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IndyCar: Dixon clinches record and pole honours at Mid-Ohio

Scott Dixon will start on pole position for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with Will Power alongside him on the front row.
As expected, Ganassi's Scott Dixon shattered the existing 16-year-old track qualifying record at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday, on his way to picking up his 25th pole position in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

CLICK: Full qualifying times for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

The previous best time around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course had been set by Dixon's former team mate Dario Franchitti who had recorded a lap of 1:05.347s here in August 1999. The following year, Gil de Ferran had matched it but been unable to shave even a single thousandth of a second off to claim the record in his own right.

But on Saturday in the final round of qualifying for the 2015 Honda Indy 200, Dixon blew that away with a new milestone time of 1:04.5814s (125.869mph) and in the process clinched his second pole of the season after the Indianapolis 500 in May and confirmed himself as the favourite for back-to-back wins in the event.

"Team Target has done a heck of a job all weekend," Dixon said afterwards. "The car rolled off fantastically. It is always great to be here at Mid-Ohio with so many fans. When the weather is just like this, turns four and five is packed already. It is fantastic to see."

Mid-Ohio is indeed a happy hunting ground for Dixon, who has won here five times in the last eight visits to the circuit - including last year when he had to overcome a disastrous qualifying in inclement weather that meant he started form the back of the grid but still managed to emerge victorious over Sebastien Bourdais.

However, that experience of charging through the field to clinch the win from the pole sitter in 2014 means that Dixon is well aware that he could be on the receiving end of just such an upset this year if he's not careful.

“It's great that the Target car has a lot of speed, but as you saw last year with us winning from the last row that anything can happen,” he admitted.

Bourdais - who was actually the first man to break the old Franchitti/Kanaan record with his own qualifying run in the first round group stages - will definitely be one of the main threats to Dixon when the race goes green on Sunday afternoon. However, the KVSH Racing driver was pipped for a front row position this time by Penske's Will Power, who was just 0.0968s away from ousting Dixon from the pole spot when the Firestone Fast 6 round finished.

"A good day," said Bourdais who will start tomorrow's race from third place. "But not good enough to get Dixie and Will. 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 [option] tyres, which is very satisfying," he added. "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 tyres, so we can make it happen.

Bourdais will be lining up alongside Power's team mate Helio Castroneves, while CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden will start on the third row alongside Dixon's team mate Charlie Kimball who scored his maiden (and to date only) series victory here at this circuit in 2013.

Missing out on making it into the final pole shoot-out stage was championship points leader Juan Pablo Montoya who will take up tenth place on the grid in what could prove to be a crucial weekend in the 2015 title battle. Montoya currently enjoys a 42 point lead in the standings despite an unhappy weekend last time out at Iowa that was salvaged by equal misfortune befalling many of his principal rivals. His time at Mid-Ohio didn't get off to the best of starts when he suffered alternator issues that cost him practice track time on Friday.

“To be honest, it's taken a lot of hard work by everyone on the team to get to where we are," Montoya said. "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."

The final round was also lacking any representatives from the Honda contingent. Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay narrowly missed out and was just 0.0659s away from transferring, meaning that he will start from seventh place alongside the third Ganassi entry driven by Tony Kanaan.

Former GP2 driver Luca Filippi put in a strong run with the road course playing to his experience and strengths, allowing him to join Montoya on the fifth row. Behind them, an all-Honda row consisting of AJ Foyt Racing's Jack Hawksworth and Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti were the final drivers to make it through from the first round group stages.

However the third full-time Andretti car driven by Carlos Munoz will start from the back of the grid, after the Colombian was docked his two fastest laps that he had set in his group stage after being found to have interfered with another competitor's qualifying run. The same group also saw a falling out between Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal and Ganassi's Sage Karam, with Rahal accusing the rookie of blocking him and wrecking his own flying lap attempt.

"Pretty ticked," Rahal tweeted after failing to progress to the second round as a result. "That lap was up over .4 before Sage blocked us. Anyways doesn't matter we will start 13th. Car felt very good. Attack tomorrow."

Karam disputed Rahal's complaint and insisted that he'd given the #15 the racing line, himself taking to Twitter to point out that "if I blocked you race control would've penalized." Karam will line up in 19th place on the grid for the green flag tomorrow.

As for the championship battle at the front of the grid, Dixon knows that this weekend is his single best chance to get on an even footing with Montoya at the top of the standings - although he's trying not to let that thought distract him heading into the race.

"We can't really race for the championship right now, we have to race for wins," he explained. "It is hard with that mind-set when you get close. There are 200 and something points on the table. We've been strong all year, but we haven't got the results that we wanted. We'll see what we can do."

The teams will now have one final half hour morning warm-up session on Sunday morning at 9.45am (2.45pm) to allow them to check out their systems and apply any final race set-up tweaks ahead of the 90-lap, 203.22-mile race which will get the green flag just after 2pm (7pm) on Sunday evening.

See full qualifying times for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Scott Dixon affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem following qualifications for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem to his Chevrolet after capturing the pole position for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team take a selfie picture following their pole position for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power - Team Penske
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon leads the Indycar field   [pic credit: Indycar media/Bret Kelley]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Simon Penske - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar media/Bret Kelley]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Scott Dixon - Target Chip Ganassi Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/JOE SKIBINSKI]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Shawn Gritzmacher]
Will Power - Penske  [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing [credit: Chris Jones]
Sebastian Bourdais (KVSH Racing) celebrates in Detroit   [image creid: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]

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