List of Indianapolis 500 pole-sitters

Winners of the Pole position for the Indianapolis 500. The pole position is the first starting position on the grid, situated on the inside of the front row, and is held in high prestige at Indianapolis. Due to the nature of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, the pole-sitter is currently determined seven days before the race (and in past years as many as 15 days prior). As a result, the pole-winning driver and team receives considerable pre-race attention and accolades in the days leading up to the race. In most circumstances, but not necessarily, the pole-sitter is the fastest car in the field, and thus one of the pre-race favorites to win the race.

Indianapolis 500 Pole Position
Marco Andretti 2019.png
Marco Andretti won the pole position in 2020.
SportIndy Car Racing
CompetitionIndianapolis 500
DisciplineVerizon IndyCar Series
Given forPole Position for the Indianapolis 500
English nameNippon Telegraph and Telephone P1 Award
First award1911
First winnerUnited States Lewis Strang
Most winsUnited States Rick Mears (6)
Most recentUnited States Marco Andretti

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone currently sponsors a $100,000 award given to the pole winner. Rick Mears holds the all-time record with six career pole positions. Ten drivers have won the pole position in two consecutive years, but no driver has ever won three years in a row. Through 2019, the Indianapolis 500 has been won from the pole position a total of 21 times (out of 103).


Since the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, all cars have been required to qualify for the race. This had been by means of a speed/time trial out on the race course. Since 1939, the starting grid (including the "pole position") has been determined utilizing four-lap (10-mile) qualification runs. Each qualification run is performed with no other cars on the track. This format differs from traditional road racing and NASCAR qualifying, in which multiple cars are on the track simultaneously in an "group" or "open" qualifying session. It also differs from most other oval races in which qualifying speed is based on a single hot lap. The theory is that each car could give its best performance if there were no other vehicles on the track to impede them.

Ironically in modern times, cars can actually run faster with other cars on the track due to drafting. Nearly every unofficial practice speed record has been achieved by exploiting another car's slipstream, referred to colloquially as receiving a "tow.". Starting roughly around the 1960s, electric eyes, and in the 1980s radar guns, were used to measure trap speeds at select locations, namely at the end of the long straightaways, in an effort to determine the cars' top speeds. Since the early 1990s, sophisticated electronic scoring devices have been installed at the track and inside the cars to measure additional trap speeds (straightaways, turns, etc.). However, the official scoring only reflects the time and speed at the start/finish line. All other measurements are unofficial.

Early yearsEdit

In 1911, the starting grid was determined by the order that entries were received by mail. To qualify for the race, entries had to average 75 miles per hour (121 km/h) or faster along a "flying" quarter-mile measured segment of the track. Each cars was given three attempts, and speeds were not recorded - only pass/fail. In 1912, all cars were required to complete one timed lap (2.5 miles) at a minimum speed, but the grid order was still determined by the order the entries were received. For 1913 and 1914, all cars completed one timed lap at a minimum speed. Overseas competitors voiced complaints about their entries arriving in the mail later than local entrants, and thus unfairly starting deep in the grid. A compromise was made such that the grid was determined by a blind draw a few days before the race.

Starting in 1915, for the first time, the grid order was set by qualifying results. Though multiple days were allotted for qualifying (often referred to as "elimination trials"), drivers were known to wait until the last minute to qualify. Even though the track would normally be made available for practice beginning on May 1, many teams chose not to even arrive until just before elimination trials. The Speedway reacted by setting up a slightly retooled format in 1916 such that the first day qualifiers lined up first in the grid by speed. The second day qualifiers would line up behind the first day qualifiers, and so on, regardless if drivers on subsequent days were faster than the first day qualifiers. This encouraged drivers to qualify earlier rather than "last minute." This general grid alignment rule was used through the 2000s, and (excluding 1911-1914), sixteen times the pole winner was not the overall fastest car in the field.

One-lap qualifying speeds were used for 1915, 1916, and 1919. From 1920 to 1933, the grid was set using four-lap (10-mile) qualifying runs. From 1934 to 1938, the grid was set using ten-lap (25-mile) qualifying runs. In 1939, they reverted to four-lap runs, and that is still in use today.


The term "pole position" is believed to have derived from horse racing. Despite some common misconception, is not so named from the iconic pylon "pole" scoring tower at the track.

The pole position traditionally (and weather permitting) has been determined on the first day of time trials, nicknamed "Pole Day." The final day of time trials has been nicknamed "Bump Day" or "Bubble Day." When the field is filled to 33 cars, the slowest car in the field is said to be "on the bubble." Additional drivers may attempt to qualify faster and bump their way into the field. The driver is said to have 'bust the other driver's bubble.' Since 2014, the use of these two terms has diminished due to a revamped qualifying format (see below).


Pole position qualifying, generally referred to as "Pole Day," is currently held the weekend prior to the race. Two days of qualifying are scheduled in total, the Saturday and Sunday before the race. Since 2010, the pole winner has been determined by a special "shootout" session amongst the nine fastest qualifiers.

