Scott Dixon picked up where he left off at Mid-Ohio today, winning the Pole for tomorrow’s Honda Indy 200. Dixon destroyed the track record multiple times, eventually laying down a lap of 1:04.5814 in the Firestone Fast Six, earning him the top spot. The Iceman has won here five times, including last year when he started in last. It’s the second pole of the season for Dixon, and the 23rd of his career which ties him with Johnny Rutherford for 12 all-time.
Defending series champion Will Power will join Dixon on the front row. The second row belongs to former winners Sebastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves. Row three features Josef Newgarden and 2013 Mid-Ohio winner Charlie Kimball. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Luca Filippi and Juan Montoya round out the top ten.
While Dixon claimed the top starting position, the two drivers ahead of him in the championship will start the race well behind his Chevrolet. Montoya has led the championship all season long, but will start 10th in tomorrow’s race. Graham Rahal is looking to make a big splash in his home state, but he will roll off 13th tomorrow after a situation with Sage Karam costed him a chance to advance in qualifying.
While Rahal was obviously frustrated with the Rookie driver, IndyCar reviewed the situation, but did not penalize anyone.
Kanaan is still searching for his first win of the season, and is extremely hungry after his heartbreak at Iowa two weeks ago. He’ll need a serious change of luck to win tomorrow though. In his 13 starts at Mid-Ohio, Kanaan has never finished on the podium, and has only led a total of 13 laps here. His average finish is 12.2 in those 13 races, so he will need to get things turned around if he wants to get the 100th win for the boss, Chip Ganassi.
Montoya enters the race with a 42 point lead over Graham Rahal in the championship, with just three races remaining. The driver who has led the championship with three races to go has failed to win the championship in four of the last six seasons. Montoya has led the championship since the first race of the season in St Petersburg.
The race distance is 90 laps, which is 203.22 miles around the 2.258-mile 13-turn road course. Bourdais won the Pole for last year’s race, and Dixon is the defending race winner. It is worth mentioning that only one of the 13 races so far this season has been won by a driver starting on the front row. The average starting position of the last eight Verizon IndyCar Series race winners is 12.6, but that’s likely to improve after tomorrow.
Coverage for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins at 1:30 PM ET on CNBC.
Below are highlights from qualifying, courtesy of IndyCar.
Will Power: “(Scott) Dixon’s really good around here, but it would be nice to have a win. If everything falls our way, we can definitely win. No question we need to for the championship. That’s our goal.”
Juan Montoya: “To be honest with you, it’s taken a lot of hard work by everyone on the Verizon Chevy team to get to where we are. We had a problem with the engine yesterday and lost almost an entire practice session. Since then we have just been behind. We’ve been trying to catch up and we improved a lot this morning. We were seventh in the morning session and qualified 10th. I just had a too much understeer in the first round and we didn’t adjust enough in the second round.”
Helio Castroneves: “As you have seen over the weekend, we were never able to get a clear lap, which actually was good. It kind of held us a little bit back, but in the end of the day it was a great effort from my engineer, Jonathan Diuguid. He was on it and cool and relaxed. When you have the people around you with that kind of coolness, it just makes you better. For me, it was perfect to put down good two laps there. It was tough, very tough, but we’re going to get ready for tomorrow and have a good result. I have no doubt it’s going to be another tough race, not only mentally but especially physically because we’re going pretty fast out there.”
Ryan Briscoe: “This was the first time I ran the reds (alternate tires) this year and I don’t think we were expecting a balance shift. I just picked up a ton of understeer in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car and I think we were probably a bit over-pressured on the tires. Once I started hurting the front tires, they just dropped off big time. That just really hurt us. With it being so competitive out there, I just wasn’t able to make the lap time that we needed to advance.”
Sage Karam: “It wasn’t the way we wanted qualifying to go for the No. 8 team. It was a tough session and the COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records car was fast overall. I got blocked a few times and tried to recover to get a good lap in to advance, but I went off in the end and couldn’t put it together unfortunately.”
Scott Dixon: “The Target car at this track has obviously had a strong run here; I think 10 wins with Mr. Chip Ganassi and five with myself driving the (No.) 9. It’s a combination, but even on that lap I messed up in (Turn) 12 and again in (Turn) 2, so there’s definitely a bit of speed. We waved off the last lap as well. Obviously Will (Power) came pretty close, so luckily we had a buffer there. We’re starting in the right position, but as we saw last year anything can happen. We started 22nd and won from there with obviously a pretty big break in strategy. I’ve got to thank my teammates, obviously Team Target has done a hell of a job all weekend, the car rolled off fantastically. It’s always great to be here at Mid-Ohio with so many fans. Turns 4 and 5 have been packed over there already, which is fantastic to see.”
