INDIANAPOLIS - Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will start in fifth position in his Indianapolis 500 debut next weekend.
He finished with a four-lap average of 231.300 mph in qualifying Sunday — after making an engine change. The Spaniard was the first driver to top 231 on all four laps. It's the first time he's competed on an oval.
A few minutes later, Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi bumped him off the pole with a run of 231.487. Rossi is the defending race winner and will start third. Scott Dixon took the pole at 232.164.
The last rookie to win the Indy pole was Teo Fabi in 1983. While Tony Stewart started from the pole as a rookie in 1996 after Scott Brayton, the pole-winner, was killed in a practice crash.
Sunday was the third time Dixon had won pole for the Indianapolis 500, setting the fastest lap and the fastest four-lap qualifying average in 21 years.
The New Zealander's qualifying speed of 232.164 mph was the best since Arie Luyendyk's track record of 236.986 in 1996. Dixon's first lap of 232.595 also was the fastest since Luyendyk's record lap of 237.498 in 1996.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver will be joined on the front row by Ed Carpenter, a two-time pole winner who finished second at 231.664. Defending race champion Rossi of Andretti Autosport will start on the outside of Row 1.
"We knew the conditions were much better and we took a little bit of a gamble in trimming out," a giddy-looking Dixon said even before qualifying ended. "When I saw it, I was a little surprised myself."
Japan's Takuma Sato, the former Jordan, BAR Honda and Super Aguri Formula One driver, finished up at 231.365 and will start fourth, the inside of Row 2.
Dixon has 26 career IndyCar poles, breaking a tie for 11th place with Paul Tracy.