Scott Dixon will start tomorrow’s IndyCar season opener from fifth, with McLaren’s Pato O’Ward snaring pole position at Barber Motorsport Park.
Dixon had a turbulent qualifying session; the defending series champion never able to lay down the perfect lap.
Still, Dixon is in a solid position to kick off his pursuit of a seventh career crown at a venue he remains winless at despite having claimed eight podiums.
The Kiwi’s day started slowly. He stalled leaving pitlane for round one. The Chip Ganassi Honda then got loose in the downhill right-left-right chicane, leaving Dixon in an uncontrolled power slide as he wrestled with the car to keep it on the track.
Despite the hairy moment, Dixon comfortably secured in a spot in the second round as his confidence in the car quickly returned.
Pushing hard on his final two laps in round two, Dixon made a small number of errors but had enough speed in hand to land the fifth-fastest time and grab a spot in the top-six shootout.
Waiting till the end of the fast six before posting a lap, Dixon’s best was five-tenths adrift of O’Ward’s pole time.
Alexander Rossi went for two runs in the fast six and ended up 0.069s behind O’Ward to fill the front row.
Alex Palou was third fastest on his first qualifying with Chip Ganassi, edging out Will Power.
Dixon will start alongside the third Chip Ganassi machine of Marcus Ericsson on row three.
Narrowly missing out on a spot in the fast six is series rookie and ex-Formula 1 racer Romain Grosjean, who put in a super lap in round two, only to be demoted to seventh at the death by Power.
Scott McLaughlin will start 12th in the first race of his rookie campaign.
The Kiwi boxed midway through the round out to fit a fresh set of the faster red tyres. However, as McLaughlin tried to exit the lane, the No.3 Penske failed to re-fire.
McLaughlin lost three minutes stuck in the pitlane as the Penske crew struggled to restart the car. Ultimately, rival team Ed Carpenter Racing used their starter motor to ensure McLaughlin’s car ignited.
All the confusion meant McLaughlin could only manage one lap at the end of the session. Still, a mighty effort was enough to get him into the second round of qualifying.
However, having used two sets of fresh red tyres in round one, McLaughlin was left with used tyres for the second round.
That meant his laps were largely uncompetitive, and he finished at the bottom of the timesheets.
The Honda Grand Prix of Alabama is scheduled to start at 7 am NZT tomorrow.
Fast Six results: