Scott Dixon set the standard in Saturday’s qualifiying session for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Baltimore, the New Zealander negotiating the narrow street circuit in a time of 1:18.084 to claim top spot by less than a tenth of a second to Will Power. Simon Pagenaud will start Sunday’s race from third.
Dixon’s Ganassi team-mate Dario Franchitti made a shock exit from proceedings early on. The Scot, who claimed pole at Sonoma last weekend, could only manage a time good enough for eighth in the first part of qualifying and was duly eliminated. In Group 2, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti were the main victims, while Luca Filippi failed to extract enough speed from his Barracuda Racing machine and also fell at the first hurdle, with Josef Newgarden just edging him to progress into the second round.
A wild second phase saw the red flag fly as a result of Graham Rahal ploughing his car into the tyre barriers at Turn 8, with Tristian Vaultier subsequently running into the rear of the stricken machine. This was a stroke of luck for Dixon; the 33 year-old had initially classified in seventh, but was elevated up into sixth as Rahal’s best lap was docked from the timesheets.
In the Firestone Fast Six, the battle for pole eventually came down to a straight fight between Power and Dixon. Power remained on top by 0.3 seconds as the session entered its final stages, but Dixon just managed to edge the Australian on ultimate pace, eclipsing his rival on his final flying lap.
Justin Wilson joins Pagenaud on the second row, ahead of Newgarden who scored a season-high fifth for Sarah Fisher Racing. Tristan Vaultier wound up in a remarkable sixth, his car having sustained only minor damage in the collision with Rahal.