IRL: Motegi: Saturday starting lineup report

Dixon on pole at Motegi after rain washes out qualifying. MOTEGI, Japan, Saturday, April 12, 2003 -- Scott Dixon was right, after all. The real work for the pole position for the Indy Japan 300 came during practice sessions at Twin Ring Motegi,...

Dixon on pole at Motegi after rain washes out qualifying.

MOTEGI, Japan, Saturday, April 12, 2003 -- Scott Dixon was right, after all. The real work for the pole position for the Indy Japan 300 came during practice sessions at Twin Ring Motegi, not during MBNA Pole Qualifying.

Heavy rain forced the cancellation of qualifying April 12 after just six of the 24 drivers made their qualifying runs, and Dixon earned the top starting spot for the historic first IRL IndyCarTM Series race overseas by posting the fastest practice speed of the weekend, 26.4353 seconds, 206.996 mph, Friday in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

It's the first time Dixon will lead the field to the green flag in his IndyCar Series career, which started this season. The race is scheduled to start at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday on the 1.5-mile oval. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on ABC and the IMS Radio Network.

A final practice will take place from 8-8:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday.

Dixon indicated after Friday's practice that he made a strong attempt to get an aerodynamic tow for a fast lap, as rain was in the forecast for today. The starting grid was set by the fastest overall speeds from two practice sessions Friday and the pre-qualifying practice today.

"Obviously, we would have much rather ran to earn the pole, but I'm not going to complain starting on the front," Dixon said. "I don't know that being on the front row will be that big of an advantage in the race because I think you find a lot of drafting and passing. Starting position may not be that important."

Series points leader Tony Kanaan will start second after posting a best practice lap of 26.4636, 206.775 in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Kanaan led the pre-qualifying practice this morning with that lap. Dixon was third.

Kanaan had won the MBNA Pole for the first two events of the season, winning the race from the top spot March 23 at Phoenix.

"We're glad to be on the front row again," Kanaan said. "If you look at the practice sessions, I believe Scott was quickest twice, and I was quickest once. Therefore, he deserves pole."

Dixon led both practice sessions Friday, with Kanaan second.

"Scott and I, we've been hooked up all weekend," Kanaan said. "So it should be a good fight."

Japanese native Tora Takagi will start third in front of his home crowd in the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. His best practice lap was 26.4671, 206.747 this morning.

Tomas Scheckter, Dixon's teammate, will start fourth in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone after a top practice lap of 26.5180, 206.350 this morning.

Dan Wheldon, Kanaan's teammate with Andretti Green Racing, also improved his stock this morning with a top lap of 26.5605, 206.020 in the No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, good for the fifth starting spot. He is replacing the injured Dario Franchitti in this race.

Two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. is the top Chevrolet-powered starter, as he will begin the race 13th in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Buddy Rice was unhurt during practice this morning when his No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone brushed the outside retaining wall exiting Turn 4. The right-side wheels and suspension were damaged.

This was the first time that MBNA Pole Qualifying has been rained out for an IndyCar Series event since the season finale in October 2001 at Texas Motor Speedway.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing