First Firestone Fast Six runs for Pagenaud, Wilson, Newgarden

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Few would argue Simon Pagenaud and Justin Wilson are two of the top drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Additionally, few would argue Josef Newgarden is one of the series’ emerging talents, who hasn’t yet had many opportunities to shine thanks to near consistent mechanical gremlins and bad luck.

So it may come as some as a surprise, then, that all three made the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying for today’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT for the first time this year. For Newgarden, it’s also the first Fast Six appearance of his career.

Pagenaud and Schmidt teammate Tristan Vautier both advanced into the Fast Six; each has led a practice session (Pagenaud on Saturday morning, Vautier Friday afternoon) this weekend.

“The engineer (Ben Bretzman) worked really hard on understanding how to control the ride better, and they digged really deep after Sonoma,” Pagenaud said. “Even though it’s a completely different racetrack, there’s a lot of things they understood, and the car is just absolutely fantastic this week.  So I’m very proud of the HP team. And being here with Tristan is also a great accomplishment for the team.”

Wilson posted his best qualifying effort since Toronto 2012, when he qualified third. Much of the attention at the Dale Coyne Racing team has gone to Wilson’s younger brother Stefan, who is debuting this weekend.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect it after practice,” Justin Wilson said. “We were 10th in practice this morning, 17th yesterday, so it’s been a bit of a struggle this weekend, but we’ve just kept digging away and fighting back. (We’re) not quite in Will and Scott’s league, but I’ll keep looking at it and see what I can learn as a driver and see what we can learn with the setup and try and get there.”

Newgarden seems to have a torrid love affair with the otherwise controversial Pratt Street chicane. He is using Lucas Luhr’s chassis from Sonoma (nicknamed “Rapunzel”), and has made up most of his time through the chicane in maximum attack mode.

“That’s like the only place I’m good around this circuit I feel like,” Newgarden said. “I’m just barreling it in there, I don’t even care what part I’m hitting. The front’s going everywhere; it doesn’t matter. I’m just flat out through it pretty much.”

Vautier in sixth made his third Fast Six of the season, having also made it at St. Petersburg and Barber, the first two races of 2013. His was a bit more controversial, though. That will be hit in a separate post.

With Pagenaud, Wilson and Newgarden making the Fast Six, 20 different drivers have made it in this year at least once.

Kanaan, Dixon to rejoin Chip Ganassi Le Mans effort

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Both Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan will be rejoining Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as part of their four-car armada at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team revealed late last week. Both drivers contested the event last year, with Dixon in the No. 69 entry – finishing seventh in the GTE Pro class – while Kanaan replaced an injured Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 68 – finishing sixth in GTE Pro.

For Kanaan, this also represents a return to the Chip Ganassi organization, with which he contested the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2014 to 2017 before departing for A.J. Foyt Racing in 2018.

Kanaan will join Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67, while Dixon will reunite with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, the three drivers having won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, in the No. 69.

Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla, and Billy Johnson will share the No. 66 entry, with Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 68.

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