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Dixon shatters track record to win Watkins Glen pole

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016) – For as much success as Scott Dixon has enjoyed at Watkins Glen International, he had never won the pole position at the iconic road course. Until today.

Dixon laid down a track-record lap of 1 minute, 22.5259 seconds (147.008 mph) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet during the climactic Firestone Fast Six segment of knockout qualifying to capture the Verizon P1 Award. The 25th pole position of Dixon’s Indy car career will have him starting up front for the 60-lap INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn permanent road course.

CLICK HERE: INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen qualifying results

“I’ve got to thank the whole Target crew, the car rolled off extremely fast,” said Dixon, winner of three consecutive Indy car races at Watkins Glen (2005-07) but who had not qualified better than second in six previous visits. The Verizon IndyCar Series is racing at Watkins Glen for the first time since 2010.

“We’ve been at the top of the time sheets, at least a good percentage of them this weekend,” said Dixon, tied for fourth on the Indy car victory list with 39 but winless since the second race of the season at Phoenix. “We’ve had a bit of a rough year, so it is nice to come back here and perform like this.”

Dixon led all three practice sessions prior to qualifying and shattered the 7-year-old track record held by Ryan Briscoe by 5.6 seconds. The pole position tied Dixon with Paul Tracy for 11th on the all-time Indy car chart and delivered Chip Ganassi Racing Teams its 87th Indy car pole.

Will Power qualified second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:22.5742, 146.922 mph), missing out on the top spot by less than five-hundredths of a second. Power said he could have used the point that the Verizon P1 Award winner earns in his hunt to chase down teammate and championship leader Simon Pagenaud.

“Unfortunately on my final lap, starting it, my engine just died in the last corner there,” said Power, the winner at Watkins Glen the last time the Verizon IndyCar Series raced here in 2010. “Definitely cost us some time, but starting on the front row is definitely better than where we were.”

Sebastien Bourdais qualified a season-best third in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet (1:22.7844, 146.549 mph), saying he ran out of fuel on his final fast lap that may have been enough for the pole.

Helio Castroneves, a three-time Watkins Glen pole winner, was fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:22.8748, 146.389 mph) ahead of a pair of Chip Ganassi Racing drivers. Tony Kanaan was fifth in the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet (1:22.9158, 146.317 mph) and rookie Max Chilton a career-best sixth in the No. 8 Gallagher Chevrolet (1:23.0064, 146.157 mph) as the bowtie manufacturer swept the top eight qualifying positions.

Points leader Pagenaud qualified seventh, the first time he has missed making the Firestone Fast Six this season.

“We missed the Fast Six by just a little, but that’s how competitive the Verizon IndyCar Series is,” said the driver of the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet. “If everything is not practically perfect, then someone else will be a little faster. I like our prospects for the race tomorrow, though. We’re in good shape.”

Earlier segments of qualifying were highlighted by record laps and drivers failing to advance after earning on-track penalties. Power broke Briscoe’s track record in Segment 1, Group 1 qualifying with a lap of 1:23.3927.

James Hinchcliffe, named earlier this week to the Season 23 competition cast of “Dancing with the Stars,” lost his fast lap and didn’t advance when he was penalized by race stewards for spinning and causing a local yellow that impeded one of Power’s qualifying laps. Graham Rahal forfeited his fastest two laps and failed to advance from Segment 1, Group 2 when race stewards penalized him for qualifying interference. Hinchcliffe will start 13th and Rahal 20th in the 22-car field.

Bourdais broke Power’s track record in Segment 2 (1:22.9747), but the penalties weren’t complete. Mikhail Aleshin – Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate and the beneficiary of Hinchcliffe’s punishment to advance to Segment 2 – was penalized himself for qualifying interference in Segment 2 and had his two fast laps wiped away. Aleshin didn’t move on to the Firestone Fast Six, while Power did. Aleshin will start 10th.

A final 30-minute warmup practice starts at 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday, with a live video stream available at NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network have live coverage of the race beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

The INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi is the 15th of 16 races on the 2016 schedule. The season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, takes place Sept. 18 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

Veach wins Indy Lights race, title chase tightens

Zach Veach drove off to a comfortable win while championship leader Santiago Urrutia struggled in today’s Mazda Grand Prix of Watkins Glen, as the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires points race tightened up.

Veach started fifth in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing entry but stormed to the lead on the first of 25 laps and was never challenged. He won by 3.6268 seconds over Carlin’s Ed Jones.

Urrutia started on pole in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian after setting the track record in qualifying, but dropped to fifth before a tire he flat-spotted earlier in the race went down, forcing him off course and to the pits for new tires. The reigning Pro Mazda champion finished last in the 12-car field and saw his lead dwindle to one point over Jones, 23 over Dean Stoneman and 31 over Veach with only next weekend’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca doubleheader remaining.

“Today we lost, but we are still leading the championship by one point,” Urrutia said. “Everything is going to finish at Mazda Raceway next week, so we are going to go with the same mindset that we came here and that is to win. So we are going to go for pole position and try to to win both races.”