Rinus VeeKay made their attempts. VeeKay got the closest, turning in an average of 234.211 – the second-closest margin in terms of speed between the top two qualifiers in Indy 500 history.
Having to wait for the final three qualification attempts “was not ideal, honestly,” Palou said. “It was easier to do the four (qualification) laps.”
Palou earned his spot in the Firestone Fast 6 after finishing fourth in the top 12 session. He delivered an opening lap of 234.812 mph – the fastest of the session – and ended with a four-lap average of 233.779 – just .022 behind the third-place VeeKay.
Next Sunday, Palou will lead what is the fastest field in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed for the 33-car starting grid of 232.184 mph.
“We’re going to have the best view possible (for the race),” Palou said. “We know everyone’s trying to catch us, so we need to continue working on making it a little bit better.”
Chip Ganassi Racing is the first team to win three consecutive poles at the Indy 500 since 1991. This is the eighth all-time pole position won by the team. “We worked hard and never gave up. We had plenty of opportunities to quit, but that’s not what we do here,” team owner Chip Ganassi said. “That is exactly what this team is all about.”
On the track after Palou secured the pole, Ganassi said the achievement “was a victory for every veteran across the United States today. I want to thank The American Legion and I want to thank every veteran that’s ever served in a war in this country and protects our freedom, and I can’t wait to celebrate on Memorial Day (weekend) with the veterans.”
Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson, the defending Indy 500 champ, will start the race 10th after his performance in the top 12. Ericsson, who also is carrying American Legion branding on his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda, put together a four-lap average of 232.899 to cement an outside spot in the starting grid’s fourth row.
"It’s still a really solid place to start the race from and we can definitely win from there,” Ericsson said. “Looking forward to working on the car to go race on Sunday. Big congrats to the whole team and the organization for being on pole. That was an incredible pole run, and I'm really happy for everyone. It shows the team effort from everyone and obviously very happy for Alex. It was well deserved."
CGR’s Scott Dixon also qualified for the Firestone Fast 6 and will start the 500 sixth, while teammate Takuma Sato is starting eighth.