SPARTA — With every qualifying lap Scott Dixon turned at Kentucky Speedway on Friday night, he would get a little faster, a little stronger, putting a little more distance between himself and the rest of the field.
It's a sight his IndyCar Series competitors have become accustomed to seeing this year. And, quite frankly, they're a little worn out by it.
Series points leader Dixon added to his already impeccable year when he earned his sixth pole of the season after scorching his way to a four-lap average speed of 218.968 mph for Saturday's Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
Vitor Meira will join Dixon on the front row after posting an average speed of 218.409 while Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon will roll off in third.
Considering Dixon already has five wins to his credit this year — three of which have come after he started on the pole — the last thing his rivals needed to see was his car blistering the track shortly after unloading off the truck.
The 2003 IndyCar champ tipped his hand early, however, leading both practice sessions and carrying that momentum over into his four-lap qualifying run.
”We've missed a little bit on qualifying at times but it looks like the car is pretty strong,“ the typically understated Dixon said. ”Our race car is very similar to our qualifying setup. Hopefully we can lead a lot of laps, gain a lot of points and close in on that championship.“
Last season, Dixon was a lap away from that elusive second title when he ran out of gas on the final turn at Chicagoland, thus giving the championship to Dario Franchitti.
Such misfortune has been virtually non-existent with his Target Chip Ganassi team this year. The New Zealand native has finished out of the top 5 just twice in 2008 and counts the Indianapolis 500 among his quintet of triumphs.
”It's not one thing, it's attention to detail,“ Dixon said of his team's success. ”It's a lot of hard work, a lot of rubbing on the car.“
Dixon, who has finished second in the Meijer Indy 300 the last two years, heads into the race with a 65-point lead over Penske star Helio Castroneves
That Castroneves has stayed within striking distance of Dixon is a feat in itself. Castroneves is still seeking his first win of the year. With four points races left in the season, he needs to trade his consistently solid runs into a few brilliant finishes.
”The thing I can tell you is we're not giving up at all ... even though Scott seems to have a V12 engine“ said Castroneves, who will start sixth Saturday. ”Now it's not about being consistent, it's about taking chances.“
Defending race winner Tony Kanaan will begin his repeat quest from the seventh spot on the grid.
Kentucky Speedway hasn't been that kind to Danica Patrick, and her run of bad luck continued Friday. Patrick will start from the rear of the field after being forced to go to a backup car when she smacked the wall in Turn 2 with her primary vehicle during practice.
”It is really unfortunate that the Motorola car is starting in the last row,“ Patrick said. ”We were running well in both practice sessions and then something broke, causing us to hit the wall. It is going to be a challenge getting through traffic, but I'm confident in my team.“