1 August 2009
Kentucky rain-out gives Dixon, Hildebrand pole positions.
IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon and Indy Lights counterpart JR Hildebrand will start from the pole in the respective events after persistent 'weepers' at Kentucky Speedway cancelled all on-track activities even after rain over the venue had finished.
Water was drawn to the racing surface in multiple locations by the afternoon sunshine, which kept Delphi Safety Team and track workers busy while drivers/teams waited out the delay.
With no action possible, Dixon, who regained top spot in the IndyCar Series point standings at last weekend's Edmonton street race, will thus lead the field into the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Red Baron and Edy's after the starting grid was set by entrant points, with Target Chip Ganassi team-mates Dario Franchitti starting alongside.
"We'll definitely take it any way we can get it," the Kiwi admitted, "It just shows that, throughout the season, you have to be close to on top or near the top if you have adverse conditions and have to start by points."
Dixon's only concern was with the lack of track time that he - and his rivals - have had to evaluate the revised package the IndyCar Series has mandated for the return to the ovals. With 'push-to-pass' also introduced for Kentucky, there is much for the teams to get their heads around before raceday.
"It's a fantastic result for Team Target with a 1-2 start - unfortunately, it's not the way we wanted to go about it," the reigning champion admitted, "It's a tough day for all of us, not being able to be on track, especially when we have a lot of different changes we'd like to try out, and moreso with the push-to-pass option, which we're not really going to get to try at this point, and maybe not until tomorrow or later tonight. All-in-all, we just want to be on track and, hopefully, we can get on as soon as possible."
Team Penske team-mates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves will share row three for the race, which is scheduled to run under the lights, while Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti will be on row three. Dan Wheldon of Panther Racing and Dale Coyne Racing 'birthday boy' Justin Wilson finally break up the 'team-mate tag team' appearance on row four.
The supporting Firestone Indy Lights series was also hit by the lack of track time, handing points leader Hildebrand the pole for the Kentucky 100, the series' 100th race under the Indy Racing League banner. AFS/Andretti Green team-mate Sebastian Saavedra will the American on the front row.
"We've been sitting around for a long time today - so much so I was thinking that, maybe, the drivers should line up and we could have a footrace to see who could get the pole," Hildebrand joked, "This was a little bit easier than that, but it's been a tough day. A lot of drivers have been sitting around in their racesuits all day because it was so touch and go. Hopefully, we can get some practice because getting ready for the race tomorrow is the most important thing.
"We came out and tested here at the beginning of the season, and they've ground the track down since then, so it will be a little different, but we had a good test. Once we get out on track, we figure out how good our car is."
Panther Racing's Pippa Mann was not in Kentucky for qualifying, with Dr Michael Olinger revealing that the Briton had been taken to St Elizabeth South Hospital for medical evaluation during the morning. No further details have been revealed about Mann's condition, but Panther Racing has asked Arie Luyendyk Jr to stand by in case she can't race this weekend.
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