Right up until the last runner went out to qualify for the Toyota Indy 400 outgoing champion Scott Dixon looked set to improve his dismal season with a pole position. But then along came Penske's Helio Castroneves to snatch his third pole in a row - he will hope to turn it into his first win of 2004 on Sunday.

Most observers expect Dixon to hand over his title this weekend to Andretti-Green Racing's Tony Kanaan, who only has to finish fourth to guarantee the prize. But Kanaan will have his work cut out, engine problems seeing him fail to set a qualifying time and starting at the back of the 22-car field. However team-mate Dan Wheldon, the only rival who can realistically deprive Kanaan of the title, could only manage 14th grid spot. Meanwhile Darren Manning set his fourth place qualifying time and then on the second lap gave his team serious work to do with heavy rear contact with the turn 2 wall. Assuming the IRL medical team clear Dixon to race he will start at the back in his backup field.

The Toyota Indy 400 gets underway at around 3pm on Sunday. Check back to crash.net for the full story.

Qualifying times, Toyota Indy 400, California Speedway, 2004 Indy Racing League round 15 of 16.

1. Helio Castroneves #3 Dallara Toyota Marlboro Team Penske 217.479mph
2. Scott Dixon #1 G-Force Toyota Target Chip Ganassi Racing 216.301mph
3. Sam Hornish Jr #6 Dallara Toyota Marlboro Team Penske 216.062mph
4. Darren Manning #10 G-Force Toyota Target Chip Ganassi Racing 215.822mph
5. Adrian Fernandez #5 G Force HondaFernandez Racing 215.270mph
6. Vitor Meira #17 G-Force Honda Rahal-Letterman Racing 215.141mph
7. Buddy Rice #15 G-Force Honda Team Rahal 214.824mph
8. AJ Foyt IV #14 Dallara Toyota AJ Foyt Enterprises 14.686mph
9. Bryan Herta #7 Dallara Honda Andretti Green Racing 214.345mph
10. Dario Franchitti #27 Dallara Honda Andretti Green Racing 214.344mph
11. Ed Carpenter #52 Dallara Chevrolet Red Bull Cheever Racing 214.086mph
12. Mark Taylor #13 G-Force Honda Access Motorsports 214.030mph
13. Tomas Scheckter #4 Dallara Chevrolet Panther Racing 213.993mph
14. Dan Wheldon #26 Dallara Honda Andretti Green Racing 213.861mph
15. Scott Sharp #8 Dallara Toyota Kelley Racing 213.824mph
16. Alex Barron #51 Dallara Chevrolet Red Bull Cheever Racing 213.815mph
17. Townsend Bell #2 Dallara Chevrolet Panther Racing 213.603mph
18. Kosuke Matsuura #55 G-Force Honda Super Aguri Fernandez Racing 213.077mph
19. Tomas Enge #20 Dallara Chevrolet Partrick Racing 212.010mph
20. Felipe Giaffone #24 Dallara Chevrolet Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 211.697mph
21. Tora Takagi #12 Dallara Toyota Mo Nunn Racing 211.629mph
22. Tony Kanaan #11 Dallara Honda Andretti Green Racing no time



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