Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent
New Zealand’s Scott Dixon landed on top at Twin Ring Motegi's road course
Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon claimed pole on Saturday for the final IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. The Kiwi's time of 1:38.3918 over the 3-mile road course bested rival Will Power (1:38.4194) of Team Penske, and was a tick ahead of teammate Graham Rahal (1:38.5946) in the Fast Six portion of qualifying.
"The track, with it cooling off, seemed to be getting a bit better. We're on the pole, and that's what counts. Being in Japan for the last IndyCar race for us at the moment, it feels pretty special," said Dixon who now has taken a pole on both the oval and road course and can end up tomorrow as a winner on both types of courses at Motegi.
Power landed his ninth front row start this season after early struggles getting up to speed. The Aussie commented, "I’m really kind of disappointed that we weren’t able to put that last lap together and make a good run for pole. I didn’t do what I needed to do in the last few turns, but it’s still a good result.”
He also commented on a Team Penske resurgence that has helped move him within reach of the championship points lead. “With all three cars qualifying in the top six we are right where we need to be for the championship. Anything can happen in the race tomorrow.”
Rahal earned his second-consecutive top three qualifying start. "I'm really happy with the way the No. 38 Service Central car is performing and really happy to be starting in the top three for the second consecutive race. Hopefully, we can put it all together and finish right up there because a lot of the guys we're fighting in points are starting further back than us, so it would be nice to gain a lot of good points tomorrow," he said.
Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe (1:38.7082) qualified fourth for the race, followed by James Hinchcliffe (1:38.9226) of Newman/Haas Racing. Penske driver Helio Castroneves (1:38.9743) qualified in the sixth spot.
Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball (1:38.7911) will start seventh, alongside Dale Coyne Racing’s James Jakes (1:38.8198).
Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti failed to advance to the Fast Six segment for only the third time on the season (previous Barber Motorsports Park and Long Beach). The result put even further pressure on the Scot to defend his lead in the series overall championship campaign. Only 5 points separate Power and Franchitti in the championship race.
“I just didn't put a lap together to make the Fast Six. That's about it,” Franchitti said.” I couldn't put a lap together, left it until the last one, and made a mistake in Turn 3. Then (James) Jakes went off in Turn 9 in front of me, covering the track in dirt. It was a combination of those two things, and we missed the tenth and a half we needed.”
Franchitti (1.38.8738) lines up ninth next Marco Andretti (1:38.9058) of Andretti Autosports to round out the top ten starters.
The 63-lap event commences at midnight EDT on Sunday. Live television broadcast coverage will be provided by the VERSUS cable and satellite network. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network broadcast and internet streaming audio will also have the call live from trackside.