Scott Dixon sweated out close runs by Vision Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV to win the pole for Saturday night's 2008 IndyCar season opener Gainsco Auto Insurance 300 at Miami Homestead Speedway.
While Vision Racing was the big surprise of the night, the other surprise was that Dan Wheldon lost control and slammed the wall after being fastest in practice.
Dixon, who lost the 2007 IndyCar championship when he ran out of fuel on the final lap of the last race of the year, turned his fast lap early and then had to wait out many other attempts at knocking him off the pole.
Dixon ran an average of 213.341 mph to capture his ninth career pole position.
“The car had a ton of grip," Dixon said. “I got a little bit loose going into turn one on the first lap, but apart from that, it was good. I could keep the car on the bottom.
“It’s definitely a different way of doing qualifying," Dixon said of the new Indianapolis 500-style format that will now be used to set the field for all of the oval events on the IndyCar Series schedule. “You can see it’s made a bit of difference in the grid, people not doing these one-off laps. It’s trying to keep the car consistent. Earlier in the day, it would have been tough, but later in the day, with the weather being kinder to us, it’s not so difficult. It makes it interesting. It’s a little more difficult for the driver, but the weather made it pretty easy tonight."
For the record Dixon wins the first pole in the new unified Indy Car series. Dixon thinks he is one of the favorites for the title this year but he was quick to point out that there are many other drivers out there who can win the title.
Foyt ran a four-lap average of 212.211 mph to knock Danica Patrick off the front row in his No. 2 Vision entry. Then, teammate Carpenter briefly held the front position, only to lose it by the slimmest of margins on his last lap.
"I'm not going to lie, that 213.6 I ran at the beginning surprised me," Carpenter said. "I knew I could run in the 212s, but I wasn't sure I could go quite that fast. Then as the run was going on, I was thinking, man. I wasn't sure what Scott ran, but I knew I was probably in front of him. Then I lost it on the last lap. But either way, this team did such a good job all off season. The whole team, top to bottom, did a great job all winter and it shows right here. Now, we've got to keep up the work and do our job tomorrow night."
Patrick will start fourth, after running an average of 212.129 mph in her Andretti Green Dallara Honda.
"I like the four laps, I think it's interesting and I think it's interesting from the fan's perspective," Patrick said. "I think it lets us as drivers work a little bit more on the race car, because it's four laps. It's about making a consistent car. You find yourself doing a lot less of the dramatic adjustments to the car for qualifying. We don't do as much to the car for qualifying now, because the race is most important.
"This is always a difficult track," Patrick said. "Morning, noon, night, whenever you're on it, there's a very fine line between having a car that oversteers and understeers. That's the battle we all fight here at Homestead."
Sharing the third row will be new Penske Racing driver Ryan Briscoe, 212.108 mph, and Marco Andretti, 212.838 mph.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified first): “What a crazy qualifying session. Two big crashes, four-lap average it was pretty interesting. I think the biggest thing was when it started cooling off. There were a bunch of guys who we didn’t think we would have to worry about who ended up having some big laps. Kudos to the Vision Team, second and third. That’s a big deal.
We will see about tomorrow. There could be plenty of interesting things tomorrow. The last couple of the years at least on my side we haven’t qualified real well. Dan (Wheldon) has always been fast here."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, qualified second): “I wasn’t quite sure I could quite go that fast. Then as the run was going on, I was thinking, ‘I can’t remember what Scott (Dixon) ran, but I know I’m probably in front of him.’ Then the last lap, the 212.8 – I thought that may have done it. But either way, this team did such a good job this offseason. Larry Curry did a great job with some of the moves we made and the whole team from top to bottom put a lot of effort in this winter and it shows right here. Now we just have to keep up the hard work and do our job tomorrow night and the rest of the season."
“It’s a heck of a way to start a season. The new qualifying format really made things interesting and I like it. The guys put in a lot of hard work this offseason and it showed in qualifying and I think it will show on race day. We have new sponsors with Menards and John Mansville and DirecTV and everybody and it’s good to give them a good first night."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing, qualified third): “If I couldn’t be on the front row, then I’m glad that my teammate was the one to knock me off. I’m very happy with the run. The car has been good all day and it was good at the test. The guys made the right adjustments for qualifying. I can’t wait for tomorrow." (About prospects for the race): “It could be a good day for Vision Racing. The No. 2 car or the No. 20 car could win the race. It would be nice to get Vision’s first win."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, qualified fourth): “Considering the day that we had I think we did a great job qualifying in the Motorola car. We really struggled during practice this afternoon. We could not find the right setup all day, but my crew did a great job getting it right for tonight. As the evening goes on, the better the track conditions got. Nevertheless, I am happy with my starting position."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified fifth): “It's really great to be back here in the IndyCar Series. We had a solid qualifying run, and I think we should be in good shape for tomorrow. I'm still getting some track time out here and trying to get back into things, but I think it's been a great start so far. With the merger, it's been exciting to come out here and have 25 cars on the grid. So far, it's been a great first race weekend with Team Penske; they're such a great group of guys to work with and it's a fantastic honor to be racing with this team. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow and I'm definitely ready to go."
|Car||Driver Name||Lap 1||Lap 2||Lap 3||Lap 4||Tot. Time||Speed||Comment|
|3||2||Foyt IV, AJ||25.2125||25.1644||25.1872||25.2035||01:40.7676||212.211|
|24||10||Wheldon, Dan||No Time||DNQ|
|25||24||Howard, Jay||No Time||DNQ|