IRL: Dixon takes pole in Texas

By Andy Darley

CalendarSaturday, June 7th, 2008

 
 

Qualifying at the Texas Motor Speedway mirrored the big picture of the season so far: Scott Dixon came out on top, and only Helio Castroneves was close to challenging him.

The New Zealander, who leads the championship from Castroneves, took pole for the Bombardier Learjet 550k with a speed of 214.878mph.

The Brazilian was just 0.0462s behind on cumulative time across the four qualifying laps, with Ryan Briscoe and Hideki Mutoh some way back in third and fourth.

Dixon’s team-mate Dan Wheldon qualified 11th in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing spare car after wrecking his main car and damaging his ankle in a crash during practice.

He praised his team for their work in setting up the new car and said his foot was no worse than sore: “It’s just the right side of it, it smashed against the tub. It’s fine; I just can’t put much weight on it. That was probably the biggest hit I’ve had – the first part of it hurt the most, I wasn’t expecting it. The Polaroid car was really strong. It’s disappointing.”

Another driver whose crew faced a battle to set their car up properly was Darren Manning at A.J. Foyt Enterprises, who qualified 17th. He said: “We lost a fuel pump yesterday, so we didn’t get any practice to speak of, and today we got the car handling right, but we missed slightly on the gears, so the first two laps hurt our overall speed.”

Like most drivers, he is expecting the race to be one long sprint that will reward good set-ups and raw speed over starting position. He said: “This is one race where it really doesn’t matter where you qualify. I think we have a good car for the race so I’m happy about that.”

The Newman/Haas/Lanigan pairing of Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson had a disappointing qualifying session in their team’s Texas Motor Speedway debut, ending up 18th and 23rd respectively.

Wilson said: “We were flat out and trying to run the line of least resistance. I’m a little bit disappointed; I was hoping the McDonald’s car would be a little bit quicker than that but we have proven on many occasions that we are much better in the race than we are in qualifying so hopefully we will do better tomorrow.”

He said he could well understand why CART had cancelled a race there because the drivers were suffering from vertigo and dizziness while running at 240mph on the 24 degree banking: “I can’t imagine going 20 mph faster than what we’re doing now. It’s already crazy fast.

“I can understand why they were passing out. You can definitely feel the strains and the G-forces compressing in. It’s different to the other tracks we’ve raced on, where the Gs are lateral. You start to feel the effect.”

Dixon hadn’t expected to run so strongly after the car had dipped in performance during practice: “It’s shocking, to be honest. I’m very happy we came away with the pole, especially with how hard the Target team works, but I’m still shocked. I think tomorrow is going to be straight-out speed, especially when it comes down to the final 40 or 50 laps.”

Castroneves rued the missed opportunity: “We had one lap that was fast, but we needed four laps and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that. I wish we could go back to the old way we used to qualify, but it is what it is.”

Roth Racing’s decision to team up with John Andretti looks increasingly sound – even if benching Jay Howard to make room for him still doesn’t – as the veteran qualified a career-best seventh. He said: “We’ve been fast since we’ve unloaded at Texas. I’m really proud of the team’s hard work.”

Qualifying results for the Bombardier Learjet 550k

Pos Driver Team Time
1. Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing 214.878mph
2. Helio Castroneves Team Penske 214.777mph
3. Ryan Briscoe Team Penske 213.927mph
4. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green Racing 213.485mph
5. Danica Patrick Andretti Green Racing 213.238mph
6. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon Racing 213.212mph
7. John Andretti Roth Racing 212.844mph
8. Will Power KV Racing Technology 212.595mph
9. Vitor Meira Panther Racing 212.501mph
10. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman Racing 212.482mph
11. Dan Wheldon Target Chip Ganassi Racing 212.474mph
12. Ed Carpenter Vision Racing 212.247mph
13. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing 212.152mph
14. Marco Andretti Andretti Green Racing 211.974mph
15. AJ Foyt IV Vision Racing 211.622mph
16. Oriol Servia KV Racing Technology 211.333mph
17. Darren Manning A.J. Foyt Enterprises 211.277mph
18. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing 211.128mph
19. Marty Roth Roth Racing 211.122mph
20. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest Racing 210.731mph
21. Jaime Camara Conquest Racing 210.582mph
22. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne Racing 210.254mph
23. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing 210.160mph
24. Mario Dominguez Pacific Coast Motorsports 210.059mph
25. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 209.622mph
26. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne Racing 209.572mph
27. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 209.420mph
28. EJ Viso HVM Racing 209.313mph

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