Tony Kanaan: “I think we had a really fast car today for qualifying – we just weren’t able to make it into the top six. The competition was so tight and everyone was putting up such close lap times that even a little bit of understeer was enough to keep us out of the final round of quals. We’ll just have to make sure we have the right strategy in place and hope we can move up through the field early.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “A good day for the Hydroxycut team, but not good enough to get Dixie (Scott Dixon) and Will (Power). I was a little surprised at the gap. I don’t understand how they can pull stronger laps in the Firestone Fast Six, but it is what it is. We just have to keep digging. I think we made a huge improvement on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, which is very satisfying. If you are going to have a good race at Mid-Ohio you are going to have to be strong on the reds. Starting third we are in the running to win tomorrow. Chevy has given us reliable power and if things pan out right, the car is very strong on the black (primary) tires, so we can make it happen.”
Graham Rahal: “Sage (Karam) cost us that lap which would have been second or third quickest and we would have advanced to Round 2. The Steak ‘n Shake car was really good, we got it fixed for qualifying. I caught him and it absolutely just killed the entire momentum and I lost the entire lap. It’s just a shame, this is a huge, huge race for us and we’re going to start 13th. We’ve got to win this. I’m not saying it can’t be done from there, but I definitely think we had a car good enough to be in the top six. With everybody that we are competing against, it’s a shame when back markers like that get in the way of the championship. I’m pretty frustrated. Obviously this is a home crowd, home race and we want to get a win for Steak ‘n Shake and Honda. We’ve got some work to do tomorrow.”
Luca Filippi: “We knew qualifying was going to be very, very close. It was very important to do everything correctly, which we did in Round 1. In the very last lap of the top 12, I was on a lap that could have been good enough for the Firestone Fast 6, but I made a small mistake. In this very tight field, that mistake ended up costing us the opportunity to advance. We were fast and it’s good to have both cars in the top 10. We have a lot of potential for tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It’s been a rough day for PPG Automotive Refinish Chevy. Now it’s all back to normal. We had some technical issues yesterday and especially today in practice as we didn’t run any laps because of that. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of valuable track time. But quite frankly I am satisfied with my performance in qualifying, but I just needed a little more time to find the limit of the new aero kits. That’s what cost us today. We are starting P15 which is interesting because there’s a lot of strategy that we could do and maybe our luck could around come tomorrow’s race.”
Justin Wilson: “It’s been an interesting day. We definitely found some performance from yesterday and picked things up. In qualifying I was really happy with the car. We just missed it by a couple thousandths of a second advancing through. The last couple of corners, the car in front threw a load of dirt across the racetrack so we lost a tenth (of a second) there. But it’s just how it goes sometimes – it goes in your favor and sometimes it goes against you. I’m pleased with the car. I think we have a good race car for tomorrow so we’ll see what happens.”
Marco Andretti: “We’re starting mid-pack which is a disappointment for sure. We didn’t come here to qualify 12th so we’re bummed about that. It’s the worst we’ve been all weekend, too, which compounds the pain right now. It’s a long race and attrition is going to play a part. We just have to stay out of trouble and find some clear track, and really, really turn up so we can find some track position.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I thought we had a shot (at transferring into the Firestone Fast Six), especially with the lap we put together at the end – that was everything the car had. I couldn’t believe we pulled that much time out of (the car). We missed the Fast Six by a few thousandths of a second, which is really tight. We knew it was going to be close. … But I’m having a blast anytime I’m at this track. We put a good car together every time we come here so we’ll keep our heads down and hopefully have a great day tomorrow. We’re coming off a win at Iowa so hopefully we can end this season on a high for DHL, Honda and AutoNation.”
Jack Hawksworth: “It was pretty decent all the way through, but probably just a little bit too much understeer at the end. We had a pretty good day and are starting kind of middle of the pack, but hopefully we’ll have a good start tomorrow and see how the race goes. I’m pretty happy and the guys have done a good job, so hopefully the ABC car will go to the front tomorrow. We’ve got a little bit of work to do on the car to get some of the understeer out in some of these medium-speed corners. If we can do that, we can have a good race. We seem to be stronger on the blacks (primary tires) than we were on the reds (alternate tires), so hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
Josef Newgarden: “We might not have had the ultimate speed. I definitely didn’t have Dixie’s (Scott Dixon’s) speed. I think we were probably a little better, maybe third would have been possible with a couple more tenths, but I didn’t get it out of the car when I needed to. But Dixon’s lap was out of reach for us. I think we’re there, we’re in that top group with these guys, but we’re just not at the top spot of it. We make sure to execute really well every weekend and we find ourselves in the top five, top six, and then we do a good job on race day generally.”
Charlie Kimball: The progress has been really good. We were fairly quick this morning in final practice and the Novo Nordisk team has worked really hard. Obviously having the data from Scott (Dixon) to look at and learn from, because he is pretty special around here consistently, has helped. We’ve learned from that. It’s nice to see a couple Ganassi cars in the top six.”
Qualification Photos via IndyCar