Indy – Dixon Scores Peak Performance Pole Award For Indy Japan

September 17, 2011


Scott Dixon can claim he’s the pole winner on both the Twin Ring Motegi oval and road course. He’d like to add Sept. 17 that he’s the only winner on the oval and road course.

Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, posted a best lap of 1 minute, 38.3918 seconds on the 2.983-mile, 14-turn circuit to claim the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone for the Indy Japan.

“To be honest, I was up on my quick lap from Q1 by two- or three-tenths of a second, but then I kept losing it in the last section here in Turns 12, 13 and 14,” said Dixon, who won the 2009 race on the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval from the pole in 2009. “It was a bit frustrating but we just got it. We’re on the pole and that’s what counts. It feels very special to be on the pole for the last race here at Motegi.”

It was the 17th pole of Dixon’s Indy car career, tying Emerson Fittipaldi for 18th on the all-time list. He’ll contend with Will Power — and, of course, 24 other entrants — in the 63-lap race (11:30 p.m. ET on VERSUS). Power was tracking for the pole on his final lap of the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six session until the final two turns (a tricky left-right combination) and wound up 0.0276 of a second behind in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

The point for the earned pole would have been nice to have in his pocket as Power trails IZOD IndyCar Series championship front-runner Dario Franchitti by five points entering the 15th of 17 races. But his disappointment might be somewhat tempered by Franchitti starting a season low-tying ninth.

“Dario starting ninth is good for us, although a lot can happen in a race,” said Power, who will make his ninth front-row start of the season. “We always try to put ourselves in the position to stay out of trouble and give us the best chance of winning. For me, it was pretty good through every single sector and just made a mistake.

“I’m sure Scott was the same. We’re all pushing for the quickest lap and at the end it was really close so front row is pretty good.”

Franchitti, who had started and finished fourth in each of the past two races (Infineon and Baltimore) in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, trails Power by 14 points in the Mario Andretti Road Trophy chase that will be decided on this road course.

“I couldn’t put a lap together and left it until the last one and made a mistake in Turn 3,” he said. “Then (James) Jakes went off in Turn 9 in front of me, covering the track in dirt. It was a combination of those two things we missed the tenth and a half we were needing.”

Graham Rahal and Ryan Briscoe will share Row 2 and James Hinchcliffe and Helio Castroneves will occupy Row 3.

Charlie Kimball (seventh) and James Jakes (eighth) posted season-high starting positions.

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PEAK Performance Pole Award):“Cooling off seemed to be getting a little better. To be honest I was up on my quick lap from Q1 by two or three tenths but then I kept losing it in the last section here in Turns 12, 13 and 14. It was a bit frustrating but we just got it. I think it was by a few hundredths or a few thousandths of a second. We’re on the pole and that’s what counts. It feels very special to be on the pole for the last race here at Motegi.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, qualified second): “It was a good recovery by the Verizon team today after practice. We were struggling for sure in the second practice today but we were able to get back on track and to wind up qualifying second is great. I’m really kind of disappointed that we weren’t able to put that last lap together and make a good run for pole. I didn’t do what I needed to do in the last few turns but it’s still a good result. With all three Team Penske cars qualifying in the top six, that’s a good result for us and it’s definitely good to be starting where we are for the championship. Anything can happen in the race tomorrow, but we’re right where we need to be.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Hitachi Team Penske, qualified fourth): “It was another huge performance by Team Penske today. Here on a brand new circuit in Motegi, this really shows how much preparation and hard work our engineers have done back home. Qualifying fourth is really good for us on the Hitachi Team Penske car. I was really looking for a little bit more in the Fast 6 but our tires were just going away at the end there. It was another good effort by the No. 6 car guys to get into the Fast 6. We’ve really been working hard on our road course setups and it definitely shows in our results.”


JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing, qualified fifth): It’s nice redemption after Baltimore (started 15th). I was really upset that didn’t make it out of Q1 and had no good excuse other than myself, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to do a good job. The car was the best it’s been all weekend. We kept tweaking it, and that’s what I love about this team is they never give up. It’s good to be back in the Fast Six.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske, qualified sixth): “It was a good day for Team Penske. We had three cars in the Firestone Fast Six and we are all starting up front. The Hitachi car was good in qualifying, but I think we will be even better tomorrow in the race. Our car is really good on older tires, so we should be in great shape to go after a win here tomorrow. It has been a year (since his last victory) and I am ready to get a win. I have to thank all the fans here in Motegi for their generous gifts and support.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central):“It was a great day for the Service Central team. We’ve been pretty quick all weekend, but it’s hard to tell during the practice sessions. We led the group in the first and second segments for qualifying and thought we’d be able to finish it off, but we just didn’t have quite enough pace. Scott (Dixon) and Will (Power) both put together awesome laps on the second run of tires to be on the front row. I’m really happy with the way the No. 38 Service Central car is performing and really happy to be starting in the top three for the second consecutive race. Hopefully, we can put it all together and finish right up there because a lot of the guys we’re fighting in points are starting further back than us, so it would be nice to gain a lot of good points tomorrow.”


CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir & NovoLog FlexPen, qualified seventh):“It was a really good qualifying run for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. This is our season-best qualifying effort of the year and we were within three-hundredths to making to the Firestone Fast Six, which I think really proves the progress we’ve made, not just my experience as a driver but the whole No. 83 Novo Nordisk team. It’s good momentum going into the race and we’ll be shooting for a top-10 finish for sure and looking at knocking at the door of the top five.”


DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified ninth):“I just didn’t put a lap together to make the Fast Six. That’s about it. Couldn’t put a lap together and left it until the last one and made a mistake in Turn 3. Then (James) Jakes went off in Turn 9 in front of me, covering the track in dirt. It was a combination of those two things we missed the tenth and a half we were needing.


MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom, qualified 10th): “It’s good to get the Venom car into the top ten on the starting grid, but we’re still limited on grip. We’re tipping the car over from oversteer to understeer too easily. We’ll work on that tonight and hopefully be ready to go tomorrow.”


JOAO PAULO de OLIVEIRA (No. 34 Ceremony Conquest Racing): “We have made some more progress and got the car working better on the red tires, so that was positive. On Q1 I got the most out of it and in Q2 I didn’t quite get everything together. I’m still trying to figure out how to gain time on reds and without the experience I can’t be too critical of myself. I think it was another positive day and we are moving forward. Now we will focus on the car for the race and make sure we get it to a point I’ll be comfortable with. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”


E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, qualified 13th):“It is frustrating to know that I had a lap that was going to put me safely into the next round, but lost it at the exit of the hairpin. We had a decent car that I believe could have put me further up the grid. It’s unfortunate because we were consistently in the top-10 for the practice sessions and with the red tires we thought we would be in the top-six and advancing to the next group. It’s going to be a long race with unknown circumstances for all the drivers at this track. Tires, driving style and strategy will play an important role and it’s now when the fun part starts”


TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, qualified 25th):“We missed this one by a whole lot. Since the first practice we were having brake problems and instead of focusing on getting the car fast we were focusing on solving the brake issues. When the brake problem was finally resolved we did not get our setup right. Not once. There are no excuses, our qualifying effort was pathetic.”


ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): “We had the speed but I messed up and am very mad at myself. The whole day was really good. I was really, really happy with the team, the improvements we made to the Telemundo car and with my driving – everything. The morning was looking very good and qualifying was too. My first lap was good for the first lap and on my second lap I was only two corners from the Start/Finish line and I already had a good enough lap to be in the top-six; I was two-and-a-half tenths faster which would have easily put me there. I braked too late and locked the front tires up and it flat spotted the tire completely; it was gone. I screwed up and I am very upset because the last few road courses I haven’t qualified that well for one reason or another and today we really had the speed. We were only two corners from completing the lap. That being said, it does not mean we cannot have a great race tomorrow like we have been. There are a little more opportunities for passing then say Sonoma, still it is going to be difficult to pass but we have a fast car and it is a lot easier when you do. We can definitely have a good Sunday and we need it for the points.”


RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): “It’s unfortunate – we didn’t have a good day. We’ve been struggling with the car all weekend and haven’t found the answer yet. Hopefully we’ll turn it around and make tomorrow count for the DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop team.”

MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 @FollowAndretti): “I’m obviously disappointed that the @FollowAndretti car didn’t make it through farther in qualifying. Our first lap was ok, but then I went off and after that we just didn’t put a lap together. It’s too bad because we ran well all day.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): We had some problems with the gearbox today; the Go Daddy car wasn’t downshifting or upshifting properly. The last lap was the same as the two laps before and I know I lost time shifting the car. Had everything shifted smoothly it still wouldn’t have put us in the Firestone Fast Six, but it would have been nice to be a little higher on the grid. I feel like it’s been a rough year with qualifying but the good news is my strength is race day. I guess if I had to choose between qualifying and race day I’d choose race day.”

SIMONA De SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing): “I really like the track here at Twin Ring Motegi,” said De Silvestro. “It feels like a European race course and suits my style. We struggled this weekend but I’m confident that we’ll be able to make up positions during the race. I’m proud of the Nuclear Clean Air Energy team for working so hard to make changes as we experimented this weekend. I’ll be doing my best tomorrow to show them it was worth the effort they put forth.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): “We ended up with a little bit of a shift in balance on the red (Firestone alternate tires) that I wasn’t expecting. And obviously the times are really close out here, so this is frustrating for us because we know how strong we are. But we know the National Guard car is really competitive based upon where we’ve been in practice – we’ve had the car feeling really good all weekend, so we’ll work on it a little bit more in the morning and see where we end up tomorrow in the race.”

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