Dixon On Target At Homestead

Homestead, Fla. - While Dan Wheldon suffered a setback in his bid for a fourth consecutive victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon picked up the ball in qualifying for the 2008 IndyCar Series opener.

Dixon ran an average of 213.341 mph to capture his ninth career pole position in four-lap time trials for Saturday night’s Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300, the first race for the unified IndyCar Series.

“The car had a ton of grip,” Dixon said. “I got a little bit loose going into turn one on the first lap, but apart from that, it was good. I could keep the car on the bottom."

Dixon held off a late charge by Vision Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and Anthony Foyt, who will start a surprising second and third in the event.

“It’s definitely a different way of doing qualifying,” Dixon said of the new Indianapolis 500-style format that will now be used to set the field for all of the oval events on the IndyCar Series schedule. “You can see it’s made a bit of difference in the grid, people not doing these one-off laps. It’s trying to keep the car consistent. Earlier in the day, it would have been tough, but later in the day, with the weather being kinder to us, it’s not so difficult. It makes it interesting. It’s a little more difficult for the driver, but the weather made it pretty easy tonight."

Wheldon lost control entering Turn 4 and hit the wall. He came to a rest just short of the start/finish line. He will start from the back for the 8 p.m. race.

Also crashing in qualifying was rookie Jay Howard, who was unhurt but his team was scrambling to attempt to repair his car. If the car is not ready, he would join former Champ Car driver Graham Rahal on the sidelines, who withdrew his entry after a testing incident here Tuesday evening.

Vision Racing provided the late drama in qualifying. Foyt ran a four-lap average of 212.211 mph to knock Danica Patrick off the front row in the No. 2 Vision entry. Then, teammate Carpenter briefly held the front position, only to lose it on his last lap.

"I'm not going to lie, that 213.6 I ran at the beginning surprised me," Carpenter said. "I knew I could run in the 212s, but I wasn't sure I could go quite that fast. Then as the run was going on, I was thinking, man. I wasn't sure what Scott ran, but I knew I was probably in front of him. Then I lost it on the last lap. But either way, this team did such a good job all off season. The whole team, top to bottom, did a great job all winter and it shows right here. Now, we've got to keep up the work and do our job tomorrow night."

Patrick will start fourth, after running an average of 212.129 mph.

"I like the four laps, I think it's interesting and I think it's interesting from the fan's perspective," Patrick said. "I think it lets us as drivers work a little bit more on the race car, because it's four laps. It's about making a consistent car. You find yourself doing a lot less of the dramatic adjustments to the car for qualifying. We don't do as much to the car for qualifying now, because the race is most important.

"This is always a difficult track," Patrick said. "Morning, noon, night, whenever you're on it, there's a very fine line between having a car that oversteers and understeers. That's the battle we all fight here at Homestead."

Sharing the third row will be new Penske Racing driver Ryan Briscoe, 212.108 mph, and Marco Andretti, 212.838 mph.

Gridded in row four will be Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.

"We tried to work on consistency, because the car is not fast. We still didn't get it, because I dropped big time from my second to my third lap. We have to figure out what's going on. I'm not happy with my car right now, and it's a long race tomorrow."

Kanaan, however, is happy with the qualifying format.

"I think it's very exciting. It's a whole different game, and it brings the excitement to the fans," Kanaan said. "It might take a little long, but in the end, I think it's the right format."

Franck Perera was fastest of the former Champ Car World Series drivers, and will start 15th, followed in the lineup by Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson.

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