Dixon wins IndyCar pole for first time this season at Toronto

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-16 17:36:39-04
TORONTO (AP) -- Scott Dixon used a fast final lap to snatch the pole away from Helio Castroneves at the buzzer in qualifying Saturday for Indy Toronto.
Dixon turned a lap of 59.9073 seconds to win the pole for the race Sunday. It was his 24th career pole and first since Mid-Ohio last year. Castroneves wound up second with a lap of 59.9425 on the temporary street course at Exhibition Place.
"Whenever you can start on the pole, especially on the street courses, it's a big help," said Dixon, who squeezed in his final lap.
"I was just trying to get the most out of it, man. Each lap just kept getting a bit better. It's not what we planned on, we just planned to do three laps. We luckily had a little bit more gas in the car to do a fourth. Worked out nicely for a change."
The pole moved Dixon ahead of Johnny Rutherford for 12th on the career poles list. Dixon is one pole victory behind Toronto native Paul Tracy.
Castroneves thought he had the pole until Dixon's final lap flier.
"What can I say?" he asked before praising Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing team. "Ganassi is not a rookie team. They're champions. They know what they're doing. Good job by Scott."
IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud qualified third and Will Power was fourth as Team Penske took the three spots behind Dixon.
Sebastien Bourdais qualified fifth while Toronto native James Hinchcliffe was sixth to earn his best career start in his home race.
"It's really tough to win races from outside the top 10 in this series, especially at a track like this," Hinchcliffe said. "There's good opportunities for some passes here. The guys in front of us have pretty solid pace, we're going to have to find a little bit in ourselves over the course of the evening and warmup. (But) definitely we're in as good a position here this weekend as we've ever been here."
Hinchcliffe was the highest qualifying Honda driver as Chevrolet teams took the top five spots.
It was a rough qualifying session for the quartet from Andretti Autosport. Carlos Munoz qualified a team-best 15th, Ryan Hunter-Reay was 18th, Alexander Rossi was 19th and Marco Andretti was 22nd -- last in the field.
"What we're missing is overall grip and compliance. That's so important on a track like this," Hunter-Reay said. "We're not even on the same planet as the front runners when it comes to grip. We're fighting the car. Really swatting at flies."
Rossi called the qualifying effort "abysmal" and noted how challenging it will be for the Andretti drivers to salvage the weekend.
"As a team we have to work on it, because we shouldn't be here," said Hunter-Reay. "It's really unfortunate. It's not fun at the moment."
Rahal added, "I (went for it) and we hit the fence. The car is still ill-handling. I told the guys it was going to take a magic lap to advance, I knew it. Our basic balance, all weekend, we've been killing the rear tires, can't put power down at all. . I went for it and the sucker went straight and we just tagged the wall."
Conor Daly qualified a career-best seventh and just missed advancing into the final round of six.
"Everyone is so good in this series," he said. "It's just cool to be in that group and kind of fighting for those positions."
Josef Newgarden, the defending race winner, was eighth. He led all but 18 laps a week ago to win at Iowa, where he moved to second in the IndyCar standings behind Pagenaud.
"I'm always optimistic. There's always something that can happen in the race," he said. "This is our best session, qualifying is the highest we've been this weekend. You hate to say eighth is the best we've been this weekend, but I've always got faith we can figure it out. That's what happens when you get to racetracks, you try to solve the puzzle.
"We're going to have to figure it out, man, we're the defending champs. We'll see what we can do."
IndyCar on Saturday morning altered the course so that the wall in Turn 8 was changed to the configuration used in previous years. The change provides an additional six feet on the inside of the track, and concrete patches in Turns 1 and 9 were worked on to provide more consistent grip.