Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon made the most of a dramatic qualifying session to beat Will Power to pole position for Sunday's IndyCar race in Baltimore.
Power held provisional pole by 0.3 second with less than a minute remaining, only for Dixon to beat him with his final flying lap. The Penske driver still had one opportunity to reclaim the advantage, but that hope was dashed when he made a mistake in the middle of the hairpin.
Dixon was fortunate to be in the Fast Six in the first place. The New Zealander was initially classified seventh in the second qualifying phase, which would have seen him eliminated had Graham Rahal not gone into the tires at Turn 8. Race control initially tried to manage the incident with a local yellow, but when Tristan Vautier ran into the rear of Rahal's stricken car a few moments later, the session was red-flagged. Rahal was consequently docked his best lap time after being deemed responsible for the stoppage, thereby promoting Dixon to sixth.
"We had a sensor failure in Q2, which almost knocked us out. Big thanks to Honda for figuring it out and fixing that in Q3," Dixon noted. "The car's been quick all week. I actually made a few mistakes on that lap and we were still able to pull it out. It's a good place to start here at Baltimore. It's going to be a tight race."
"It was a tough qualifying man, but we gave it everything we had in the Verizon Team Penske Chevy," said Power. "Our chance to get pole really came the lap before our final lap but we just couldn't get there. It should be a good race. With the chicanes (after Turn 12), especially, there could be a lot of action and I expect it will be another good battle."
Vautier escaped punishment, and remarkably, escaped with damage so minor that he was able to participate in the Fast Six a couple of minutes later.
Also of significance was the fact that both of Dixon's main championship rivals were knocked out of the second qualifying phase, meaning that Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be forced to start several rows behind the Ganassi driver. In their absence the remaining places on the first three rows were claimed by Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden and Vautier.
Both Sebastien Bourdais and EJ Viso's sessions were curtailed by damage sustained through getting things wrong at the chicane. The latter's contact with the outside wall also left the track covered with debris that comprised the runs for other drivers late in the first phase.
It was also a tough afternoon for Dario Franchitti, who was eliminated early after struggling with a car that he said "felt decent, but just wasn't fast enough."
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time Gap
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda 1m18.0838s
2. Will Power Penske/Chevy 1m18.1171s +0.0333s
3. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 1m18.4307s +0.3469s
4. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda 1m18.8698s +0.7860s
5. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda 1m18.9022s +0.8184s
6. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda 1m19.0380s +0.9542s
7. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy 1m19.0288s Round 2
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy 1m19.0367s Round 2
9. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda 1m19.0523s Round 2
10. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 1m19.2216s Round 2
11. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy 1m19.3182s Round 2
12. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda 1m22.2045s Round 2
13. James Jakes Rahal/Honda 1m18.6398s Group 1
14. Luca Filippi Barracuda/Honda 1m19.1242s Group 2
15. Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda 1m18.6694s Group 1
16. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy 1m19.3051s Group 2
17. Oriol Servia Panther/Chevy 1m18.8075s Group 1
18. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy 1m19.4738s Group 2
19. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy 1m18.9829s Group 1
20. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy 1m20.5694s Group 2
21. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy 1m19.2440s Group 1
22. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy Group 2
23. Stefan Wilson Coyne/Honda 1m20.1871s Group 1
24. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy Group 2