INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon's four-lap average of 234.046 mph on Sunday was the fastest pole speed in Indianapolis 500 history. However, the elusive all-time average speed in qualifying is still held by two-time winner Arie Luyendyk at 236.986 mph.
Dixon will start first in 2022 but Luyendyk started 20th in 1996. So why was the fastest speed only good enough for the 7th row?
The politics of "The Split" brought a dark cloud over the 1996 Indianapolis 500. There are still arguments over the superiority of CART or the IRL. The '96 500 had the most rookies and fewest former winners in the field. Despite this, it was also the fastest field in race history until Sunday.
On Pole Day 1996, Scott Brayton won the pole for Team Menard in his Menard-Buick V6 powered Lola. Luyendyk initially qualified second to Brayton, roughly four tenths of a mile an hour off the pole speed. However, Luyendyk was disqualified after failing post-qualifying inspection.
Luyendyk's initial speed of 233.390 was thrown out and the Dutchman was forced to re-qualify on the second day. However, the top-20 drivers were locked into their speeds by that point.
Better weather conditions on Bump Day allowed Luyendyk to set the fastest single-lap speed of 237.498 mph en route to a four-lap average of 236.986. But since Luyendyk was qualifying on the second day of qualifications, he was unable to start higher than 21st.
Scott Sharp, who qualified 22nd in 1996, was almost 5 mph slower than Luyendyk.
Dixon broke the pole record held by Brayton, who averaged 233.718 mph in 1996. Brayton, however, was killed in a practice crash prior to the race, putting Tony Stewart on the pole that year.
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The 1996 race had one of the highest attrition levels of any Indy 500 in history. All but the top 3 finishers were either a lap down or had been involved in a crash. Luyendyk's record-setting speeds did not materialize into a victory, but he would not have to wait long for his second sip of milk. In a thrilling battle with then-IRL sophomore Tony Stewart, Luyendyk won the 1997 edition of the race and became a two-time winner.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indy 500: Arie Luyendyk has speed record, but wasn't on the pole like Scott Dixon