INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon made a big gamble pay off Sunday.

After allowing engineer Chris Simmons to tinker with his car’s qualifying trim and later questioning whether the changes might be too daring, Dixon delivered with the fastest speeds he’s ever seen at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The New Zealander finished with a four-lap average of 232.164 mph, claiming his third Indianapolis 500 pole with the best qualifying run in 21 years. He easily held off the other front-row starters, Ed Carpenter at 231.664 and defending champion Alexander Rossi at 231.487.

Even Dixon couldn’t believe it.

“Seriously, I don’t know where that came from,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. “It’s fast, really fast. I actually thought there was something wrong with my dash to start with, (I thought) ‘232? Wow!’ I knew that big lap, the first one, was going to be tough to beat. So a big thank you to Chris.”

Dixon’s first-lap of 232.595 and his final average were the fastest times recorded at Indianapolis since Arie Luyendyk set the qualifying record and single-lap record in 1996. Luyendyk’s average was 236.986, with a best lap of 237.498.

The crowd roared each time the speed went up on the videoboards and when Dixon pulled back into pit lane after his 10-mile ride, everyone knew the nine-car pole shootout was over.

“I was surprised when I saw some of the numbers yesterday and when he did that 232, a little pressure went away to be honest with you,” said Carpenter, who went 232.180 on his fastest lap. “We wanted to be on the front row and we wanted to get everything we had – and I think we did that.”

For a few minutes, it looked like two-time Formula One champ Fernando Alonso had a chance to become the first rookie to win Indy’s top starting spot since 1983.

But two attempts later, Rossi knocked Alonso out of the top spot, and two attempts after that, Dixon took the lead for good. Now he can focus completely on next weekend’s race.

“We’ve got to be happy with this – it’s the right place to start,” Dixon said. “It’s not the race win, but we’re in the right starting position.”

Seven former winners and three rookies made the 33-car starting grid.

James Davison will start from the back of the field as a replacement driver for Sebastien Bourdais, who had successful surgery to repair his pelvis Saturday night after a frightening crash during qualifying Saturday. Bourdais suffered multiple fractures in his pelvis and a fractured right hip.