Springtime rain in the midwest is often a factor, and over the years, many days of qualifying have been delayed, ended early, or completely washed out due to rain. If pole day is rained out, it is moved to the next qualifying day scheduled. This happened most recently in 2006 and 2015. In 2006 (when four days were scheduled), the first two days of qualifying were rained out and pole position qualifying ended up being held on the third day, followed by what remained the fourth and final day. In 2015 (when two days were scheduled), the first day of time trials was washed out, and all time trials was held on the second and final day.

In the years when there were four days of time trials, if the second or third day of qualifying were to be rained out, neither would be made up (for example, this happened in 1980). If the final day of time trials ("Bump Day") was rained out, it would not be made up if the field had already filled to 33 cars (for example, this happened in 1984). If Bump Day were to be rained out, and the field was not filled to 33 cars yet, a special session would be held Monday (to date, this has occurred only once, in 1968).

Pre-war yearsEdit

The schedule for time trials (referred to at the time as "elimination trials") varied over the years. The number of days varied from three to as many as eight. In many cases, qualifying began the Saturday-Sunday before the race, and continued through the week for a few days, and ended usually two days before the race. The day before the race would be normally reserved for track cleaning, and final "carburation tests." It was standard procedure for qualifying to generally run each day until sundown.


After WWII, the Speedway management began to standardize the qualifying schedule. For a few years, six days (three weekends) of qualifying were held. Starting in 1952, it was reduced to four days (two weekends). The pole position would be settled on the first day, now nicknamed "Pole Day." In addition, the closing time for the track was eventually set at 6:00 p.m. local time. In previous decades, the track generally closed at sundown.

In 1974 only, as a gesture to the ongoing energy crisis, qualifying was reduced to two days – the Saturday two weeks before the race, and the Saturday one week before the race. Both of those two days were divided into two sessions (an "early" period and a "late" period) mimicking the traditional four 'days.' Rain hampered both days, however, and the "four periods" plan was rendered incomplete. The two-day schedule lasted only one year, and in 1975, the Speedway went back to four days.

Since the race itself was not fixed on the weekend until the early 1970s, it was not uncommon prior to then for the final weekend of time trials to occur only a couple days before the race itself (if Memorial Day fell on a weekday early in the week).


From 1998 to 2000, an experimental two-week "compressed" schedule was adopted for the Indy 500. Time trials was reduced to only two days of qualifying, the Saturday & Sunday one weekend before the race. "Pole day" would be held Saturday, and "Bump day" would be held Sunday. This was an effort to reduce costs, and maximize crowds. The middle two days of qualifying had long suffered from dwindling attendance, participation, and interest.


From 2001 to 2004, the schedule was expanded to three days of qualifying, the Saturday and Sunday two weekends before the race, and the Sunday one week before the race. The additional day allowed make-up time in case of rain, and stretched the month back to the traditional three weekends.

The Saturday immediately before Bump Day was reverted to a regular practice day, and for a short time, the Freedom 100 was scheduled for that afternoon. The arrangement received mixed reviews, and was eventually scrapped.


Time trials reverted to four days (two weekends). The procedure also changed, with the first three days only offering the fastest 11 cars on each qualifying day a starting position. The Freedom 100, which was on the second Saturday, was moved permanently to Carb Day later in the month.


The Speedway reinstated the two-week "compressed" schedule, similar to the plan used in 1998–2000. Time trials is scheduled for two days: the Saturday & Sunday one weekend before the race. From 2010 through 2013, "Pole Day" is held Saturday, and "Bump Day" is held Sunday. The track opens for practice the weekend before time trials.

Starting in 2014, with the addition of the road course race on the first weekend, oval practice is reduced, and the two-day qualifying schedule was kept intact, but the procedure was changed such that the pole position winner is not actually determined until Sunday.

Qualifying procedureEdit

On a given day of qualifying, the track is open for qualifications from 11 a.m. (or 12 noon) to 5 p.m. local time. If there are no cars in line to make an attempt, the track is opened for general practice, or (briefly) closed for routine safety inspection. The busiest periods of qualifying, due to ambient and track temperatures, are the first hour and the final hour. Due to the lower temperatures and shadows cast along the track it is common for drivers to wait until late in the day to make their attempts. The car must be moving out of the pits before the clock reaches zero for the attempt to count.

Each driver is allowed two warm-up laps before taking the green flag to start the run. Prior to WWII, it is believed that drivers were generally allowed an unlimited number of warm up laps, and could start their run whenever they deemed themselves ready. From 1946 through 1981, drivers were allowed three warm up laps. In 1982, it was reduced to two warm-up laps,[1] however, INDYCAR and Bridgestone Tire officials have thermometers that can display track surface temperatures, and if they determine track temperatures are below a certain threshold, a third lap can be added to build sufficient tire temperatures.

As the driver is coming around to start the qualifying attempt, a crew member(s) is stationed at the head of the main stretch and waves a green flag to signify they want to start the run. If he waves a yellow flag, or waves no flag, the run does not start, and an attempt is not counted. At any time prior to completing the four-lap run, the crew can "wave off" the run by holding up the yellow flag. Likewise the driver can pull off the track at any time to abort the run. Prior to 1974, the decision to start the run was actually made by the driver, who would signal the officials by raising his hand in the air.[2] For safety purposes, due to increasing speeds, the increasingly tight confines of the cockpits, and the fact that crews are now in constant contact with drivers through two-radio communication, the hand signals were eliminated.

Procedure (through 2004)Edit

During the USAC era, the traditional qualifying procedure went largely unchanged although it may appear complicated to the casual observer. Pole day was considered the most significant, popular, and busiest of the speed trial period, while the other three days were more often leisurely and sometimes uneventful. The evening before pole day time trials, a blind draw is used to establish the qualifying order. Prior to 1965, no draw was used,[3] and the qualifying order was a "first-come, first-served" line-up, queued down the pit lane and usually stretching into the garage area. Some teams would even claim their spots in line the night before. The unorganized scramble to roll the cars into a queue had often led to heated exchanges, collisions, and unfair situations. In 1971, the rules were further clarified to guarantee every car in the original qualifying draw at least one attempt to qualify in the pole position round, regardless if weather or other circumstances interfered.[4]

One at a time, cars ran a four-lap qualifying attempt to post qualifying speed. Despite the popular commonplace of reporting qualifying speed, officially, the qualifying results are scored by elapsed time. Each car had three attempts to post a qualifying time and whenever the four laps were completed the time was "locked in". During the run, if a driver/team felt their speed was not to their satisfaction, they could wave off that run at any time before completing the fourth lap. The wave off was accomplished either by the driver pulling into the pits, or by a crew member waving a yellow flag, and one attempt would be charged to the car. Each car was allowed three total attempts.

Once the run was completed, the qualifying time was locked-in. If the team decided the locked-in time was insufficient, the car would have to be withdrawn, and could not be re-qualified. Another car would have to be used to make a new attempt. In most cases, teams usually would wait until their car was bumped rather than preemptively withdrawing, as the risk-reward was usually considered high.

The fastest qualifier on Pole day won the pole position. The pole day qualifiers were lined up by speed rank. There was no set number of qualifiers for pole day, and the total widely varied by year - ranging from as few as 11 in 1987 to as many as 33 in 1999 - for a number of factors (e.g., weather conditions, crashes, mechanical problems, injuries, or simply by choice). Cars that qualified on the second day lined up by speed behind the pole day qualifiers, followed by the third day qualifiers, and finally, the fourth day qualifiers, until the field filled to 33. This grid arrangement (based on speed rank on each day) usually dictated that the entire grid would not be arranged by speed from top-to-bottom in exact order. In fact, only one time during this period (1969), did the grid happen to be aligned exactly by speed from 1st to 33rd (and that was aided by the fact that two days of time trials had been rained out). It never occurred when four full days of time trials were observed.

Once the field was filled to 33 cars, bumping would begin. The slowest car in the field, regardless of the day it was qualified, was "on the bubble." If a driver went out and qualified faster, the bubble car would be bumped, and the new qualifier would be added to the field. The bumped car would be removed from the grid, and all cars that were behind him would move up a spot. The new driver would take his position according to his speed rank on the day he qualified (typically the final day). This procedure would be repeated until the track closed at 6 p.m. on the final day of qualifying. Bumped cars could not be re-qualified. A bumped driver would have to secure a back-up car (assuming it had attempts left on it) in order to bump his way back into the field.

11/11/11 (2005–2009)Edit

Starting 2005, although due to rain it was not observed fully until 2007, the qualifying procedure was altered. The 33-car field would be split into three parts.

  • On the first day of qualifying (pole day)- positions 1–11 would be filled; bumping amongst those 11 cars would occur
  • On the second day of qualifying- positions 12–22 would be filled; bumping amongst those 11 cars would occur
  • On the third day of qualifying- positions 23–33 would be filled; bumping amongst those 11 cars would occur
  • On the fourth day of qualifying (bump day)- bumping begins immediately as the slowest car overall is "on the bubble," in danger of being bumped out by the next qualifier; all cars behind those bumped out are immediately slotted up one position regardless of their day of qualification, but no fourth-day qualifier is slotted ahead of first-, second- or third-day qualifiers still remaining in the field.

This procedure is commonly referred to as "11/11/11" since eleven cars would qualify on each of the first three days. Two other major rule changes were introduced alongside this format. Drivers were now allowed three qualifying attempts in a car per day. Previously each car was only allowed three attempts during the entire month, and once an attempt had been completed, it was locked-in. Cars that were bumped could be re-qualified (provided they still had attempts left), and likewise drivers could withdraw an already-qualified car and re-qualify it (provided it still had attempts left). In both cases, the new rules permitting multiple attempts per day allowed drivers more opportunities to put in their fastest possible speeds. Allowing bumped cars to re-qualify also alleviated the issue regarding the shortage of chassis that had become somewhat problematic during that time.

Speedway management had toyed with the idea going back as far as 1987, and seriously considered it around 1990. It was offered as an idea to generate excitement into the normally sparse second and third qualifying days. It was not adopted until 2005, and after mixed results, was scrapped after 2009.

24/9 with Fast Nine Shootout (2010–2013)Edit

A new format was introduced, adding an element similar to "knockout qualifying" systems used in World Superbike, Formula One, as well as IndyCar road course races. Cash prizes for the front row were increased, and championship points were awarded for qualifying results for all positions.[5][6]

  • Pole Day (Saturday) opened at 11:00 am. A total of 24 positions were available to be filled. All cars were permitted to make up to three qualifying attempts, time permitting, until the session closed at 4:00 pm. Bumping began as soon as the field filled to 24 cars.
  • At 4:00 pm, positions 10-24 were locked in for the day. Positions 1-9 advance to the Fast Nine Shootout.
  • At 4:30 pm, the Fast Nine Shootout began, and ran until 6:00 pm. Each of the nine cars had their afternoon time erased. Each car was guaranteed at least one attempt during the shootout to re-qualify. Once every car had completed one attempt, time permitting, cars could go out and make up to two additional attempts. Drivers were not required to erase their initial time when making their second and/or third attempt. The shootout determined the pole position as well as starting positions 2-9.
  • On Bump Day (Sunday), the remaining positions 25-33 were open for any remaining entries. Bumping begins as soon as the field filled to 33 cars. The slowest car in the field, regardless of the day the car qualified, would be on the bubble, except that the nine cars that competed in the second qualifying session for the pole were protected, and could not be bumped.

On two occasions, (2011 and 2013), rain delayed the start of the Fast Nine Shootout session. In each of those cases, the nine participants were allowed only one attempt during the shootout session. In the first year of the Shootout, the order was set based on the afternoon qualifying results. The nine drivers in order of speed (1st to 9th) chose their position in the qualifying line. In subsequent years, the Shootout order was set as the reverse order of the afternoon qualifying results (9th to 1st).

Two-day format (2014–2018)Edit

A qualification day participation sticker on Tony Kanaan's #10 car in 2015

A new qualifying format was introduced for 2014, commonly known as the "Two-day format". Qualifying was held over two days (Saturday-Sunday), with the pole position winner, as well as the starting lineup, not determined until the second day. The qualifying procedure was as follows:

  • On the first day of time trials (Saturday), qualifying was scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. All cars entered were allowed up to three attempts. At the end of the day, the fastest 30 cars were locked into the starting field. Starting grid positions, however, were not assigned. The top nine cars from Saturday advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout.
  • On the second day of time trials (Sunday), the cars that posted times from 10th to 30th each made one qualifying attempt. The times from Saturday were erased, and the Sunday speeds determined the starting grid.
  • Also on Sunday, the top nine cars from Saturday participated in the Fast Nine Shootout to determine the pole position as well as starting positions 2-9.

In 2015, due to inclement weather and a major crash during the Sunday morning practice session, qualifying was delayed and retooled. The Fast Nine Shootout was cancelled, and the field was set in one Sunday afternoon session. Each car was given one attempt to qualify, and positions 1–30 were locked in. In the final hour, a 45-minute Last Row Shootout was held to determine positions 31–33.

During this timeframe, the use of the traditional terms "Pole Day" and "Bump Day" were somewhat curtailed. Eventually the term "Bump Day" would be used for Saturday, and "Pole Day" would be used for Sunday, a reverse of the norm.

Two-day format with Last Row Shootout (2019-2020)Edit

A modified version of the Two-day format was introduced beginning in 2019. A new television contract with NBC prompted an emphasis on Sunday for time trials, largely to avoid a conflict with the Preakness Stakes. In addition, after popular driver James Hinchcliffe failed to qualify in 2018, calls for changes to the bumping procedure escalated during the offseason.

Qualifying will continue to be held over two days (Saturday-Sunday), but bumping will be moved back to Sunday. Both the familiar Fast Nine Shootout and a new Last Row Shootout will be held Sunday. The most significant procedural change was that cars that qualified 10th-30th would no longer be required to re-qualify on the second day.

On Saturday, the procedure is as follows:

  • Qualifying is open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. All cars entered will be guaranteed at least one attempt. Additional attempts are allowed, time/weather permitting.
  • Positions 1–9 will advance to the Fast Nine Shootout.
  • Positions 10–30 will be locked-in, and will not re-qualify.
  • Positions 31 and lower will be entered into the Last Row Shootout.

On Sunday, time trials concludes as follows:

  • The Last Row Shootout is held. Entries that finished 31st and lower on Saturday will re-qualify. Times from Saturday will be erased. Starting positions 31–33 will be filled. All other cars from 34th and lower will fail to qualify. In 2019, the participants were given only one attempt. For 2020, multiple attempts were to be permitted, however, the Last Row Shootout was scrapped after only 33 cars were entered and no cars were going to be bumped.
  • The Fast Nine Shootout will determine starting positions 1–9, including the pole position. Times from Saturday will be erased, and cars will have one attempt to re-qualify. Championship points (9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) will be awarded based on the results of the Fast Nine Shootout. The cars take to the track in reverse order, with the 9th-fastest from Saturday going first, and fastest from Saturday going last.

Indianapolis 500 pole-sittersEdit

Sixty-five drivers have qualified for the pole position, one less than the number of race winners.

1911   Lewis Strang No full lap 29 The grid was arranged by the order that entries were received via U.S. mail.
1912   Gil Andersen 80.93 130.24 16 Single lap qualifying; David L. Bruce-Brown (88.45 mph – New track record) was the fastest qualifier. The grid was arranged by the order that entries were received via U.S. mail.
1913   Caleb Bragg 87.34 140.56 15 Single-lap; Jack Tower (88.23 mph) was the fastest qualifier. The grid was arranged by a pre-race blind draw.
1914   Jean Chassagne 88.31 142.12 29 Single-lap; Georges Boillot (99.86 mph – New track record) was the fastest qualifier. The grid was arranged by a pre-race blind draw.
1915   Howdy Wilcox 98.80 159.00 7 Single-lap
1916   Johnny Aitken 96.69 155.61 15 Single-lap
1919   René Thomas 104.78 168.63 11 New track record; single-lap
1920   Ralph DePalma 99.15 159.57 5  
1921   Ralph DePalma 100.75 162.14 12  
1922   Jimmy Murphy 100.50 161.74 1  
1923   Tommy Milton 108.17 174.08 1 New track record
1924   Jimmy Murphy 108.037 173.869 3  
1925   Leon Duray 113.196 182.171 6 New track record
1926   Earl Cooper 111.735 179.820 16  
1927   Frank Lockhart 120.100 193.282 18 New track record
1928   Leon Duray 122.391 196.969 19 New track record
1929   Cliff Woodbury 120.599 194.085 33  
1930   Billy Arnold 113.268 182.287 1  
1931   Russ Snowberger 112.796 181.528 5 Billy Arnold initially sat on the pole, but was disqualified for having his brakes disconnected. Later on, Arnold qualified at 116.080 mph and was the fastest qualifier (started 18th).
1932   Lou Moore 117.363 188.877 25
1933   Bill Cummings 118.530 190.756 25 Ten-lap average
1934   Kelly Petillo 119.329 192.041 11 Ten-lap average
1935   Rex Mays 120.736 194.306 17 Ten-lap average; Kelly Petillo (121.687 mph) qualified for the pole, but was disqualified for using 5/8 pint too much fuel. Mays was elevated to the pole.[7]
1936   Rex Mays 119.644 192.548 15 Ten-lap average
1937   Bill Cummings 123.343 198.501 6 New track record; ten-lap average; Jimmy Snyder (125.287 mph – New track record) was the fastest qualifier, and started 19th
1938   Floyd Roberts 125.681 202.264 1 New track record; ten-lap average; Ronney Householder (125.769 mph – New track record) was the fastest qualifier, and started 10th
1939   Jimmy Snyder 130.138 209.437 2 New track record
1940   Rex Mays 127.850 205.755 2  
1941   Mauri Rose 128.691 207.108 26  
1946   Cliff Bergere 126.471 203.535 16 Ralph Hepburn (133.944 mph – New track record) was the fastest qualifier, and started 19th.
1947   Ted Horn 126.564 203.685 3 Bill Holland (128.755 mph) was the fastest qualifier, and started 8th
1948   Rex Mays 130.577 210.143 19 Duke Nalon (131.603 mph) was the fastest qualifier, and started 11th
1949   Duke Nalon 132.939 213.945 29  
1950   Walt Faulkner 134.343 216.204 7 New track record
1951   Duke Nalon 136.498 219.672 10 New track record; on the second weekend of time trials, Walt Faulkner (136.872 mph) broke Nalon's one-week-old track record, and became the fastest qualifier. He started 14th.
1952   Fred Agabashian 138.010 222.106 27 New track record; on the second weekend of time trials, Chet Miller (139.034 mph) broke Agabashian's one-week-old track record, and became the fastest qualifier. He started 27th.
1953   Bill Vukovich 138.392 222.720 1 Final 3/4 of final lap completed amid downpour
1954   Jack McGrath 141.033 226.791 3 New track record
1955   Jerry Hoyt 140.045 225.381 31 Jack McGrath (142.580 mph) was the fastest qualifier, and started 3rd. Most cars stayed off the track on pole day due to gusting winds, and threatening rain. Near the end of the day, two cars completed attempts and took the top two spots. Hoyt's pole-winning speed was only the 8th-fastest overall in the field, the record slowest ranked pole speed.
1956   Pat Flaherty 145.596 234.314 1 New track record
1957   Pat O'Connor 143.948 231.662 8 Paul Russo (144.817 mph) was the fastest qualifier, and started 10th
1958   Dick Rathmann 145.974 234.922 27 New track record
1959   Johnny Thomson 145.908 234.816 3  
1960   Eddie Sachs 146.592 235.917 21 New track record; On the second weekend of time trials, Jim Hurtubise (149.601 mph) broke Sachs' one-week-old track record, and became the fastest overall qualifier. He would start 23rd.
1961   Eddie Sachs 147.481 237.348 2  
1962   Parnelli Jones 150.370 241.997 7 New track record
1963   Parnelli Jones 151.153 243.257 1 New track record
1964   Jim Clark 158.828 255.609 24 New track record
1965   A. J. Foyt 161.233 259.479 15 New track record
1966   Mario Andretti 165.899 266.989 18 New track record
1967   Mario Andretti 168.982 271.950 30 New track record
1968   Joe Leonard 171.559 276.097 12 New track record
1969   A. J. Foyt 170.568 274.503 8  
1970   Al Unser 170.221 273.944 1  
