One week after having a front-row seat for the drama at the end of the Indianapolis 500, Scott Dixon earned a front-row spot for the start of tomorrow’s Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix, pacing qualifying on the 2.07-mile Belle Isle street circuit.
Dixon hung up a top lap of 70.3162 seconds to put his Honda-powered Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine atop the 25-car grid, but had to sweat out a last-lap charge from Team Penske’s Will Power, who had led the first two qualifying sessions of the day. But in the end, Power’s final effort left him .0044 seconds short and left Dixon to claim his first IZOD Indy Car Series pole of the year.
“This is one of the toughest tracks we come to as far as passing opportunities, so it was important to us that we do well in qualifying,” Dixon said after claiming his 18th Indy Car pole. “We made some headway this morning in practice and changed some engine mapping during the qualifying that helped us a lot."
Power was hoping to challenge for his third pole of the year but admitted that he put himself behind the eight-ball on his last charge for the pole.
“I forgot a shift as I started the lap, which was really stupid, and that held us up early,” Power said. “I pushed as hard as I have ever pushed but the guys on the radio kept saying “P2, P2”. I kept thinking ‘that bloody Dixon’.”
While it is a fairly familiar front row for tomorrow’s event, the second row is made up of Bryan Herta Autosport’s Alex Tagliani flanked by Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud. In fact, the Firestone Fast Six was make up of drivers of six different teams and KV Racing’s E. J. Viso and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the first three rows.
Qualifying was hailed as key for success in tomorrow’s race as nobody that finished in the top six in qualifying expects there to be much in the way of passing on Sunday.
“You are never straight here,” Hunter-Reay said. The track is so hard to pass on and it’s going to be tough tomorrow. Guys are going to get held up and get impatient and anything can happen.”
Graham Rahal came within a miniscule .0038 seconds of advancing into the Firestone Fast Six on his last lap of the second qualifying session, however, he will start 17th in the field owing to a penalty earned for an unapproved engine change in Indianapolis.
Team Penske stablemates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves will make up the fourth row, with Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson rounding out the top 10.