New Zealander Scott Dixon's chances of clinching the IRL Indycar Series Championship for American chassis manufacturer Panoz G Force is looking strong ahead of Sunday's final round at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon was fastest in both practice sessions on Friday and only lost pole to Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran by 0.0009 of a second - the second closest margin in IRL history.

Target Chip Ganassi team-mate Tomas Scheckter qualified third fastest, with Panoz G-Force taking three of the top four spots at the 1.5 mile high banked oval. Felipe Giaffone joining Scheckter on the second row in his Mo Nunn Racing GF09. Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr. and de Ferran all have a chance to be crowned as the series champion tomorrow. A win by Dixon will add to the Indy 500 victory earned by de Ferran aboard a GF09 in May this year.

"Everything has gone very well so far, and Scott is in a very good position to take the title," Panoz G Force sales director John Biddlecombe reported, "It is going to be tough and anything can happen in the race - there is a lot of stuff like crashes that are really out of your control if you get caught up in somebody else's mess.

"Ganassi, with Scott and Tomas, are looking very strong, and everybody has their fingers crossed that Scott can take the title. To win the championship as well as the Indy 500 will be a fantastic achievement for all the staff back in Braselton. Everybody at Panoz G Force has put in an incredible amount of work this year and you can see the results of that with the performance of the car. It will be very rewarding for everybody if Scott can do it tomorrow."

The Ganassi squad concentrated on race set-ups in Saturday's two practice sessions with Dixon finishing sixth and fifth fastest in the two sessions.

"It was a pretty good run - it's good to start up front here," Dixon said of his qualifying effort, "It was a good day in general yesterday. I can't complain. Qualifying has been our strength all year.

"It's easier to stay out of the mess when you start up front, but if you have a good car, you can get up front. We're taking it as just another race. I think that's going to be the easiest way. I think if you think about other things, that won't help you out at all. It's been a tremendous year."

The Panoz G-Force roster this weekend also includes Tora Takagi, hometown hero Greg Ray and AJ Foyt IV. After missing several races with injury and enduring a tough weekend at Fontana, Felipe Giaffone was pleased with the strong qualifying performance of his GF09 yesterday.

"I think we're pretty happy with where we are," he said, "It's not necessary to start up front to be able to have a good finish here, but it sure doesn't hurt. I'm happy that we're back where we should be after the really tough weekend we had at Fontana.

"We improved from the first to the second session yesterday, and I was hoping for a top-six or top-seven qualifying position. So fourth definitely has us feeling pretty good about things, so far."

 

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