The championship showdown between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves continued in Belle Isle, as the two faced off in qualifying for Sunday's Detroit Indy Grand Prix. At the end of an exciting Firestone Fast Six Shootout, Dixon put his No. 9 Target...
The championship showdown between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves continued in Belle Isle, as the two faced off in qualifying for Sunday's Detroit Indy Grand Prix. At the end of an exciting Firestone Fast Six Shootout, Dixon put his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine on the pole position, edging out his rival in the No. 3 Team Penske entry.
Dixon ran a 1:12.2861 lap time (103.090 mph) around the 14-turn, 2.07-mile Belle Isle course, good enough for his sixth pole of the year. Four of those brought wins in the respective races. The Kiwi's last top starting position at a road or street course came over a year ago at Infineon, a race that he also won.
"We pride ourselves on spending most of our time on strategy as a team," Dixon said. "I think we still have that in our pocket, and our position on the pit lane will definitely help during the race. Hopefully we can save some fuel and keep that going. There is going to be a lot of different people trying different strategies to improve their positions. A lot of these guys and girls, eight to 10 spots back, are going to try some pretty crazy things. We'll keep out mind focused on the race and try to go for the win."
Dixon didn't have a trouble-free weekend, though, as his Ganassi machine brushed the concrete walls on at least three occasions in practice, causing suspension damage. An eye must be kept on the championship, as Dixon holds a 43-point lead over Castroneves heading into Sunday's penultimate round. With his second IndyCar title in sight, he needs a trouble-free run tomorrow.
"It was tough, the track is definitely demanding. It was probably the only session I didn't bend the car, which was kind of nice, too," admitted Dixon. "For us, it was just putting a lap together."
Castroneves will start alongside Dixon, after setting a 1:12.7649 lap time (102.412 mph) in his Team Penske machine. The Brazilian said he knew he was going to be in the thick of the battle, but changes made to his car prior to the Fast Six Shootout didn't work out to his liking.
"We have a great car," Castroneves stated. "I knew this was going to be between Scott and I. Unfortunately, the times that you see out there does not represent what we think it is in all our times. But it will be very close between both of us.
"I was pushing as hard as I could. Second is not bad," he added, "actually, it's pretty good. And we're going to try to do everything we can to win the race tomorrow."
Oriol Servia put in the third quickest time in the No. 5 KV Racing Technology car, tying his best start of the season. Servia's lap time of 1:12.0618 (102.136 mph) kept his streak of qualifying within the top-eight in all road/street course races this season.
"I find this qualifying format really amazing," remarked Servia on the IndyCar qualifying versus what was used in the former Champ Car series. "It really asks a lot from the drivers. I mean, if you're a driver, you don't understand how much we have to push and how many times.
"Obviously we didn't have enough for Scott at all. It was deep, I don't know how he did that lap," he added. "But I'm just happy for the team."
Fourth went to Justin Wilson in the No. 02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing machine. The tall Englishman barely made it into the final six after getting caught out in a series of red flags during his first round of qualifying. Wilson knocked Ryan Hunter-Reay out of the top-six with just two minutes remaining in the combined, round two session.
Australia's Ryan Briscoe kept his streak of making every Fast Six alive, and ended up fifth quickest in the shootout. The No. 6 Team Penske driver turned a 1:13.1004 (101.942 mph), edging out Graham Rahal in the No. 06 N/H/L machine by nearly six-tenths. Rahal lost over six minutes in the Fast Six when his team didn't have tires prepared the shootout. Nonetheless, it was his first appearance in the Fast Six.
Tony Kanaan missed making the Fast Six for the second time this season, and will start eighth. In fact, none of the four Andretti Green Racing entries made it into the top-six, another first. Hunter-Reay in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing machine qualified in seventh. Rounding out the top-10 was E.J. Viso in ninth and the 10th placed Andretti Green entry of Danica Patrick.
After yesterday's disappointing run by Enrique Bernoldi, Conquest Racing has elected to put Alex Tagliani in the seat of the team's No. 36 car for this weekend's race. Bernoldi injured his thumb in an accident last weekend at Infineon and was unable to compete at 100 percent. Tagliani, a Champ Car veteran, got his first taste of an IndyCar this morning, turning 22 laps in the practice session. The Canadian was allowed to compete in both groups after not turning a wheel on Friday. Tagliani will start from the 21st position.
Twenty-five cars will start tomorrow's race, as the No. 25 entry of Marty Roth has been withdrawn following a series of accidents on Friday and Saturday. The green flag flies on the Detroit Indy Grand Prix at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday.