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Auto Racing

Dixon gives Ganassi a boost in Indianapolis 500 qualifying

| Sunday, May 18, 2014, 8:06 p.m.
Scott Dixon of New Zealand drives during practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.
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Scott Dixon of New Zealand drives during practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — Finally, Chip Ganassi found something to hang his hat on after a disappointing effort during time trials Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On Sunday, the Fox Chapel native took the bitter with the sweet when 2008 champion Scott Dixon put a Target Chip Ganassi Racing car on Row 4 for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Dixon was considerably faster on the final day of qualifying as he posted a four-lap average of 230.928 mph that puts him 11th on the 33-car starting grid alongside 2000 champion Juan Pablo Montoya and Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch.

“Today was tough because you get only one shot,” said Dixon, the reigning IndyCar Series champion. “You can't wave off, and that is the hard part.

“We're still not great, but we're right there. We maybe lost sight of the simple things. We had to change a lot of things (Saturday) night to figure where we had to be.

“It's a little less stressful having to lay it all down on one lap,” Dixon added. “It's re-evaluating the simple things — the right setup. It's very easy to back-seat drive this situation, but the process of this situation has really opened our eyes that we're not always right.”

Still, there is plenty of work ahead for Ganassi's other drivers — including defending champion Tony Kanaan. Kanaan, who won last year's race from the 12th starting position, will start 16th in Row 6 with a speed of 229.922.

Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe will start 26th and 30th, respectively. Sage Karam, a rookie developmental driver, starts on the inside of the last row.

While CGR was seeking more horsepower and speed, the Fast Nine qualifiers staged a shootout that wasn't decided until the last driver roared down the front straightaway to conclude a thrilling qualifying session.

Ed Carpenter, an Indianapolis native, daringly maneuvered the No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet through the unpredictable corners over the first two laps of his four-lap qualifying run to chase the 230.830 speed posted by Canadian James Hinchcliffe.

Carpenter brought the partisan crowd to its feet as he opened with two 231 mph-plus laps. Then he slipped only slightly to 230.769 on his third run before charging across the start-finish line with a 230.846 on his fourth to record an average speed of 231.067.

Carpenter, who finished 10th in last year's 200-lap race, captured the pole for the second straight year. He's now in fast company with back-to-back pole winners Helio Castroneves, Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt.

“It was a harder run than last year,” said Carpenter, who hadn't been behind the wheel for seven months until last week's practice sessions. “It was a fight because the conditions changed during qualifying. But I figured as long as I didn't mess it up, we would win the pole.

“I didn't know what the average was, so I was just holding on and giving it all I had. I was surprised last year (to win the pole), but this time we came in feeling very confident. But it's all about the race, and we weren't happy about our finish last year.”

Carpenter, who registered the fast speed Saturday, will be joined on the front row by Hinchcliffe and IndyCar Series points leader Will Power. Power moved from fifth to third during the shootout with an average speed of 230.697.

Castroneves starts on the inside of Row 2. He'll be flanked by Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti. Carlos Munoz, who finished second last year, has the lead car on Row 3 along with Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand.

Hinchcliffe credited his teammate, Hildebrand, for helping earn the second starting position.

“It was important to get first-hand feedback,” Hinchcliffe said. “A lot of people are responsible for us being here today, especially my teammate.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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