Second Indy 500 win 'No. 1 goal' for pole sitter Dixon

·3-min read
New Zealand driver Scott Dixon starts on pole in pursuit of a second Indianapolis 500 victory in the 2021 edition

Scott Dixon may be the reigning IndyCar champion chasing a record seventh series crown, but victory in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 is "goal number one" for the New Zealand veteran.

"I think it's the first goal that we set for the team all year first, then you focus on the championship," Dixon said after putting himself on pole for the 105th running of the fabled race on the 2.5-mile (4km) oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"That's never changed," he said. "I think the first time you step onto this place, come with one of the best teams, that's the obvious sort of goal for us to try and achieve that."

Dixon won from pole in 2008, leading 115 of 200 laps.

But he has endured his share of near misses at the speedway, with eight top-10 finishes that include three runner-up finishes.

"I can tell you, that's the worst spot to finish," said Dixon, who led a race-high 111 laps last August in the pandemic-postponed 2020 edition but settled for second behind Takuma Sato.

"Last year was frustrating," Dixon admitted of a finish that came under a caution.

But, he added, "this place owes me nothing."

"We've got to keep knocking on that door and hopefully one day again, one day soon, that opens up."

The 40-year-old Kiwi is among a wealth of experienced drivers on a grid that also features youthful talent -- including three drivers with a chance to become the youngest Indianapolis 500 winner ever.

That includes two drivers -- 21-year-old Colton Herta and 20-year-old Rinus VeeKay -- who will start alongside Dixon on the front row, Herta from the second spot and Dutch driver VeeKay from third.

Mexico's Pato O'Ward, who turned 22 on May 6, will start from the fourth row and also has a supplant Troy Ruttman as the youngest winner. He was 22 years, 80 days old when he won in 1952.

Nine former winners are on the grid, including multiple winners Helio Castroneves, Sato and Juan Pablo Montoya.

The 46-year-old Castroneves, who is seeking a record-equalling fourth Indy 500 win, isn't conceding anything to the youngsters.

"Age is just number, we can definitely make it happen," the Brazilian said as he looked ahead to his 21st Indy 500 start.

Castroneves, who won in 2001, 2002 and 2009, could join US racing legends AJ Foyt (1961, '64, '67, '77), Al Unser (1970-71, '78, '87) and Rick Mears (1979, '84, '88, '91) as the only four-time winners.

Compatriot Kanaan, who will be making his 20th start, added: "It's very weird that the guy starting ahead of me was wearing diapers when I started my first Indy 500," he said of VeeKay -- who notched his first IndyCar series win in the Indianapolis Grand Prix this month on the road course at the speedway.

Defending champion Sato, who also won in 2017 will start from 15th on the grid, and said he was "very excited" to vie for a third victory in front of fans after the massive circuit was without spectators last year.

A 40% capacity crowd will be small compared to the 400,000-plus that have packed the stands in previous years, but Sato said they will make a big difference.

"That's the one thing we missed big time in 2020 was fans and atmosphere," Sato said.

"It was just so sad, so lonely. Gasoline Alley, so quiet...It was terrible, to be honest."

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