Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent
- Dixon on Mid-Ohio pole
- Pagenaud subs for injured Wilson
- Will Patrick leave IndyCar?
Scott Dixon leads Ganassi vs Penske battle for Mid-Ohio dominance
Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon won pole for Sunday’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a lap of 1:8.1671 over the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit in rural northeast Ohio on Saturday. Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske was second-quick, followed by Dario Franchitti, also of Ganassi Racing.
Dixon bested the rest of the Firestone Fast Six field for his first pole of the 2011 season. Dixon’s mark of 119.405 mph was a remarkable half a mile per hour faster than Briscoe (118.954 mph) on a hot and humid summertime day in the Buckeye state.
It was a hell of a workout during the session.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Dixon, who has not won pole since 2009 (Motegi, Japan). “Hopefully we’ll have a smooth race tomorrow.
"We all thought it was going to rain, so everyone was pushing as hard as possible early on in the session. It was a hell of a workout during the session. I'm a little red right now," added the Kiwi.
Australian's Briscoe said, "It was a very hard-fought battle out there. This is a very physical track and it takes its toll on you."
Team Penske’s Will Power qualified fourth, while Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Graham Rahal of Ganassi Racing will start on row 3 in the 85-lap race.
Rookie James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing continued to impress, qualifying in the seventh spot, followed by Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ Alex Tagliani and KV Racing Lotus’ Takuma Sato. Charlie Kimball rounded out the top ten in the fourth Ganassi machine Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves disappointed after seeming to find himself in the last race at Edmonton, qualifying here in fifteenth position.
Said Hinchcliffe, "Again, we were just on the outside looking in (to get into the Firestone Fast Six) but for a rookie it's not a bad place to be."
Simon Pagenaud made his second successful qualifying attempt of the year filling in for Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and will start eighteenth. Wilson ran off-track in Turn 1 during morning practice and was taken to the local medical facility for observation prompting a call to Pagenaud to qualify the car for him.
Per the team, Wilson “has an anterior compression fracture of the fifth vertebra and will be kept overnight at MedCentral Hospital in Mansfield, Ohio. Wilson will be transported to Indianapolis tomorrow to meet with Dr. Terry Trammell”.
Dennis Reinbold, Co-Owner Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: "First and foremost, we want to wish Justin Wilson all of the best. He is a big part of our team and it’s unfortunate he will not be able to race the No. 22 car tomorrow.”
Marco Andretti will start nineteenth, while Andretti Autosport teammate Danica Patrick lines up in the twenty-third spot on the grid. Patrick has been the subject of intense media scrutiny this week over a much-rumored move to NASCAR. She, however, continues to deny the switch, saying in a news conference here on Friday, “There's been no decisions made. Nothing finalized. Nothing to report."
The green flag is scheduled to fly at 2:50 PM EDT on Sunday with partly cloudy skies and a high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit forecast in Lexington, Ohio. The race will be televised live on the VERSUS cable and satellite network. It will also be broadcast live on radio and internet stream by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway radio network.