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Dixon Wins ‘BumperCar’ Pole at Mid-Ohio

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 6 2011

Scott Dixon will start the IZOD IndyCar Series race from P1 on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By  Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Steam Corners, Ohio –  Scott Dixon won the pole for the Honday Indy 200, which means he’s in the best position to avoid the BumperCar Series that has emerged in place of the IZOD IndyCar series during the recent Canadian swing.

The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course layout has always been a tight one for the IRL’s open-wheelers and Dixon, who clocked an average of 119 mph to edge Ryan Briscoe by 0.258 seconds, is taking nothing for granted. The driver of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry hedged his bets on whether the race will be an improvement over the Great Canadian Avoidable Contact debate.

“It’s easier to judge your braking distances and the corners, because it’s a permanent road course,” said Dixon. “The surface is inconsistent but more predictable than a street circuit. But no, I don’t expect this race to be any more civil.”

As is typical for major series running on the 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit, the race will start on the back straight and the first corner will be Turn 4. “It’s not as inviting as some of the first corners we’ve had recently,” said Graham Rahal, a native of nearby Dublin, who will start sixth on his home circuit for the Ganassi team. “I just hope we can get through there cleanly.”

What is now typical for the IndyCar series where all teams use Honda-powered Dallara chassis, double-file re-starts mean each re-start will occasion another attempt to get through Turn 4. “We can run two-wide through there if the track is clean,” said Dario Franchitti, the series points leader who will start third.

The track, recently purchased by Green Savoree Mid-Ohio, LLC, has proven to be cantankerous on double-wide green flag starts at Turn 4 in the past IRL events. It also proved to be dangerous in the morning practice. Justin Wilson suffered a compression fracture in his back after running off course in his Dreyer & Reinbold entry at the exit of Turn 1. The undulating terrain and crossover road helped Wilson’s car get high enough to cause the facture due to a hard landing.

It was hard work for all the drivers under overcast skies and humid conditions on a track notorious for changing with the cloud cover, heat and rubber build-up. “The track keeps improving and you have to be out there at the end,” said Briscoe, driver of the Penske Truck Rental entry.

Dixon, who rode on the softer Firestone reds like all the quicker drivers, said he believes he gained ground at the high-speed lefthander at Turn 1 and at the high-speed bend at Turn 11 exiting Thunder Valley. But he doesn’t think there’s much chance of gaining ground on Ganassi teammate Franchitti in the points championship. “For me it’s trying to run each race as it comes,” said Dixon, who has seven rounds remaining to catch the defending champion by the season finale in Las Vegas. “It’s a matter of trying to make the most of it.”

The New Zealander made the most of the variable conditions as the qualifying session moved toward the Firestone Fast Six. He won his first pole since the Twin Ring Motegi race in September of 2009.

Will Power, the primary antagonists in the points who had dissed Franchitti at Toronto after the latter knocked him out of race and title contention, has gone back to being the quiet Aussie since their feud first blossomed. Power, who won decisively in Edmonton, will start his Verizon Penkse Racing entry fourth, one position behind the Scotsman.

Will Power, the primary antagonists in the points who had dissed Franchitti at Toronto after the latter knocked him out of race and title contention, has gone back to being the quiet Aussie since their feud first blossomed. Power, who won decisively in Edmonton, will start his Verizon Penkse Racing entry fourth, one position behind the Scotsman.

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay was the other member of the six-pack who advanced to the final qualifying session. He was highest-placed of the Andretti Autosport entries of Mike Conway (17th), Marco Andretti (19th) and Danica Patrick (23rd).

James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing was on the losing side of the bubble in seventh place when the final qualifying session participants were determined.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 6 2011
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