17 September 2011
Dixon and Power up front as Dario struggles
"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," agreed Power. "Anything can happen in the race tomorrow, but we're right where we need to be."
Helio Castroneves may be expected to act as Penske's "rear gunner" repelling any comeback attempts from Dario, but Helio has his own ideas and has high hopes for the race for the #3: "The car was good in qualifying, but I think we will be even better tomorrow in the race," he said. "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 Castroneves last won a race, here on the Motegi speedway] and I am ready to get a win."
Outside the ongoing Penske/Ganassi face-off, James Hinchcliffe qualified in fifth for Newman/Haas, which while not quite living up to the promise of Saturday afternoon practice was nonetheless a good return to form after a difficult last outing.
"It's nice redemption after Baltimore, I was really upset that we didn't make it out of Q1 and had no good excuse other than myself," said Hinchcliffe, who started 15th in the street course race two weeks ago. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to do a good job [at Motegi]. 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."
His team mate Oriol Servia had a less rewarding day and failed to progress from the first round: "We had the speed but I messed up and am very mad at myself," he said.
"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." But then came a late session mistake: "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."
Andretti Autosport were another team with mixed fortunes, with Marco Andretti making it through to the Top 12 and ultimately qualifying in tenth place but all three of his team mates failing to make it through round 1.
"It's good to get the Venom car into the top ten on the starting grid, but we're still limited on grip," said Marco. "We're tipping the car over from oversteer to understeer too easily."
"We didn't have a good day. We've been struggling with the car all weekend and haven't found the answer yet," said his team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay succinctly, who will start from 17th for the race tomorrow.
"We had some problems with the gearbox today; the Go Daddy car wasn't downshifting or upshifting properly," revealed Danica Patrick, who starts from 23rd. "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.
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