Dixon A Richmond Rocket
June 27, 2003 | 12:21 A.M. EST
Dixon earned his first IRL IndyCarTM Series MBNA Pole at 16.0582 seconds, 168.138 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force on his first of two qualifying laps. He started from the pole in April at Twin Ring Motegi after qualifying was rained out and the lineup set by practice times.
Fourteen of the 22 drivers in the field made their qualifying attempt before heavy rain fell on the three-quarter Richmond oval, forcing a delay of exactly one hour. Dixon, who was fastest in both pre-qualifying practices, was the fourth qualifier after the rain delay and 18th overall.
"The car was fast all week," Dixon said. "The Target crew did a great job. I think we had a little more, actually. We ran out of gas between Turns 3 and 4. I think we would've broken 16 (seconds). We had great balance. We can't really complain about anything, really."
Sarah Fisher qualified second at 16.1673, 167.004 in the No. 23 GMAC/AOL/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara, leading a resurgence for the Chevrolet engine. It was the best qualifying position for a Chevy driver this season, as the engine manufacturer has endured a rough start in the battle with Honda and Toyota, new to the series this season.
"It was a great run for us," Fisher said. "The folks at GMAC and AOL have been looking for a good run since Indy. This is our chance to shine.
"Chevy shines on the short tracks. I come from a short-track background, and (engineer Mark) Weida and I have a good rapport together. This is our one-year anniversary (working together), and it seems to have all come together tonight.
"I love Richmond."
The SunTrust Indy Challenge starts at 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. ESPN and the IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live. Dixon will attempt to continue his win streak, as he triumphed June 15 at Pikes Peak.
Tora Takagi qualified third at 16.1944, 166.724 in the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force.
Two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. also helped return Chevrolet toward the front of the grid by qualifying fourth at 16.2360, 166.297 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara.
Defending Richmond winner Hornish qualified third for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway but had qualified outside the top 10 for the next five races before coming to the short "bullring" at Richmond.
"We all have the same thing in mind," Hornish said. "We know what we need to do to make the car go fast on the handling tracks. It's definitely a track that we like to come to. The feel of this track is different than a lot of other ones we go to. Both ends are different.
"Today's just a big setup for tomorrow night. We really have to make sure we have a good setup that will keep the tires on the car all night long and be able to make passes toward the end of the race."
Series points leader Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five qualifiers at 16.2516, 166.137 in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara decked out in a special "Hulk" paint scheme.