Two Aussies And A Kiwi Getting Set For Indy 500
For the first time in many years Australian and New Zealand motorsport fans will have three reasons to follow this weekend's 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 with no less than three drivers hailing from our shores on the grid, two of which are starting from the front row.
Leading the charge for the Trans-Tasman brigade will be Kiwi Scott Dixon and Sydney's Ryan Briscoe, who will start the cornerstone event of the IndyCar® Series - of which Australia's own Gold Coast Indy 300 is a part - from first and third respectively as America celebrates its Memorial Day holiday, the US equivalent of Australia's ANZAC day.
The Memorial Day weekend traditionally caps off the Month of May festivities, and as it draws to a close will hopefully see one of our own 'ANZAC' pilots drinking celebratory milk in Victory Lane - a tradition set by the first three-time Indy 500 winner Louis Meyer (1928, 1933, 1936) when he requested a cold glass of milk in Victory Lane after his 1933 win.
While Dixon and Briscoe lead the field, Queensland's Will Power will start his debut Indy 500 from the eighth row after surviving a frantic three days of qualifying, including a heavy crash, to secure 23rd on the third day whilst turning the most laps of any driver during the race preparation.
Upon taking the pole position during the first day of qualifying on May 10, where positions one through 11 were set Dixon, the 2003 IndyCar Series Champion and 2007 runner-up, was taking his time in coming to grips with his achievement.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Dixon, who is currently second in the championship standings after standing on the podium from three of his four races, and finished the 2007 Indy 500 second after starting fourth.
"It means a lot - it's not just for me, though - a lot of it (is) the hard work (by the team) that goes into it."
Briscoe, whose third position is his best Indy 500 start in three attempts at the Brickyard, was excited to have clinched third despite having for a moment held the pole position.
" I had a really good run (in qualifying)," said Briscoe following his result.
"The car was balanced really well for the downforce level we trimmed out to, and it was a solid gain, for sure."
"We were on the edge, and it was exciting. I'm really happy to be in the thick of it. This is unbelievable."
For Power - set to compete in his fourth ever oval race and his debut on a Superspeedway Oval - his 23rd starting position is even more powerful given the heavy crash he sustained in practice ahead of the third day of qualifying, which saw his KVRT team work through the night to have him qualifying-ready.
"We were able to do plenty of miles and the Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia car felt good over the whole run, so the KVRT team has done a really good job with the #8 car," said Power, the fifth Australian to qualify for the Indy 500 race.
"I'm really proud of the crew, they worked all night and I can't thank them enough. We definitely have a good race pace, but it is just unfortunate we are going to be starting a little bit further back than where we need to be."