1971   Peter Revson 178.696 287.583 2 New track record
1972   Bobby Unser 195.940 315.335 30 New track record. Bolt-on wings were allowed for the first time, resulting in the largest one-year track record increase
1973   Johnny Rutherford 198.413 319.315 9 New track record; Rutherford's third lap of 199.071 mph was a single-lap track record, and just 0.21 seconds shy of the elusive 200 mph barrier.
1974   A. J. Foyt 191.632 308.402 15 Pop-off valves were fitted to the turbochargers, limiting boost to 80 inHG, effectively slowing speeds
1975   A. J. Foyt 193.976 312.174 3  
1976   Johnny Rutherford 188.957 304.097 1 Mario Andretti (189.404 mph) who qualified on the second weekend of time trials, was the fastest overall qualifier, and started 19th.
1977   Tom Sneva 198.884 320.073 2 New track record; entire track resurfaced in asphalt prior to the race; Sneva's first two laps of 200.401 and 200.535 marked the first-ever official laps over 200 mph (320 km/h) at Indianapolis.
1978   Tom Sneva 202.156 325.339 2 New track record
1979   Rick Mears 193.736 311.788 1 Pop-off valves limiting boost to 50 inHG
1980   Johnny Rutherford 192.256 309.406 1 Pop-off valves limiting boost to 48 inHG
1981   Bobby Unser 200.546 322.748 1 Rain stretched the pole qualifying round over three days. After the initial qualifying line was passed through, Unser was awarded the pole. Moments later, Tom Sneva (200.691 mph) became the overall fastest qualifier, but since he was officially a "third day" qualifier, started 20th.
1982   Rick Mears 207.004 333.141 2 New track record
1983   Teo Fabi 207.395 333.770 26 New track record; Pop-off valves limiting boost to 47 inHG. The first weekend of time trials was rained out, and pole qualifying was held on the third day of time trials.
1984   Tom Sneva 210.029 338.009 16 New track record
1985   Pancho Carter 212.583 342.119 33 New track record
1986   Rick Mears 216.828 348.951 3 New track record
1987   Mario Andretti 215.390 346.637 9 Radial tires introduced. Many teams stayed off the track due to windy conditions and handling problems, and only 11 cars qualified on pole day.
1988   Rick Mears 219.198 352.765 1 New track record; Pop-off valves limiting boost to 45 inHG
1989   Rick Mears 223.885 360.308 23 New track record; entire track resurfaced in asphalt prior to the race. Pole day (Sat.) was rained out, and pole qualifying was held on Sunday, the second day of time trials.
1990   Emerson Fittipaldi 225.301 362.587 3 New track record. Pole day was rained out on Saturday, and was pushed to Sunday. The qualifying line was not completed before the end of the day, and the conclusion of pole qualifying was extended to the third day of qualifying (Sat.)
1991   Rick Mears 224.113 360.675 1 Gary Bettenhausen (224.468 mph) who qualified on the second day, was the overall fastest qualifier, and started 13th
1992   Roberto Guerrero 232.482 374.144 33 New track record. Crashed on parade lap, ending his day before the race started.
1993   Arie Luyendyk 223.967 360.440 2  
1994   Al Unser, Jr. 228.011 366.948 1  
1995   Scott Brayton 231.604 372.731 17  
1996   Tony Stewart* 233.100 375.138 24 New track record; entire track resurfaced in asphalt prior to the race; Arie Luyendyk (236.986 mph) who was a second day qualifier, was the fastest qualifier, and started 20th. He set the current an all-time 1-lap track record (237.498 mph) and 4-lap track record.
1997   Arie Luyendyk 218.263 351.260 1 Turbochargers banned, rules changed to 4.0L normally aspirated engines
1998   Billy Boat 223.503 359.693 23  
1999   Arie Luyendyk 225.179 362.390 22  
2000   Greg Ray 223.471 359.642 33 rules changed to 3.5L normally aspirated engines
2001   Scott Sharp 226.037 363.771 33  
2002   Bruno Junqueira 231.342 372.309 31  
2003   Hélio Castroneves 231.725 372.925 2  
2004   Buddy Rice 222.024 357.313 1 rules changed to 3.0L normally aspirated engines
2005   Tony Kanaan 227.566 366.232 8 Kenny Bräck (227.598 mph) was the overall fastest qualifier, and started 23rd; Entire track resurfaced in asphalt prior to the race
2006   Sam Hornish, Jr. 228.985 368.516 1  
2007   Hélio Castroneves 225.817 363.417 3 rules changed to ethanol-fueled 3.5L normally aspirated engines
2008   Scott Dixon 226.366 364.301 1  
2009   Hélio Castroneves 224.864 361.880 1  
2010   Hélio Castroneves 227.970 367.809 9 New two-stage qualifying session used.
2011   Alex Tagliani 227.472 366.081 28 One attempt permitted in Q2 because of rain.
2012   Ryan Briscoe 226.484 364.491 5 Rules changed to 2200cc turbocharged 6-cylinder engines with ECU-limited boost of 140 kPA for qualifying only;
2013   Ed Carpenter 228.762 368.156 10 ECU-limited boost of 140 kPA for qualifying only; Rain delayed qualifying where Q1 ended at 6 PM; Q2 started at 6:30 and one attempt permitted.
2014   Ed Carpenter 231.067 371.866 27 Q1 held on first day; Q2 held on second day of qualifying.
2015   Scott Dixon 226.760 364.935 4 Because of weather and other incidents during qualifying day warmup, Q2 was not held.
2016   James Hinchcliffe 230.760 371.371 7 Q1 held on first day; Q2 held on second day of qualifying.
2017   Scott Dixon 232.164 373.632 32 Q1 held on first day; Q2 held on second day of qualifying.
2018   Ed Carpenter 229.618 369.534 2 Q1 held on first day (approximately 4.5 hour rain delay); Q2 held on second day of qualifying.
2019   Simon Pagenaud 229.992 370.136 1 Q1 held on first day; Q2 held on second day of qualifying.
2020   Marco Andretti 231.068 371.868 13 Fifth year of the two-day qualifying format. Clear weather (80°F, windy); no incidents. "Fast Nine" margin of pole speed: 0.017 MPH. There was no "Last Row Shootout" as exactly 33 cars were entered in the race. Qualifications delayed from May to August 15-16 due to COVID-19 pandemic. No spectators in attendance.


