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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Volume 19: Indy 500 Pole Winner?

Today’s question: Acknowledging that it’s early in the practice week, but who’s your pick to win Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout – in other words, capture the NTT P1 Award for pole for the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge?

Curt Cavin: Maybe this is a reach, but I’m going with Rinus van Kalmthout, known in these parts as Rinus VeeKay, the winner of Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix. The Speedway resident who rides his bike to the track qualified fourth last year in his first Indianapolis 500, and he entered this week swimming in confidence after scoring his first INDYCAR race win. Keep in mind how quick Ed Carpenter Racing cars have been in recent years, having the only Chevrolet in last year’s Fast Nine Shootout and placing all three of its cars in the top nine of qualifying in 2018 and ’19 (with two more in 2017). Ed Carpenter has won three of Indy’s past eight poles and finished second in the 2018 race. That’s the team to watch, and VeeKay is on a roll.

Zach Horrall: I’m going to go the opposite route from Curt and make a very safe pick. I don’t know how you can look away from Scott Dixon. The defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion has been a master on ovals over the last year. He won at Texas Motor Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway last year, and his No. 9 team showed they still have oval speed this year by winning at Texas again earlier this month. As it pertains to IMS, Dixon had plenty of speed in last year’s Indy 500, leading a race-high 111 laps. Plus, he showed speed at the Indy 500 Open Test in April. I will give an honorable mention to his teammate Alex Palou. The Spaniard had the fastest single-lap speed of last year’s Fast Nine Shootout when he was with Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh, and I’m certain his speed is only going to increase with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Paul Kelly: Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Hunter-Reay all agreed during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at IMS that experience matters in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, especially in the race. I also think it matters during the four-lap crucible of qualifying, so I’m picking the second-most experienced driver in the field to win the pole – Tony Kanaan. TK knows speed at IMS, winning the “500” pole in 2005. He also is back with Chip Ganassi Racing, which has been the best and most consistent team this NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Kanaan also was among the fastest drivers on the no-tow list on the opening day of practice Tuesday, so I think he’ll chug from the fountain of youth this Sunday and win the pole at age 46.

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