  • 1935: Billy Arnold qualified at 121.687 mph (10-lap qualifying runs) to win the pole position. In post-inspection, it was determined he used too much fuel. Rules allowed drivers to use 3 gallons of fuel maximum for the run, with a margin of error of 1 pint. It was measured that he used ​58 pint over, and he was disqualified. Rex Mays, the second-fastest qualifier, was elevated to the pole position.
  • 1996: At the conclusion of pole day qualifying, Scott Brayton qualified for the pole-position, Arie Luyendyk qualified second, and Tony Stewart qualified third. Officially it was Brayton's second consecutive Indy pole (1995–1996). One hour and forty-five minutes after qualifying was over, Luyendyk was disqualified for his car being 7 pounds underweight. Stewart was elevated to second position. The following day, Luyendyk qualified with the fastest speed overall, but as a second day qualifier, was required to line up behind the first day qualifiers. Five days later, Brayton was killed in a practice session accident while driving a back-up car. His primary car was taken over by Danny Ongais, but rules required a substitute driver to move to the rear of the field. Thus, Stewart was elevated to the pole position for race day.

Multiple pole positionsEdit

Eighteen drivers have qualified for the pole position more than once, accounting for 49 pole positions out of 98 races, 51.02%.

Poles Driver Years Notes
6   Rick Mears 1979 1982 1986 1988 1989 1991 First five- and six-time pole-position qualifier; second-fastest qualifier, 1991
4   Rex Mays 1935 1936 1940 1948   First three- and four-time pole-position qualifier; second-fastest qualifier, 1948
  A. J. Foyt 1965 1969 1974 1975  
  Hélio Castroneves 2003 2007 2009 2010  
3  Mario Andretti 1966 1967 1987   Fastest qualifier, 1976
  Johnny Rutherford 1973 1976 1980 Second-fastest qualifier, 1976
  Tom Sneva 1977 1978 1984 Fastest qualifier, 1981
  Arie Luyendyk 1993 1997 1999 Fastest qualifier, 1996
  Scott Dixon 2008 2015 2017  
  Ed Carpenter 2013 2014 2018  
2  Ralph DePalma 1920 1921   First two-time pole position qualifier; first consecutive pole position qualifier
  Jimmy Murphy 1922 1924  
  Leon Duray 1925 1928  
  Bill Cummings 1933 1937 Second-fastest qualifier, 1937
  Duke Nalon 1949 1951 Second-fastest qualifier, 1951
  Eddie Sachs 1960 1961 Second-fastest qualifier, 1960
  Parnelli Jones 1962 1963  
  Bobby Unser 1972 1981 Second-fastest qualifier, 1981
  Scott Brayton 1995 1996* Qualified for pole position, and second-fastest qualifier, 1996


* Scott Brayton qualified for the pole position in 1996, but was killed in a practice session accident with a back-up car six days later. Tony Stewart, the second-place qualifier, subsequently moved onto the pole position, while Brayton's car, thereafter assigned to Danny Ongais to drive, was, by rule in driver-replacement situations, moved to the last starting position.

Consecutive pole position winnersEdit

Qualification for the pole-position in consecutive races has been accomplished eleven times; start from the pole position will have occurred ten times (pending 2014 race). No driver has qualified for three consecutive pole positions.

Poles Driver Years Notes
2  Ralph DePalma 19201921  
  Rex Mays 19351936  
  Eddie Sachs 19601961 Second-fastest qualifier, 1960
  Parnelli Jones 19621963  
 Mario Andretti 19661967  
  A. J. Foyt 19741975  
  Tom Sneva 19771978 Qualified second in 1979 (1st-1st-2nd in three-year span)
  Rick Mears 19881989 Qualified second in 1990 (1st-1st-2nd in three-year span)
  Scott Brayton 19951996* Qualified for the pole position, 1996, but was killed in a practice session accident nine days before the race in a backup car; Tony Stewart, the second qualifier, moved onto the pole position Brayton's stead; Danny Ongais started the pole-winning car from the final starting position 
  Hélio Castroneves 20092010  
  Ed Carpenter 20132014  

Indianapolis 500 winners who started from the pole positionEdit

Nineteen drivers have won the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race from the pole position in twenty-one out of ninety-three races, 22.58%. Two consecutive wins from the pole position has occurred twice, in years 1922–1923 and 2008–2009, and three consecutive wins once, in years 1979–1981.

Wins Driver Years Notes
3   Rick Mears 1979 1988 1991 First three-time winner from the pole position; accounts for three of Mears' four career wins.
2   Johnny Rutherford 1976 1980   First multiple-winner from the pole position. Accounts for two of Rutherford's three career victories.
1   Jimmy Murphy 1922   First winner from the pole position
  Tommy Milton 1923 First year with consecutive wins from the pole position; accounts for one of Milton's two career victories.
  Billy Arnold 1930 Led final 198 laps of race, most ever by pole-sitter or race winner
  Floyd Roberts 1938  
  Mauri Rose* 1941* * Started from pole position in separate entry than that co-driven to victory, only such occurrence to date
  Bill Vukovich 1953 Accounts for one of Vukovich's two career victories
  Pat Flaherty 1956  
  Parnelli Jones 1963  
  Al Unser 1970 Accounts for one of Unser's four career victories
  Bobby Unser 1981 First year with three consecutive wins from the pole position; accounts for one of Unser's three career victories
  Al Unser, Jr. 1994 Accounts for one of Unser's two career victories
  Arie Luyendyk 1997 Accounts for one of Luyendyk's two career victories
  Buddy Rice 2004  
  Sam Hornish, Jr. 2006  
  Scott Dixon 2008  
  Hélio Castroneves 2009 Accounts for one of Castroneves' three career victories
  Simon Pagenaud 2019

Time trials recordsEdit

Speed recordsEdit

Type Distance Date Driver Time Average speed
Laps Miles
Qualifying 1 2.5 miles (4.0 km) May 12, 1996   Arie Luyendyk 37.895 237.498 mph (382.216 km/h)
Qualifying 4 10 miles (16 km) May 12, 1996   Arie Luyendyk 2:31.908 236.986 mph (381.392 km/h)

Note: Arie Luyendyk's record-setting time trials run was conducted on the second day of time trials in 1996. Therefore, due to the rules at the time, he was ineligible for the pole position. He lined up 20th on the starting grid.

General recordsEdit


Works citedEdit


  1. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - 1070-AM WIBC, May 2, 2005
  2. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 17, 2011. WFNI.
  3. ^ "Drawing Will Decide Qualifying Positions". The Indianapolis Star. May 14, 1965. p. 26. Retrieved April 5, 2019 – via 
  4. ^ Marquette, Ray (May 15, 1971). "Donohue Set For Pole Record". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved April 5, 2019 – via 
  5. ^ Cavin, Curt (2010-04-10). "Winning pole just got more intense". Archived from the original on March 11, 2014. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  6. ^ Kelly, Paul (2010-04-14). "'Fast Nine' To Make Thrilling Late-Day Run For Pole Saturday, May 22". Archived from the original on March 11, 2014. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  7. ^ Patton, W. Blaine (May 19, 1935). "Mays in pole post as pilot is disqualified". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved April 17, 2017 – via